Nancy: Great Blue Heron Update

Hi Friends. Nancy has surgery next week on March 9th. We’re holing up this week so no little invaders might delay the process.

Nance is feeling good, strong and in good spirits. Walks have been long and energizing except for Sunday, when we received the second Covid vaccine in the morning and felt pretty sick for 36 hours afterward. Ruby says that is a good sign and to be expected after the second shot.

I’ll post next week when the surgery is done and keep you informed. If you know anyone who needs this information that isn’t on the blog list, you can enter their address in the subscription box. Nancy posts will be indicated by the heron.

Long Lives, Contacts, Chick Corea, Jean Coram and “No Dittos” from Me!

The names of dead friends in my contacts list is growing. Embracing mortality with a touch of humor, I’ve been joking for the past few years that I leave the dead ones in so when they outnumber the live ones I know it’s my turn to go.

Years ago at a family wedding a cousin said, “You know, we’re going to live well into our hundreds. ” I responded, “I have no desire to live to be a hundred.” This bothered him so I explained that I’m not looking just to pack on years. As long as I feel good and there’s a reason to live I’ll do what I can to stick around, but it’s okay to die.

Occasionally, I have an odd thought, kind of a “God is laughing from above thing” with God saying to one of the assistants, “I’m not sure why they’re all afraid to die. I suppose it’s my fault, I was in a rush.”

I remember reading that the poet, William Carlos William died at ninety-one. It seemed like a lovely number. My father died at ninety-two and my mother died at fifty so I have no firm precedent to predict my longevity but ninety one always felt like a cool number. I’ve learned in life you get what you get.

William Carlos William

When I was fifty I studied Buddhism and meditation Tulku Jigme Rinpoche for some time. Wikipedia says, A tulku is a reincarnate custodian of a specific lineage of teachings in Tibetan Buddhism who is given empowerments and trained from a young age by students of his or her predecessor. “Tulku,” as I called him was twenty-three. One day I told him it seemed odd that he at twenty-three was teaching me at fifty. The second the question left my mouth I thought how silly that must sound to someone steeped in reincarnation.

Tulku Jigme Rinpoche

People die all the time but when someone leaves who you admired it leaves a hole. It’s not sadness so much as, well, I’m not sure what it is but it has to do with how they affected your life and how they lived theirs and it always feels cruel to me when someone dies who brought joy to others.

One of my favorite musicians died last week, the pianist Chick Corea.

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If you don’t know Chick’s music, listen to The Ultimate Adventure on YouTube or anything else by him, especially, Crystal Silence. I started listening to Chick Corea when I was fourteen and his music brought me much joy.

The mother of a close friend, Jean Coram died last week .

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Twenty years ago we were traveling in England and Jean took us into her home and toured us around her village. It was four of the best days of my life. Jean lived in an older person’s residence in England and was ninety-seven. Ninety-seven is a big, long life. When she got Covid-19 she told her daughters, “No trips to the hospital.” Her daughter told me “Mum said growing old is not for sissies.” Tomorrow is her funeral. Farewell kind friend.

Rush Limbaugh died last week. I didn’t know him and I don’t like to throw dirt on anyone’s grave. I’m sure there are people who loved Rush Limbaugh and their loss is meaningful. I have no idea whether in private he was good person who improved the lives of others. I hope so.

The first time I heard Rush Limbaugh I was driving home from teaching at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle. I’m a dial turner so was spinning the knobs and landed on KVI, one of Seattle’s talk radio/news stations. I’m not sure why I listened, and I wasn’t sure what I was hearing.  The voice was comical, the delivery polished but soon enough the tone, my gosh, it was ugly, derisive and abusive.  I’d never heard anything like it.  The voice was making fun of the Reverend Jessie Jackson.  I appreciate intelligent and respectful opinions even from those with whom I disagree, but this was despicable! What the voice lacked in substance he made up for with sarcasm and derision. Like a moth drawn to a flame, I listened for a while until I decided I don’t need this in my life and I switched stations never knowing who the speaker was.

