Altars and Intentions

I haven’t written much lately about this journey Richard and I are walking with brain cancer, mostly because I haven’t had time to simply stop and sort out how I feel. The last few weeks have been intensely busy, with time at Carpenter Ranch, time sorting out issues with my folks and my mom’s Alzheimer’s, and studio time as I finished up narrating my memoir, Walking Nature Home. (The audiobook is due out later this year from University Press Audiobooks, an imprint of Redwood Audiobooks. In the meantime, you can hear a sample on the November Story Circle Network podcast.) And this week we had a short but very sweet visit from Molly, who flew to Denver, rented a car and drive to Salida for a couple of days–just because. What a honey!


In the midst of it all, I haven’t had much reflective time. We have managed to do yoga most every morning, and that deliberate practice of movement, breath and connection to the community of friends and landscape helps to keep me centered and grounded. Still, the days have been pretty non-stop and frenzied. I feel the lack of quiet, time to just sit and be, to listen to the “small, still voice” of my spirit and to my heart’s connection to the land and to life itself.

On reflection, I wonder if I’ve even been avoiding that time to think and feel. When life is overwhelming and the news is not good, busyiness can be a very effective way to stay numb. My intention is to be present though, which means I don’t want to live in a whirlwind of activity with no space for quiet and contemplation.

I always think of this time of year as the contemplative season: the days are shorter and life slows down in preparation for winter–here in the mountains, we’ve had several nights with lows in the teens, making our garden and yard very quiet places, indeed. Plus, tomorrow is Halloween, which I think of as the eve of All Hallow’s Day, the oldtime English day to honor and celebrate those who have departed this life (something akin to Dia Del Muerto in the Latino world–although more restrained, as befits my stiff-upper-lip culture!). So I’m going to spend part of this weekend celebrating my community and my antepasados, both human and other species, and re-focusing my life in a quieter, less frenzied way.


As a start to that, this morning I did some dusting and refreshing of the informal “altars” (pronounced the Spanish way, with the accent on the second syllable, “ahl-TAR”) in my office. I added newly pressed fall leaves to the groupings on long shelf of natural sandstone that juts like a curving ledge out of the wall to the left of my desk, holding many of my treasures, and dusted off the clusters of photos, postcards, and other treasures that sit in clusters on my desk, bookshelves and file cabinets. As I picked up each rock, photo, piece of art or other treasure, I thought about the person or place it stands for, and sent out my love and appreciation for each, and for the gifts they’ve given me. And I remembered how much I love this life, the capital “L” cycle of existence that animates this remarkable planet. Remembering that, I rededicated myself to honoring life and all who comprise it in my work and my every day existence.

Mollybookshelf Postcards Familyphotos Bookshelfphotos

That’s all nice, but what does my intention mean? That I’m not going to let busyness swirl me into its whirlwind. I’m going to stay aware of how I feel and what it most important to me. I’m going to think and feel and be as I go through the days, observing and noticing and noting how things are for me, and correcting course as necessary.

As a start, I’ll note this: The journey with Richard’s brain cancer is intense on the everyday, every-moment level, even when I don’t think about the implications of his Grade 4 tumors.

Just keeping track of his regimen of medicines, both western and homeopathic, and his suppliments is time-consuming. He takes two antibiotics, one twice a day three days a week, one twice a day every day; one anti-inflammatory (Boswellia), three times a day; a Vitamin D suppliment twice a day; a homeopathic alternative to chemotherapy that involves two different substances (five capsules of one and two of the other, both of which must be taken 15 minutes before any food or liquid and with no food or liquid until fifteen minutes after ingesting them) alternating four times a day; and one lysine, one Vitamin C, and one fish oil capsule per day. Whew! We use a chart to keep from getting confused.

Then there’s his anticancer diet, which involves three meals a day prepared from scratch, and about which I’ll write a whole post one of these days. So it’s no wonder that I get overwhelmed and have a hard time finding time for me. But that doesn’t mean I can’t. So that’s my intention: be here, be present, be aware of what my life’s about, be thankful for the community–of friends, readers, and family, and of the land–that gives me so much support and inspiration. Simply put: be me.


One small writing brag: My review of Mary Zeiss Stange’s Hard Grass: Life on the Crazy Woman Bison Ranch, was selected as review of the month by the editors of Story Circle Book Reviews, the largest site for reviews of books for and by women internet. What a lovely honor!