Dispatch from the River: Washed Clean (and Not Just the Angry Bird Underpants!)

21 July 2013 SUN VALLEY 043-003

Southcentral Idaho. Peace reigns between the bots. Being in a new place does for Mbot what it does for me: washes out the mind like the rainstorm we drove through just south of the Nevada state line, like the ocean arriving all at once on our windshield, wipers arcing furiously to not quite keep up, white spray from the few passing trucks to the left obliterating the view—I think of the blindness that might occur temporarily if one traveled at lightspeed, or that occurs when I board an airplane to sit encapsulated for an hour or two or nine until deposited in a different geographic location, often thousands of miles from the point of origin, during which time (if one is traveling without bots) one has spent reading a magazine on home style.

On the first day of travel, we debarked at the splash park in Henderson, Nevada the first scheduled stop on our two day, thousand mile venture north, fresh out of the rain storm. The botmobile shined like it was new, the silky navy of the paint gleaming as though you could walk through it into another world.

And so we have.

Here, between the mountains and the prairie, the winds wash down from Galena Summit, thirty miles north, like an invisible river though the valley every morning, cool air seeking low elevations, warming through the day, and then flowing back up into higher climes each evening, cleansing the air ‘til every object takes on a crystalline appearance, sharp edges, unfiltered greens—that never fail to bring back the memory of my first pair of glasses, set on the bridge of my nose at the age of eight. How my environment snapped into focus–I could almost count the serrated green alder leaves and suddenly the towering blue spruces became communities of individual needles, where before the trees had loomed, undifferentiated from one another. Synapses that had lay dormant for perhaps years, fired the news: Vision! Vision! Vision!

And so it is, here: vision.

For as long as I can remember–ever since my family drove away from our house on the hill in New Hampshire and set off across the country in a VW squareback toward Alaska–travel has been as much about marveling at the wonders of a world that isn’t mine as much as turning to marvel from a distance at the wonders of the world that is. And then marveling at the marveling.

I sense the same neural dynamic in Mbot, for whom every Magna-Tile has taken on a new attraction in this place–as though the Magna-Tiles, and not the place, were new. Marvelously, his brother, too, seems to have acquired a certain sparkle (in Mbot’s eyes) in this high mountain air, and the bickering has dwindled to token poking, pestering and name-calling.

Gbot benefits from the attentions of Pam.

Gbot benefits from the attentions of the wonderful and talented Pam.  You, too, could be this cute if you came to Idaho. Pam could help. Although if you come here, visit Pam, and find you are NOT this cute, do not blame Pam.

This mental re-setting is a real thing, and I know enough now to recognize that it will always be an important part of how Mbot interacts with his surroundings. He and I will have to get out of town on a regular basis, to recalibrate our focus on not only our external environments far and near, but our internal landscapes.

Husbot, who has stayed in Arizona to take care of pets and business, isn’t wired this way. Gbot, too, is less influenced by his environment than by the internal Contentment Bug he’s hosted since birth. He’s truly the captain of his own ship, never mind the water and wind, and I’d trust him to get from here to there in any weather. Mbot and I are at the helms of our ships, too, but we’re buffeted by both the water and the wind, and we’re very busy looking at the view and wondering if we might go there and if we do, what here will look like once we’re there. It will not be easy for anyone in our regatta. But the journey will wash us clean, outside and in.

Mbot steers the HMS  "Huggie Mommy." I did not name her.

Mbot steers the HMS “Huggie Mommy.” I did not name her.

The Circles of Life

(Artist: Mbot. Medium: Play-Doh.)

(Artist: Mbot. Medium: Play-Doh.)

The bike rack arrived, so we’re ready to load up for the drive to Idaho tomorrow.

After the second lumpectormy, my own rack has been given the all-clear, too. Vacation time! Radiation doesn’t start ’til mid-August, and I will cross that isodose when I come to it. In the festive mood that’s permeating the household, the bots have been conducting business as usual.