When I got home, I called KVI.  In those days there were still humans staffing radio stations and I cared enough to call into them from time to time. When I connected with the station manager I told him this, “I’m not sure who or what that guy is, “ but it’s a horrible thing to hear that kind of talk on the radio and as long as he is on your station I will never listen to KVI again!”  The station manager laughed and said, “Sir, I feel the same way you do, and I hate to tell you this, but that guy is the most popular radio show host in the country and he’s making this station a ton of money. His name is Rush Limbaugh.”

And there it was:  abuse and derision and non-substantive attack and insult was a money maker. Sound familiar? PT Barnum at his best, no publicity is bad publicity, it doesn’t matter what you say only that people are listening. Of course, over the next few years I heard Rush other times. It was impossible to avoid. Rush, and his polished vitriol, became a superstar!

Three years later, a good friend called to say he was coming for a visit and then warned me, I want you to know, I’ve become pretty conservative” to which I responded, “Well, that’ll give us something to talk about.” 

When he arrived, as promised he was eager to share his ideas. It wasn’t upsetting that his ideas were conservative, so much as they weren’t really ideas at all, but mainly crude and personal attacks on others. I finally asked him, “Have you been listening to Rush?”  to which he sheepishly replied, “Yes” adding, “I listen to the other side too.” “What does that mean, the other side?” “You know, NPR.”  Then I said, “You know, if you’re embracing conservatism, why not learn about it from some reputable and intelligent sources instead of Rush?”

A week after Rush’s death, we are a country of people adept at insult and attack but who struggle to honorably or civilly disagree. We would rather demonize each other than do the hard work to find compromise and common ground. In short, we’ve become haters!

Limbaugh opened the door to an army of abusive, truth forsaking radio and television talk show news hosts who pander to the lowest element of their listeners.  They promote anger and embrace a society destroying pathological distortion of reality. Instead of opening minds and hearts, they’ve closed them, and it isn’t just on the “right.”

Rush pretended that he was just an entertainer, oft citing the influence of The Firesign Theater satire troop he admired as a child, but he knew better.  Rush understood he was extracting gold from the mine of hatred, contempt and rudeness, and perhaps more than any media personality in the history of the country up to his arrival, Rush promoted a culture of abuse. It made him rich, powerful and famous and metastasized into hundreds if not thousands of others just like him.

And that my friends, rankles me.  If a sociopath tells you a truth it doesn’t mean he isn’t a sociopath. It matters in what form ideas are cast into the culture.  It matters how we speak, what we say, and how we do or do not respect those with whom we disagree.

While Chick Corea and Jean Coram departed this world leaving behind music and joy, Rush Limbaugh departed the world with a society he helped tear into shreds, if not so much for his ideas but for how he shared them. It is for that I will remember Rush Limbaugh.

Crystal Silence

To all who have joined Nancy and I on this path

have showered us with support and food and kindness

and lent us your strength so that we might conserve ours

You have asked, what are our feelings?

And we have summoned words in an attempt to honor your question

But words do not reveal what we find best in silence

So please join us there if only for a single moment

and you will know all we might share

and there together we can bring light

to what we are only beginning to understand

Mass or Node?

Nance saw her doctor yesterday via Telemed.

The doc said she is doing very well but that it’s time to do the surgery. We also learned that words make a difference in the medical world. When we asked about the “mass” in Nancy’s heart area six weeks ago, we were told there was none and we upped our magical “abracadabra cancer is going away thinking.” We found out yesterday that when they said there was no mass they meant no tumor but the enlarged lymph node that we called a mass was still there, albeit shrunken. Still good news, though initially disappointing.

She will have “open” (as opposed to less invasive laparoscopy) surgery on March 9th and be in the hospital for three-four days. Presently I cannot be with her due to Covid. That is not a comfort.

Covid-19 has made it hard to have others in our life the way it might be more helpful but we’ll get our second shots next week and perhaps can loosen the restrictions that make support from others so awkward.

The roller coaster metaphor still applies. I want to apologize to anyone who catches me on one of the days when the coaster car is grinding its way to the top. Equal apologies if you catch me when it’s flying down the rails!

The only thing that matters is that Nancy feel safe, supported and comfortable and that we can harness her considerable will to focus on what needs to be done. Thanks to all of you who have made that possible.

