30 March 2015


Ready to Party!

Our Wallingford house closed last Friday, 27 March, and this afternoon around 2:30pm, just as I arrived in the Copse to spend some time in this GORGEOUS spring weather, I got an email from Fidelity saying that a wire transfer had come through. 

It all worked! We have washed our hands of Seattle! For those interested, since this is in the public record now I will share amounts: we listed at $685K, had 4 offers, and went with our favorite (which was not the cash offer), and the house sold for $738K. 

We love the new owners, and they love the house (and have already met three of the four neighbors we took 15 years to meet . . . and, indeed, the only ones we knew the names of). 

Our House Cooling Party on Valentine's Day was highly successful! I have to say, though, when did everyone find the time to acquire toddlers??? View pictures of the event here, with the long suffering Torpid in attendance (as a seat). 

27 March 2015

19 March 2015

Latest, and Not Quite So Latest, Pictures

The changes on the house are much less global these days, leading up to siding, which is due to begin soon-soon, but it's been beyond my abilities to get them posted nevertheless, until today! Yay! Pictures!

They can be seen here, as usual.

17 March 2015

Where I Am

Dear Ones,

Last spring I took my last chemotherapy infusion. This was not because I no longer had measurable cancer; it was that, after 15 years, my spirit was no longer able to put up with the barrage of insult and injury to my body, meted out under the auspices of health. I knew, without doubt, that chemotherapy had begun doing me more harm than good. At my last infusion, I received a copy of my blood tests, as usual. However, instead of showing the expected decline in my tumor markers, as had been the norm during treatment for the previous 15 years, my markers had gone up.

I can no longer look at this number as a measure of my health, I thought to myself, after my initial stab of disbelieving grief. When, a couple weeks later, I actually voiced my new conviction—I AM NEVER DOING CHEMOTHERAPY AGAIN—I felt a surge of euphoria that coursed through my body for five whole days. I knew I had made the right choice.

I had made a choice for Life on my terms . . . but choosing no more chemotherapy doesn’t translate into choosing no more cancer.

Late last year I chose to have one more Gamma Knife procedure on the metastases in my brain. In contrast to my previous Gammas, which showed rapid response, this one didn’t appear to have much effect. I had chosen to go through the procedure—the barbaric pinning of the frame into the skull; the zapping of radiation; the steroids; the several weeks of scalp numbness—with the hope that I would be able to buy myself a little time; to sell our Seattle house and move up to Orcas Island.

I don’t know if I bought myself time, or if I merely spent an uncomfortable period during the winter. But the move has been accomplished; the Wallingford sale is pending; and as I periodically glance up from my laptop in our rental house, I see blue sky, firs and madrones, West Sound, Shaw Island, and peace.


It’s all around me. The atmosphere so clear that at night I can see by starlight; or be alarmed by the spotlight of the full moon, until I realize what it is and marvel that it’s bright enough to discern color. I can hear the wingbeats of an individual goose, on its way to roost for the night; the dash and burble of the creek running through the gully east of our land; the soft lap of waves against the sliver of public beach. Inside, I can hear the oil-filled space heater cycle on; the blub of the dog’s digestion; Ian idly scratch his head. Sometimes I am held in its thrall—Peace—awed that I have the extraordinary good fortune to be here, in this quiet beauty; to call this place home.

Other times, I can’t get away from my fear. Choosing no more chemotherapy doesn’t translate into choosing no more cancer.

At this point, Western medicine can only offer me palliative care—when I reach a place of too much pain, or lose too much “function” (a dreaded end); or, because I live in Washington State, the legal right to end my life with pharmaceutical assistance. In my darkest days—so far only psychologically dark, if physically ambiguous—I am relieved that I have chosen to pursue this option. I am also relieved that it is, as of yet, a theoretical choice for the nebulous future.

My grandest hope is that being here on Orcas, where I can live much closer to nature than I could in the city—where I can eat fresh pullet eggs and drink raw Jersey milk; where I can labor, with delight and sweat and satisfaction, stewarding my land; where to look up is to see beauty—will allow me to live not only a richer life, but a much longer life than I might otherwise have had.

And I have one additional hope to that—I have recently begun a medicine, learned of through word of mouth, and fitting me like a serendipitous glove—that may be a cure.  

