Monday, January 28, 2008

The Heaviness of Life

Reid, with one of his treasures collected in the wild, 2007

My brother, Reid, age 56, has just been diagnosed with Esophageal Cancer. A nasty, large tumor in his lower esophagus has taken away his ability to swallow. He is experiencing some pain, as are the rest of us who know him and have been privileged to be part of his family and his friend. On Friday, he was fitted with a stent, which will allow him to eat and swallow the foods he so much loves. We don't yet know whether the cancer has metastisized to any other organs.

On Saturday night, Bill and I visited and had dinner with J. and her husband, long time friends of about 30 years. J. was recently diagnosed with Non-small Cell Lung Cancer. She is undergoing a course of chemo which will hopefully allow her many more years of happiness with her children and grandchildren. This particular type of lung cancer grows slowly and is not terribly aggressive, giving all of us hope for a successful recovery. These days many people live with cancer for many years, as is evident with Presidential Candidate, John Edwards' wife, Elizabeth. It was a delight Saturday evening to spend time watching J. with one of her adult daughters, realizing the closeness of the two and validating for me once again, the meaning of family.

I've spent the last couple of days in shock ... feeling like someone has struck me in the gut with a lead pipe. I'm sure I have that glazed-eye-deer-in-the-headlights look. But the visit with my friend, J., brought me much peace and the reminder that the work of life does not happen while we're sitting on a comfortable sofa reading a funny novel. It happens during the darkest of times ... in times of sadness and in times of coming together to be supportive of one another. I will drive up to New Hampshire on Wednesday to spend some time with Reid and to once again renew our ties as family.

Please keep both Reid and J. in healing light and send them prayers of love.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Nature ...

Ireland 1990: Landscape #1, © Joan Z. Rough

"Nature ... is the wheel that drives our world. Those who ride it willingly might yet catch a glimpse of a dazzling, even a spiritual restfulness, while those who ... insist that the world must be piloted by man for his own benefit will be gathering dust but no joy."
Mary Oliver

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Frosty Morning ...

There is ice on the river and the it's very cold for Virginia. My blood is getting thinner than it was when I lived in Vermont, 29 years ago. I lived there for a total of 20 years. My son was born on a -50 F degree morning in February!! I loved it back then in my crazy youth.

Every now and then my husband and I talk about moving to Canada but the bitter cold and the lack of light in winter would be the end of me I'm sure. So we'll stay put and lend a hand in trying to bring some sanity back into this nation and world!

Photo © Joan Z. Rough, 2008

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Promises ...

Camellia Buds, © Joan Z. Rough, 2008

Even on a cold, blustery day like today, one can see the promise of what is to come. These camellias, when in bloom, are a pale pink and lovely
floating in a chrystal bowl in the center of the table.

I found the notes below hidden away during my office cleanup which is really coming along well. I'm almost finished in here ... then on to the room where we store all of the things we've been hanging onto for years because we thought we'd need them some day. In speaking with others about this compulsion of mine, it is apparently what many sixty-something women like to do. So I'm not alone ...

The length of time it takes for
a banana peel to decompose is 1 week to 6 months ... one piece of paper will take 3 years ... for a styrofoam cup, 10 to 12 years ... for a plastic container, 50 to 70 years .... for an aluminum can, 200 to 500 years ... a plastic six-pack holder, 450 years ... a glass container, 1 million years or longer.

One stack of newspapers, 3 feet high, is equal to the pulp from one tree ...

It's more important than ever to reuse, recycle or do without alot the things we have!!

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Snow Journal ...

Snow Day, January 17, 2008, 8:00 AM

9:30 AM

Female Cardinal

Blue Jay and Male Cardinal

Goldfinches At The Feeders

12:00 PM

Snow Just Turned To Freezing Rain

The Meadow

The River

The River With Geese And Ducks

Snow storms are getting so rare here in central Virginia, so when one happens one must make note of it and celebrate the event. Like all winter storms that come through these days the snow quickly changed to freezing rain and if the weather folks are right and it gets up to about 50 degrees tomorrow it will be gone before I get a chance to get outside with the camera again.

Happy Snow Day!!!

Photos © Joan Z. Rough

Snow Day ...

falling at first light
soft white flakes
blue jay in the cherry tree


Photos and words © by Joan Z. Rough, 2008

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Morning Stroll ...

Beautiful morning, cold, no wind ... let's take a walk.

The Buddha just outside my front door.

Lilliput in the willow tree.

In the meadow ...

Chinese magnolia buds ...

Beauty berry ...

There is so much more ... I'll share some more another day!
I hope your day has been as beautiful as mine!!

All photos are under copyright by Joan Z. Rough

Friday, January 11, 2008


Zen Cats Peppermint and Lilliput, © Joan Z. Rough, 2006

It's been a long week. On Tuesday I spent from 9 AM to 5 PM in the dentist chair having some major dental work done. I had well over 15 shots of novacaine and was poked, drilled and prodded until I couldn't stand it anymore. My jaw is still very swollen from those shots and I've been having a hard time keeping my head from feeling like a bomb sight.

As a child I was taken to a dentist who told my mother that my teeth were full of cavities. After many, many visits to him to have my cavities filled, we arrived one day to find the door to his office locked, all of his furniture gone and not a sign on the door to say where he'd gone. He'd obviously gone to another state where the grass was greener with unsuspecting victims and perfect teeth that needed filling. My mother had paid him a bloody fortune for what another dentist told us was a scam. I had not had all those cavities and we were not the only family that was taken for their savings. The scoundrel never was found and I often wonder whenever I sit in a dentist's chair if there is a special place called "Hell for Crooked Dentists." I'm sure he is there!