Now, we need to get through the surgery and get Nanky Doodle healed up. Longer, warmer days always lift spirits. I have been so eager about getting through this Winter that yesterday I said to Nance that I didn’t realize St. Patrick’s Day had come, and she reminded me it was still February!!!

After working on Russian ships in my twenties, I adopted the Russian seasonal calendar. Spring starts on March 1st and it can’t come fast enough.

Ix and Plax

As a continuing part of the “I drank too much coffee series” and with full awareness that most of you read for news about Nancy and not my rantings and ravings, I ask, a few years from now when the evolution of humans from flesh and blood to metal and machinery, electronic, and computerized associations is complete, what will my pronouns be?

I am Veralogin 7605 4-B Interstellar Genomic BOx 12-Emotional, my pronouns are Ix and PLax

“Good day, Mate.”

Six Miles

We walked six logging road miles yesterday. Fortunately, the big storm hitting the rest of thew country has not gotten to us, so it was about 45 degrees, wet and gray, but no single-digit temperatures like Ruby is having in Texas and no snow like in Seattle and Portland. Erica and Ronnie and their two ten-week-old puppies, Reishi and Willow joined us. Walking with friends is great and when they have two intrepid puppies, it’s even better. Both dogs crashed upon arrival back home. Nancy is the picture of health and vigor, and tomorrow has her big scan to see how things stand on the inside. That will determine what happens next.

We’ll let you know as soon as we know.

Thanks again for all the support.

You’re Getting Sleepy, Your Eyes Are Getting Heavy

When you’re told someone you love has cancer, it hits like a hypnotist casting a scary spell over you, “You’re getting sleepy, your eyes are getting heavy.”  Before long you’re jumping through all sorts of hoops to deal with the cancer and it scares you.  In that first two weeks after Nance was diagnosed we were pretty down and struggling until one day we just said, “Enough” there’s no point getting all bent out of shape thinking about death.  It doesn’t help and it isn’t what’s going to happen!”

Then a few days go by, then a few weeks and Nancy feels better, looks like herself (except for hair)  feels strong, eyes are clear, her body is healthy, and we say she just has cancer and it’s going away.Nance had her third chemo infusion this past Thursday.  She was pretty wound up yesterday but started crashing in earnest last night.  We still went for a six mile walk this afternoon and now she is asleep on the couch.  I expect her to be down like this for today and tomorrow and then should start coming back to normal.  In tends to two weeks they will do a scan of things and decide how to proceed with surgery.  She’s a tough little bugger and all indications are that she is doing great, in fact, so much so that the biggest concern, which was a mass in the tissue around her heart, did not even show up on the last CT scan.  Miracle?  Sure, why not, but how about Nancy is strong and healthy and either that mass was never there or decided to cut and run under the barrage of health Nance has thrown at it.  And by barrage I mean mushroom tinctures, chemo concoctions, vitamins, food, exercise, water, prayer, tao, meditation, chants, rituals, songs, and the powerful force of love and healing that has come her way through all of you.  

The hypnotist has started looking around for another sap to go under the spell.I cannot begin to thank you all for the support you’ve given to Nance.  It is what carries us forward.  

Thanks again for all the kindness.   Joey and Nancy

Wiggy Meet Nancy ?

One of the fine perks of getting a cancer diagnosis is the free wig store. There’s a lot of kindness even if the wigs aren’t exactly what you have in mind.
Who needs a wig with a head so fine?
Here she is with the wig you can’t get at the wig store!

A great week. It’s funny how you go through so many steps and realizations along this path. It hits like a ton of bricks but soon you realize it’s no different than anything else in life so you tighten your boot laces and start hiking. With each step you get stronger.

Each day we walk in the woods, breathe the air, see the mountains and take notice of the subtle change of the seasons. On some days a raven soars above, Flickers call out and dive down into the protection of the trees, or a hawk takes notice of two humans churning up the road from high above.

Head down or head up makes all the difference.


The Peace of Wild Things, by Wendell Berry

(This makes me think of Nance)

Nancy’s Totem Bird

When despair for the world grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting with their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.

Three Quotes, One Hero, Two Fools, and A Test for Exceptionalism.

