The Blessing of Snow and News

When Richard and I left home on Monday before dawn, the temperature was 48 degrees F, unusually warm for late October in southern Colorado’s high country. In Denver, the dress was shorts and sandals and the day’s high was 80 degrees. Two days later, we woke to snow and pulled on jackets and scarves before droving home in a storm that muffled the peaks in cloud and dusted the mountainsides with white.

The landscape was still and muted, reduced almost to shades of gray. Even South Park (not the TV show, the real thing, a 50-mile-wide bowl of windy grasslands averaging nearly two miles above sea level and surrounded by higher peaks), was calm–hence the mirror-like reflection in this pond just outside Fairplay.

Unlike most storms this year, this one came out of the southwest, so our part of the state, which has been gripped by drought while the northern part of the state has nearly drowned, finally received some moisture. Snow was falling steadily when we got home, with several soggy inches of white stuff on the ground. Richard built a fire in the woodstove while I unpacked the car. The snow fell like white rain as we relaxed over tortilla chips and beer, as we ate leftover Indian food for dinner, and as we headed to bed. We fell asleep to the “whump!” of snow sliding in wet avalanches off the metal roof.

We woke this morning to fog and a wet, white blanket covering our garden and yard. (That’s a chard leaf above peaking out of the snow in the kitchen garden.) As the sun gradually broke the fog open, the mountainsides above town began to show through, the forest iced white. Soon, the gutters sang and chuckled with melt water.

Moisture isn’t a permanent resident here in the high desert. It’s a rare and ephemeral event, a gift from wetter climates that sweeps in and doesn’t stay long. This storm brought us that blessing in the form of snow.

And this morning brought Richard’s pathology report, which doesn’t seem like a blessing at all: The tumor removed from his brain almost two weeks ago was a Grade 3 Astrocytoma, which in plain English means he has brain cancer. Brain tumors are given grades from 1 to 4. One is benign, 4 is seriously bad news. Grade 3 in this particular type of tumor, an abnormal growth of the star-shaped support cells that surround the neurons, means he’s likely to be treated with an intensive program of radiation and chemotherapy. We’ll know more about that after his November 12 appointment with Oncology.

On the plus side, he feels good. His quarterly cystoscopy on Wednesday was all clear, and this brain tumor isn’t related to that bladder cancer. His wonderful neurology doc (Thank you, Brooke Allen!) encouraged us to take a break and go on with our plans to head out for Texas this weekend. She also said the treatment shouldn’t prevent us from going to Baja California at the holidays, a trip we’ve dreamed of for a long time. (Which reminds me: I’ve still got a few spaces for Writing Adventure: Baja including five days on magical Isla Espirtu Santo off La Paz. Let me know if you want to go.)

As we digest this news, one thing is clear: We’re still blessed with each other, with the life we’ve built and we’re living right now, and with the love and support of family and friends. Thank you.