The result of all of this is that as I've aged the fillings have had to be refilled over and over again. The teeth have weakened and a whole other set of problems began. So on Tuesday, we started making my mouth a new masterful work of art. All of the teeth on the lower jaw are being crowned. They were drilled away except for a thin post and covered with temporary plastic crowns that will be replaced in about six weeks with porcelain crowns.

One of the temps fell out last night during dinner and I had to go back this morning to have it cemented back in place. Needless to say, I wasn't eager to go back and I don't think they were eager to see me either. The only thing worse I can think of than going through all this, is being on the other end of the job, having to stare down into someone else's mouth breathing their breath for 8 hours a day.

I suppose I could think of all this as a collaberation of sorts. I've promised not to swear anymore, eat sticky fruit flavored candies at the movies and only allow nice things to come out of my mouth. In return I get a set a teeth that look really great and "knock wood" will quit giving me so many problems. But I do have to rob a bank to pay for all of this!

One of the highlights of my week was finding the photo above while going through all that stuff piled in the corners of my office of my precious cats on my meditation cushion being enlightened. I think I'll try some of that!!

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Another Day On The River ...

Just 4 days ago almost the entire river was covered with a thin glaze of ice. This is what the river looked like this morning at about 7:30 AM, after several days of temperatures in the low 70's during the day and upper 50's during the night. A blanket of thick fog started to form just over the surface of the water then quickly disappeared as the clouds vanished and the sun began to warm things up. Today again it is warm, about 66 degrees. I long for flowers ... daffodils and tulips ... but it is far too early, of course, and the weather people are talking about the possibility of snow showers this weekend. Even though I love the cold weather, it isn't difficult for me to be overtaken with a serious case of spring fever even at the beginning of January!

The robins are still here and made it through the frigid nights last week. The most exciting bird sighting of the past week was of two bald eagles going after some Canada geese quietly feeding on the river. The eagles were dive bombing the geese. I believe they were trying to make the geese fly so that the eagles might pluck one out of the air for breakfast, but the geese stayed put, flapping their wings and calling loudly every time the eagles got close. I had no idea that eagles would prey on waterfowl, but one of my bird books does say that they do. I wanted to get a photo of this excitement, but my camera was not nearby. I was too interested in the goings on to leave the scene and find it, fearing I'd miss something. After about 20 minutes the eagles left, looking I suppose for an easier meal. Eagle sightings have become fairly common here on the river after many years of none at all.

The reason I haven't posted to my blog in a while is the mess in this photo ... I've been filing and trashing things I've been hanging onto (some may call it hoarding) for several years. I am ordinarily a very organized and tidy person but the last years have found me letting things go when it comes to important papers and such. The bills are always payed on time, but it's the rest of the stuff that has built up into stacks and piles all over the room. What you see in the photo is only one corner.

So far I've been able to completely clear my desk and get all of my new medicare papers filed in a place where I can find them. I've discarded many pieces of paper that are no longer relevant to anything in my life and have started shredding tax records and receipts that have been around well over 7 years and no longer necessary in the event that the IRS thinks I've been playing games with them, which I don't. My husband and I have been audited twice in our lives together and both times of no benefit to the government. But if you haven't saved every scrap of paper it is a big pain in the butt! And it takes time.

I can't tell you exactly why I've started this project at this time, except that it feels like the right thing to do at the beginning of January and I'm beginning to feel lighter and freer ... as though I'm losing weight and am able to move around more easily and joyously. HAH!!! I suppose that now that I've started cleaning up this mess I must finish it. I'm so glad it is too early for daffodils and tulips, because I'd be out in the garden getting my hands in the dirt right at this moment!!

Thursday, January 03, 2008

The Way Things Are Supposed To Be ...

Robin, December 23, 2007

It's 8:30 AM, 28 degrees F outside and sunny. There is a light film of ice along the edge of the river ... the first of the season. Over the next few days, the temperature is supposed to start rising until it gets up to 60 degrees F ... probably by Monday.

When I stepped outside just a few minutes ago, the air was filled with birdsong ... the way it sounds in late March or early April and you know with all of your senses that spring is here. For the last week or so I've been observing a mixed flock of robins and starlings who apparently think that spring has arrived in central Virginia. Usually the first Robins will appear here in mid February along with the green leaves of daffodils poking through the earth's crust for a peek at the sun. Granted, we've had a very warm fall and I've not had to wear a winter coat until yesterday, when the temperatures dove down into the 30's during the day. But next week it will be shorts weather! Is this the way things are supposed to be?? In early January??

Yesterday when I was out walking the dogs, I did see that a few brave daffodils had started to appear in my neighbor's yard. This morning, the flock of birds is on the move flitting here and there, like little children waiting for the school bus on a very cold day ... hopping up and down on one leg and then the other, trying to keep warm. I'm sure these chilly birds are looking for their preferred meal of juicy earthworms that I don't think will appear until the ground has thawed a bit in the morning sun. Seeds will just have to do for now. They certainly don't look like they are going to give up and go south again.

If you ask most of us, we'd most likely say that this is not the way things are supposed to be. Robins are supposed to arrive in the spring, not at the beginning of winter. When I was a kid, long before this country became involved in the space race, I remember hearing rumors that the Russians were causing the crazy weather patterns because of their space explorations. Well now we know more about what really causes the changes in the weather, about global warming and other scientific matters that alot of us find hard to wrap our minds around.

I've been told that the only certain things in life are death and taxes. Everything else is in flux. One day I'm feeling happy ... the next day sad. I add a pound here and there as I graze through the pantry or I lose a few because I'm really working at it. Friends come and go. Each morning we wake up to see the sun rise and set at different times. How boring it would be if things really were the way they are supposed to be!!