This piece first appeared in The Chronicle, 12/27/21

“Waist Deep in the big muddy, and the big fool says to push on.”  Pete Seeger

The Fool referred to in the above lyric was President Lyndon Baines Johnson, who, despite sober assessments (The Pentagon Papers) that the war in Vietnam was unwinnable, continued escalating a conflict that eventually cost 66,000 Americans (and close to a million Vietnamese) their deaths between 1964-1968.  Johnson’s leadership failure cost him his Presidency, which seems like a small price to pay weighed against the cost to those who lost a child, a spouse, a father or a mother in a senseless war.

Two of my favorite quotes about human beings come from the late great basketball coach John Wooden, whose UCLA teams dominated college basketball during the Sixties.  Wooden was always more than a coach, being equal parts coach, preacher and philosopher.

Wooden quote 1: “Be more concerned with your character than your reputation because your character is what you really are, while your reputation is merely what others think you are.

Wooden’s words augmented Seeger’s.  Two weeks before Christmas, we are “Waist deep again in the big {viral} muddy,” but this time the muddy isn’t the rice paddies or jungles in Southeast Asia, but a preventable disease ravaging every community in the world.  Like Johnson, against all rationale and scientific advice, our President has ignored any attempt to control the spread of the disease.  He doesn’t even mention that 3000 Americans are now dying each day from a pandemic he made worse by denying it was a problem and refusing to take measures to control its spread.  While the President tunes up his golf swing as the death toll in America alone is approaching an astounding 300,000 lives! 

This brings to mind a second Wooden quote, “Whatever you do in life, surround yourself with smart people who’ll argue with you.”

Whether you like the President or not is irrelevant, but my God, you have to listen to others who know more than you do. That the President politicized a disease appalls me, and that so many of his supporters did not grasp that they could like the President but not agree with him about the virus concerns me. 

The same goes for the Governor of California and the Mayor of San Francisco.  Those two hypocrites ignored their advisories and availed themselves of family gatherings and fine French meals.  Decades ago, I swore off membership in any political party when I realized neither had the monopoly on truth.  Has our leadership served us well?  Let the chips fall where they may. I think not.

It didn’t have to be this way.  In the early 1980s, as the first signs of the HIV epidemic began to surface during Ronald Reagan’s Presidency, C. Everett Koop,

a deeply conservative and Republican man, thought by his critics too conservative to protect the nation’s health, was the United States Surgeon General.  In stark contrast to his moral pre-disposition, Koop did battle with the socially conservative politics of the Reagan Administration by taking action to slow the spread of AIDS in the United States.  At the time, those who wrongly branded the affliction a “Gay Man’s Disease”

dangerously said that AIDS was God’s punishment for living sinful lives.  Koop, though likely not one to be comfortable with Gay Men’s lifestyles and under tremendous pressure not to take effective action, let medical science and intellectually honest guide his response to the disease that today is known as HIV.  Koop did not succumb to callous prejudice or political favor, and he saved tens, if not hundreds of thousands of lives by doing his job to protect the American People.   Take that, Mr. President, Governor Newsom, and Mayor Breed! 

 As for those who believe the Pandemic is a conspiratorial hoax, all I can say is, “Please take your place at the back of the vaccine line.”

As for our own, Governor Brown, I’ve heard more than a few shots directed at her, but I applaud the Governor’s steadfastness. It is not politically easy to shut down a state, and there is terrible hardship when you close schools, businesses and churches.  We want to blame the messenger, Governor Brown, but perhaps the better response should be “Thanks,” because we’ve been fortunate so far that Oregon’s Covid-19 infection rates have been lower than most other states.  More Oregonians will survive to tell the tale.  Amen.

Risk is part of life, and it isn’t for me to tell you how to live, but I believe it makes sense to keep your guard up.  And seriously, people, all we’re talking about is a mask, some hand sanitizer, and keeping away from larger groups.  It isn’t that much to ask.  I encourage all to stay vigilant and protect themselves and others.  Even with an effective vaccine, it will take a while to stop the virus, so unless you meet the standards identified below for “Exceptionalism,” I encourage all to keep the mask on, mingle less, and maintain all possible safeguards.   You may be young and healthy, but your grandmother isn’t. 

You Are Exceptional if you can:

Jump up in the air and not come down.

Walk on water.

Deposit your body waste with no smell.