But the ambiguous physical experiences lend color to every mood. In my blithest, most confident days, I easily brush aside the low-grade intestinal discomfort as part of the upheaval of moving: after all, our house hasn’t closed yet and we still have several tasks before we can completely wash our hands of Seattle (plus, the fresh eggs and raw milk?). Occasional low-back pain or other body soreness is, of course, the result of a lot of moving and lifting of heavy boxes. Anyone else would blame the recent spate of almost-daily, short and finite visual migraines, on the continuing stress, plus the new reading glasses I picked up less than a week ago. I’m going over an adjustment hump; it will all work itself out if I’m patient (which I’m not).

But in my darkest, most despairing nights, I’m convinced even the smallest twinge is a sign of my last steps. I wonder if the medicine I’ve begun, even if it is a cure, even if it is a perfect fit, even if I began it as soon as I could, is too little, too late. The mental distress is, for me, a cancer in itself. In my darkest, most despairing nights, I wonder if I have the strength to hope at all anymore.

So that’s it, then. We can go someplace new; even an idyllic, fantastical island of delights, but we go there. Place can ease the tension, and this place certainly has. But place doesn’t change who you are—that’s up to you. Can I do that? Can I find my peace? Can I learn how to accept my strengths and my weaknesses? Can I learn to free myself from the dread, and the fear (and, only therein, the true incapacitation) of cancer? I don’t know. I am trying to learn how to try.

The sky has cleared enough that I can see a hint of the Olympic Mountains materializing beyond Shaw. If only I could see the future even half as well.

But then, I guess I’m glad I can’t. 

06 March 2015

Full Moon Madness

Last night I finally reached a certain capacity for lying around not doing much. After lounging on the sofa with Ian watching Northern Exposure on my computer, I realized I was ready for at least a little exercise today, instead of being simply a rag doll awaiting stuffing.

"Maybe I'll do some sawing tomorrow," I said to Ian, and he thought that sounded like a fine plan. The land is drying, and the brisk air is perfect for rigorous outside activity.

My body didn't want to wait until today, however, for some movement. Ian and Spackle fell asleep easily (marked by--generously put-- "heavy breathing"), but I lay restless, my mind becoming more alert instead of less so.

It came to me that I might like to be outside, and suddenly I was sitting on the edge of the bed, silently pulling on clothes. I felt for my headlamp, then tiptoed around the bed, through the kitchen, and into the boomerang of Hogan (this U-shaped rental of ours is the opposite of a shotgun shack), where I donned Ian's thick down jacket, and slipped outside.

The night was completely still, and brilliantly lit by the disk of the full moon, high in the sky above me. I decided to walk home, and see what there was to see at midnight.

I heard an owl calling in the woods behind Hogan as I walked down the drive, completely unnecessary headlamp in my pocket. I wandered along in the middle of Deer Harbor Road, heard a fan at a tiny cabin perched over the bay, and turned at the intersection. I briefly investigated another low fan, and running water, under the Kingfish Inn, then strode purposely up Crow Valley Road to 4073.

Warm and fully awake, I picked my way down to our south-side dining room steps and sat, gazing, bathed in the silver-blue glow of the night. I imagined I could see the dim outline of the Olympic Mountains above the darker outline of Shaw across West Sound; it was certainly bright enough for me to discern the red and orange of my fleece pants. At first, the only sound was the rush of the creek in the gully down to the east across Boddington Lane; then I realized I could hear, a quarter sky behind it, the low hum of an overnight jet on the horizon.

I began to feel chilly, and I needed to pee, so I made my way down to the outhouse. Then--using my headlamp to guide me around any remaining standing water--I continued on to Boddington and strode through the tree-filtered moonlight to the shore.

I walked out along the county pier over a low tide, peering down at the uncovered boulders below, edges gleaming silver, and remembered a magical experience from half my life ago.

My friend Melissa and I had been given the day to go into Lamu Town with her host father from Kipungani, where our college group was spending two weeks building a school room during our overseas trip to Kenya. It was after dark when we started back in the dhow along the side of the island. The moon rose, and illuminated the clear water of the channel so completely that we could see fish swimming along the bottom, six or eight feet down. Incidentally, Lamu, a small Swahili island in the Indian Ocean off Kenya, is where we first heard about full moon madness--monthly late-night beach parties excused all sorts of behaviors.

My madness last night was mild and solitary, however, and after a few minutes of marveling at my good fortune, of drinking in the deep sustenance of the silvery sea air, I turned and made my way back to Hogan.

