“You’re so lucky!” commented a reader in response to “Falling In Love Again,” my blog post about my week teaching a creative writing workshop on Isla Espiritu Santo off Baja California, and my return to Richard and Molly here in Colorado.
Lucky isn’t exactly the word I would have chosen to describe my life over the past four and a half months. I can’t say that I feel lucky to have ended up in Denver with Richard in the hospital with severe brain swelling last September instead of at the remote cabin in the San Juan Mountains on the joint artist-writer residency we had anticipated for months. I don’t feel lucky to have given our lives over to the weekly trips to the VA Hospital for appointments, tests, another hospitalization, brain surgery, and then a cancer diagnosis that meant we had to move to Denver for Richard’s radiation and chemotherapy treatments. Looking at the question mark-shaped scar that now scribes across the right side of Richard’s head and his radiation-reddened scalp and blistered right ear, I can’t say I feel lucky. At the moment my flight to Mexico took off from Denver the day after Christmas, leaving Richard behind as I headed to Isla Espirtu Santo for the trip we’d dreamed of for so long, I certainly didn’t feel lucky. Nor does it seem like luck to have been without income since September, or away from the home and community we love for the last a month and a half.
On reflection though, I realize I am lucky, in the sense of the word that means fortunate. Of course, I’m not fortunate to have the one I love end up with brain cancer, and I’m not fortunate to be living in a strange place for the duration of his treatment; nor are we fortunate to be drawing down our savings. But things could be much worse. I’m not channeling Pollyanna here. They really could.
Luck, as I see it, is in large part how you deal with what life brings. In that respect especially, I am very fortunate. Both Richard and I have been able to approach this serious health crisis, this strange turn of our life path, with a great deal of equanimity. Early on, back when he was visited by bird hallucinations, we determined to take what came with grace. We’ve stuck to that resolve by and large, and it’s helped. In fact, I’d go so far as to say that our intention of walking this path together with awareness and open hearts is part of why the path hasn’t been any worse.
- The guy in the self-portrait above, and the love we share (including the fact that he’s goofy enough to tolerate me shooting photos of us in the bathroom mirror of the place where we’re living while he’s being treated for brain cancer–and then to laugh about it)
- Our families: Molly, my folks, my brother and sister-in-law, their girls and grandkids, and Richard’s mom, siblings, and their families–we’re so fortunate to have y’all in our lives!
- You: My friends, readers, colleagues–this rich and far-flung community, you who have been so generous with your comments, sympathy, support, your light and love
- The doctors, nurses, technicians, and aides who have cared for Richard over these months, all of whom seem to actually care, and are working at giving him the best chance possible to live many more healthy years
- This planet: Earth, the only home our species has ever known, the extraordinary community of lives that animates its landscapes and seascapes, a community that nurtures and nourishes we humans as well
- Writing and the opportunities I have found to speak the words in my head and heart, to drop those metaphorical pebbles in the pond of life that their ripples may spread outwards. For me, writing is love made evident, and I do love this life and this world!
- These days with Richard, the time on Espiritu Santo, every dawn, every sunset, and all the hours between–the nights too, and the moon and stars sailing across the dark heavens.
So yes, I am lucky. Luck’s three parts hard work though. It’s what you make of what life gives you, and that means more than just showing up and expecting things to come to you. It means the attitude you bring to life, the spirit you cultivate, the way you are in every single moment of every day. I intend to honor what I have, and live these days mindfully, generously, with my heart outstretched as if it were my hand.
One more thing: It’s January, and that means garden and seed catalogs are on the way. I can’t wait to get home and begin preparing my kitchen garden for spring. It’s a new year, and I’m more than ready to help new life come into being.
Those of you who grow your own food might want to think about sharing your bounty this year by donating seedlings to a community or school garden, giving some of your harvest to a local food bank, or volunteering to help others discover the joy and great flavors in growing their own food. I am particularly inspired by Renee’s Garden Seeds seed donation program, and the Garden Writers Asssociation’s Plant a Row for the Hungry project.
Join me in making 2010 a year of generosity and growth, a year where we all can remember what it is to feel lucky.