From the Bathroom:

Mbot, perched on the toilet, expresses concern about using too much toilet paper, because it is Bad For The Earth. “We don’t want another tree to die, Mom!” He calls out, bare butt hanging halfway down to the water in the bowl. I consider myself Earth-friendly, but considering what’s in the bowl, I’m more than willing to say sayonara to a giant sequoia if that’s what it takes.

“How do they get the giant tree into the office?”

Me: “Into where, Sweetie Piglet?”

Mbot: “How do they get the giant tree into the toilet paper making office?”

From the after-dinner popcorn party:

Gbot: “Can we plant these (kernels) and grow a popcorn tree?”

popcorn tree circle of life

It’s not exactly The Lion King, but it’s the circle of life nonetheless. It feels good to be rolling again.

In Flight En Route To Tomorrow

2013 July 4 049

Shock of water like

knowledge of fragility

can buoy or break

On Monday, with 95% of the lab work in hand, an oncologist delivered the positive news of the negative: negative for cancer cells in the lymph nodes. Negative for invasive cancer in the breast tissue. Our road trip to Idaho would proceed as (re)scheduled! I’d been putting off booking a hotel room for the night in Cedar City, Utah, the halfway point, but now I did.

On Tuesday, my surgeon received the last 5% of the lab work, and delivered the negative news of the positive: positive margins at the excision site, meaning that abnormal cells–still noninvasive–had been found too close to the edges of the removed tissue, so more would have to be taken. I’m scheduled for a second surgery Tuesday. I cancelled the hotel room. I was further from the half-way point than I’d thought. A heavy disappointment told me that I’d let my positive thinking for a best-scenario outcome turn into expectation.

Note to self: Work on keeping these two separate and under control at all times.

Self to self: BWAAAAA ha ha ha ha. Whatevs.

Control’s not working so well these days. Which has forced me to investigate alternative coping methods.

A few days before the first surgery, I sat in the gray-toned waiting room of an outpatient clinic waiting for the “radioactive seed localization implant”–a painless procedure in which a tiny, ever-so-slightly radioactive chip of metal is implanted at the site of the DCIS-afflicted tissue, (for the surgeon to locate with a Geiger counter). And I decided that one reason–among many–like, say, having a radioactive piece of metal injected into my breast–that this whole experience with DCIS was so unnerving is that it brought me into strange and foreign places and unfamiliar situations.

Having had that thought, I was moved to a second waiting room, this one tiny, with two curtained-off dressing cubes, gray speckled Linoleum floors and walls the color of Silly Putty. My view was onto a hallway on whose wall was embedded an indecipherable piece of machinery. I decided to consider this place a foreign country, with its own strange architecture, customs, language, and way of dress. Like Paris, but without the good butter, crusty bread, Mansard roofs, and generally short men.

This helped a great deal. In fact, when I arrived home, there was a Skpe message waiting for me from my friend Solveig: “think of this as a big adventure–your one and only lumpectomy!”

“Like Disneyland, I wrote back. “Except instead of the Teacup Ride, it’s the D-Cup Ride!”

This frame of mind–or framing of events–is working quite nicely, but at some point, my subconscious begins to wonder why I am in Disneyland, and why I feel so unprepared to be here.

And so I’ve started to read about the most effective ways to assimilate such situations. I am not much one for rah-rah-rah self-help books, but I’m always open to suggestions. A dear friend suggested Pema Chodron‘s writings, and I’ve begun When Things Fall Apart; the same friend sent this URL to Brene Brown’s TED talk, “The Power of Vulnerability.” Because behind my dreams–about Angry Birds costumes; about my sons, ill and injured; about leaving glass shards on the floor between me and my sleeping children; of tracking ink on my sister’s carpet–are feelings–absolutely and completely irrational feelings, mind you–not only of vulnerability and fear but of guilt, and shame, responsibility, and inadequacy.

Frankly, it’s a pain in the ass.

But I’m in a place of growth and learning. And so far, even including my deductible, it’s cheaper than grad school.

Now, on the morning of my second lumpectomy, I will keep this image of Gbot in mind:

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This belly flop is

beautiful! Style! Form! And the

laughter afterward!