Old deaf Spackle, who had somehow noticed my absence, had gotten up and come to lie next to my side of the bed. I knelt down on the floor and communed with him for several minutes; then got undressed and slid between the sheets.

I don't believe I deserve this idyll--I don't like that word. Why me, and not anyone else?

But I would like to think that I will be worthy of it.

one-fingered on my phone

03 March 2015


Here's the link to our Wallingford House!


Hold your thumbs for a quick, easy, and generous sale :-)

one-fingered on my phone

02 March 2015


I arrived on Orcas on Friday afternoon with the front door to our Orcas home, after completing my last Wallingford tasks, readying the Taylor Inn for its next proprietors.

Friend L and I had a delightful time Thursday afternoon hanging staging pictures from the picture rails, to keep the stagers from hammering nails willy-nilly into the 94-year-old plaster walls (it looks great!).

Friday morning I stopped briefly by the house to put something heavy on top the box covering the deep sump-pump well in the strip of north yard; Marsh, thinking back to the youth of his own son, had suddenly worried that children left to wander during a crowded open house might come a cropper with an unintentional head-first visit into the deep hole they'd uncovered. I alarmed the photographer, who was in the kitchen taking the brochure pictures, when I clomped, unannounced, up the back stairs with bricks in my hands.

Bricks successfully deposited, I stopped in Shoreline at /Frank Lumber: The Door Store/, to pick up our front door, which needed to be canted into the bed of Nublu, and which was bagged against the drizzle ("How far are you going?" asked an employee, assiduously surveying the weather. "Orcas Island," I replied, and he pulled out the bag.)

One of the employees tied it in for me--I haven't yet internalized Ian's good knots--and off I went.

<I'll take a moment here to remind readers that we've been involved in this multi-step move process for several loooong months now.>

I was anxious getting on I-5 with something tied in the back of my truck. As we've approached the finish line in Wallingford, I've been more and more wary of catastrophe derailing our goals--to sell our house for enough to finish our build; to cut our homes by half; to move successfully to paradise. And to still be alive, and healthy enough to enjoy it. And also, to not have any felonies on our records, such as might appear if a door leapt into freeway traffic at 60 mph, and decapitated someone in a modest sedan.

I glanced regularly in the rearview mirror as I drove along through Mountlake Terrace and Mukilteo and Lynnwood, and relaxed a little as I approached Everett. I began looking around at the scenery, and allowed myself to think of other things.

Suddenly, partway through Everett, I glanced back, and the rope tying the door in, angled across one corner stuck out over the tailgate, *had moved,* just a little. I realized that I had given the door a shove when it was all tied in, *but I had not actually looked at the knots*. Oh god.

I decided I would get off at the rest area about ten miles on, but as I continued up the road, every glance in the rearview mirror showed a little more movement of my door. I realized I would have to stop ASAP, which meant Marysville, which, unfortunately, was *four miles on*. I was already in the right lane, and I put on my hazards, slowed slightly (to just under 60, as if those last two miles per hour were the ticket), and exited as soon as I could.

I pulled into an Arco, leapt out of Nublu on shaky legs, and tottered to the rear.

NOTHING HAD CHANGED. IT HAD ALL BEEN MY ANXIOUS IMAGINATION. The knots were exactly the ones Ian would've used, and they were holding perfectly fine.

Jittery and panting, I went into the AM/PM for the bathroom key (where I piddled a gallon), then I bought myself a turkey sandwich and sat in my seat wolfing down calming protein and tryptophan.

As I relaxed, I realized that if I were going to continue north with any semblance of calm, it would have to be on a different route. Google maps showed me that Route 9 was only a mile or two east, and it teed with Route 534, which I was planning to take through Conway and Fir Island anyway. I headed out, and had a beautiful drive through the late-winter, glowing-moss hinterlands. 

In the event, I arrived in Anacortes early enough that I was put on an earlier boat than I'd reserved for; there were builders to help me unload the door on Orcas; Ian arrived from a work-week in Vancouver, BC at 8:10pm instead of 10:30pm, and all was right with the world.

Lying in bed Saturday morning, I realized that I felt like only the wrappings of myself: like a well-loved dog toy; eviscerated and barely recognizable as its former self; the squeaker silenced except for a desultory clicking when bitten; no more than an inch thick. Utterly spent.

I have very slightly more stuffing today.

one-fingered on my phone