I intended to write a blog post last week, after Richard finished his first round of intensive chemotherapy. However, the week didn’t go as planned. (Surprise, surprise.) He took the last of his chemo drugs on Tuesday and felt okay, if quite tired. We figured he’d feel better the next day, but no. Richard was as miserable as I’ve seen him in a long time. Finally, he took some of his anti-nausea medication. Within half an hour, he felt good enough to eat a bit of apple. Progress! But he was still pretty weak.
My schedule for the next day–Thursday–included driving down the winding Arkansas River and over the hills to Colorado Springs, where I was speaking the following morning at the Peak to Prairie Landscape Symposium, a sold-out weekend put together by Colorado Springs Utilities, devoted to sustainable and innovative gardening topics. Richard had planned to come along, but it was not looking good. Of course, I was still working on that talk, as well as the workshops I would be teaching the day after at the High Plains Landscape Workshop in Fort Collins.
Thursday was a much better day: the weather was sunny and dry, Richard felt more human, and I pulled together both presentations. So off we went downriver with snow falling on the peaks, and the valley in the sun, making for dry pavement. Which is good when you’re headed into winding Bighorn Sheep Canyon. (That’s US Highway 50 disappearing into the canyon above; the river is invisible beyond the guard rail, slicing through those sheer rock walls.)
The pavement remained dry, the traffic light, and the weather unusually good for late February as we wound our way downstream, and we even spotted a few of the bighorn sheep for which the canyon is named grazing near the highway. (That’s the herd ram above, feeling a bit territorial about the ewe next to him. I was only shooting a photo out the car window, not competing for her attentions.)
All went well until we headed up over the ridge between the Arkansas River and Colorado Springs. The sun vanished, the clouds dropped low, and we drove right into a snowstorm. February in the Rockies: if you don’t like the weather, go up- or downhill.
Still, we made it to The Springs in time to settle in at our hotel, have dinner with friends (thank you, Suzanne and Allan!), and then collapse for the night. Friday morning dawned all crisp white new snow and blue sky, promising a gorgeous day.
My keynote was scheduled for 8:15 a.m., so I was up early, and had a moment to enjoy the sunlight and dazzling snow as I walked across the courtyard between the hotel and the convention center to dive into the symposium. Before I knew it, it was my turn to speak to a audience of several hundred bright-eyed and interested gardeners and landscape professionals on the unexpected fruits of restoring nature at home, complete with before and after photos of our formerly blighted industrial property and our accidental journey into ecological restoration. (That’s a slide from my presentation above.) I answered questions, signed books, did some networking, picked up a sack lunch and rushed off. Next time, I hope to stay for more of the conference. But I was due in Fort Collins that afternoon.
After a shared lunch with Richard in our hotel room, we hit the road, in this case I-25, one of the most scenic and crowded stretches of interstate in the Interior West. The day was indeed glorious, and the traffic was indeed nasty, but we were rewarded with panoramic views of the Front Range of the Rockies with the peaks and foothills dusted by fresh snow. (That’s Mount Evans and Mount Bierstadt below, the closest 14eers, peaks over 14,000 feet elevation, to the Denver Metro Area, seen over the suburbs south of Denver.)
Of course, to get to Fort Collins from Colorado Springs, we had to drive smack through Denver itself. (That’s the view below.) We made it through before rush hour, which is good, because we really should have “R”s on our driver’s licenses (for “rural,” since our town has only three traffic lights in all).
Still, we made it to Fort Collins in time for a short visit with our nephew Andrew and family, and then we headed out to Grayrock Commons, the co-housing community where we’d been offered the use of the guest apartment in the community building by our generous host, Laurie. Only there was a party scheduled for the same community building that night, with amplified music and dancing–right over the guest apartment. So we ended up at Laurie’s much quieter house for the night. (Thank you, Laurie.)
The next morning I gave two back-to-back workshops on cultivating sustainable kitchen gardens to packed houses at the High Plains Landscape Workshop, another sold-out garden and landscape education event, this one put on by the City of Fort Collins Utilities. (That’s a slide from my presentation above.) By the time I slipped away at twelve-thirty, I had talked for four and a half hours straight, and my voice was going. I was exhausted but delighted at the enthusiastic response–more local food converts!
When is she going to get to the patience in the title? you may be wondering. Here it comes: From Fort Collins, we did not head home over the mountains for a well-deserved rest. No. We drove to Lakewood, a suburb just west of Denver where my parents live, and spent the next two days moving them to an apartment up one floor from the one we moved them into just eight months ago. Moving a 78-year-old and 81-year-old requires a lot of patience. And cheerfulness, resourcefulness, and the ability to, well, simply bite your tongue. I love my parents, but I must say I don’t love moving them twice in one year. Especially not when they only decided to move 10 days beforehand. And my husband is undergoing chemotherapy treatments for brain cancer.
There are no photos from that portion of the journey. You wonder why? Because patience is not easy to capture with a digital camera. Nor is my halo….
Yesterday noon, when the furniture was all in its new places, the kitchen was more or less organized, the boxes were all emptied and broken down and their contents stowed away, the anniversary quilt was hanging once again after Richard modified the quilt-rack to fit the spacing of the studs in the bedroom wall using only an xacto knife and his very creative brain, the paintings and photos and prints were almost all hung, the knick-knacks organized, the computer desks each had computers on them ready to be plugged in (yes, my parents each have their own computer), we slipped away to head home. Finally.
It was almost ideal weather for the drive, which means that although it had snowed like heck in the high country the day before (see above), the sun was out and the snow streaming across the road on the constant wind was melting when it hit the warm pavement instead of freezing into a thin and deadly coating of ice (see below).
And the Department of Transportation tractor was out piling up the drifts upwind of the highway into a snow wall (a way of augmenting the height of the snow fences, already overtopped by the drifts). Notice the haze of snow blowing over the overtopped snow fences on the left, but not over the piled-up snow walls on the right. Clever!
All the long way up into the Foothills and over the passes and across
South Park and down into our own valley, we sat close, touching each other, and
let quiet surround us, watching
that spectacular and soothing high-mountain landscape pass by out the
windows. And so at the end of the day, we wound down the last pass and into our own valley, with its dramatic peaks rising out of a faulted valley floor in the photo below. (Seeing that dramatic rise every day reminds me of the power of earthquakes and gives me sympathy for the people of Chile and Haiti. The earthquakes that dropped our valley more than 7,000 feet elevation below those snowy peaks occurred in geologic time, but the powerful faults remain.)
And finally, home. Home to our sunlight house where the daffodils I had bought Richard on that miserable Wednesday last week had opened while we were away.
Home to where patience is something we each exercise each day as we learn to live with brain cancer. For Richard, the challenge is to teach his brain, stressed by traumatic and potentially deadly inflammation in the right temporal lobe, tumor growth, surgery to remove the tumor, and then killing radiation, how to work its creative magic again. For me, the challenge is to stay loose, to not worry, to recognize that this journey comes one step at a time, one moment at a time, one daffodil petal unfurling after another.
Time and patience are what we have to work with. Plus the expertise of some great healthcare professionals, and the love and support of our wonderful community of family and friends. (Thank you all!)
Oh, yeah, and we also have joy. There it is, in bloom, both those yellow daffodils and the granite, juniper and steel of “Two Rivers,” one of Richard’s sculptures.