This week has not been easy and because of that, I have experienced moments of great joy. I experienced a few days of physical pain and exhaustion, which made me feel all the more incredibly lucky to be able to walk in the glorious woods and labyrinth of the Whidbey Institute on my way home after my four-hour commute for radiation each day. This week, a pedometer app I downloaded 8 months ago on my phone started spontaneously cheering. Huh? Turns out I have walked 500 K steps, or half a million, which apparently is more than 99% of those who downloaded the app. Considering I have a sedentary job, this affirms for me the value of footsteps for my overall wellbeing. Labyrinths are wonderful mind re-setters, as they allow you to turn your body one direction going in and unwind your body-mind going out.
All week, my commute by sea and road has been in dense fog. Today one of two radiation machines broke down and is unlikely to be fixed by Monday, so we shall see if my treatments will continue as planned. But I continue to be grateful for my waiting room camaraderie with folks facing cancer treatment, and my knitting which helps me find calm in "waiting" for anything.
I have met several folks who are planning once-in-a-lifetime vacations after their cancer treatment ends. I have decided when my treatment is over (after I take ancient car for repairs), I am going to celebrate by leaving early morning dark and taking myself on a day-long hiking trip to see as many waterfalls as possible in Olympic National Park, since I do not need to go far and spend much money to experience a most beautiful green space remaining on Earth.
I also experienced great appreciation reflecting on teachings of Zen master Thich Nhat Hanh (Thay) who passed this week at age 95. I love what he told the filmmaker of Walk With Me about his sangha and life. When he learned there was consideration of a temple being built in his honor in Vietnam:
“I said, don’t waste the land of the temple in order to build me a stupha. Do not put me in a small pot and put me in there. I don’t want to continue like that. It is better to put the ash outside to help the trees to grow. That is a meditation. I recommend that they make the inscription outside on the front:
‘I am not in here’
and then if people do not understand, you add a second sentence;
‘I am not out there either’
and if still they don’t understand on the third and the last;
‘I may be found maybe in your way of breathing or walking.'”
BREATHE is Thay's calligraphy on a sticker that sits on my car's dashboard. When my car had trouble starting, I did as it said and breathed, and the car started. I wish the same instruction for those who are eager to start another Neanderthal war humanity does not need. Breathing in our common humanity is the only way forward, or we stop breathing.
2022 Vision Board
I've registered for the Portland Half Marathon in October in order to give myself a rehabilitative goal a year out from surgery, so I include an image of me crossing finish line in the 2015 Full Marathon. Time means little to me, and I was honored to mark that milestone with a 90-year-old man I did not know. For 2022, everything is different. Masks will be worn at all times except during active race (I imagine I'd keep mine on). There is a time limit I do not walk, so I will be interval training in order to attempt to stay on the course. At the moment, it's hard to know if the event will be able to happen with Covid, but worst case scenario, I will have spent five months strengthening my body. FYI for anyone interested in attempting a couch to half marathon even for yourself, this is roughly the training schedule I will be following, as it's similar to what I did in past marathons.
Kate Davies' Dathan. I elongated sleeves per daughter's request, and loved working with 15 colors despite the challenge of making a millimeter or two of progress each row. As the shoulders are grafted, I'm grateful for this tutorial that means I will never forget Kitchener stitch the rest of my life!
2022 Garment Making List
After decades of being an "almost finisher" of garments that rarely fit well, I am determined to learn as much as possible about sweater and garment construction to make well-fitting sweaters for self and others who appreciate slow fashion.
I am grateful for the friendly and caring "co-patients" I meet in the oncology waiting room as our random convergence in time and place allows for spontaneous conversation and nuggets of wisdom. I received a brilliant teaching today of "what you resist persists" from a gentleman of color as it relates to racism and also electrical engineering (you had to be there - not to say we should not actively work to dismantle racism). We talked about how resistance in life only causes more suffering for ourselves, and how we can learn from everything.
One bit of inspiration I shared with the waiting room crowd was what has been gifted to me by my sisters, and people were moved to tears. The idea took flight. I was given a paper chain with as many links as days of treatment. It's made from colorful strips with a phrase or words of encouragement or humor inside each one. Every day when I return home, I cut one open and soak in the words. Several people including a social worker loved this concept so much they are passing it on and intend to do something similar for other patients. Feels especially powerful for those of us who live alone and/or have minimal support.
Punch the Air, Follow the Light
I've developed a routine that is a bit elongated now that ferry service to the island is reduced, but after I return from radiation each day, I walk 2-3 miles in the woods before starting work. Some days, in order to process anger about my situation, about life feeling difficult in general for so many right now, I have begun punching the air as I walk (especially when no one is nearby) and finding it very helpful to shift my energy. Not to mention my knitting arms could use the movement. And then I follow the light and see where it takes me. I took this image of an amazing sunrise this morning after taking a detour from the ferry terminal, and everyone in the waiting room wanted to see. It's such a gift to be able to share with people who want to linger on every sunrise.
Last But Not Least
For a second time I'll be participating in Knit for Food Knit-a-thon with all donations divided among four organizations working hard to feed fellow humans in hard times. Please consider a gift via my link on image below so that I can reach the minimum to participate and possibly even my goal. If you click the sparkly "Donate" button in the right-hand corner, I will get credit. This event falls during my last weeks of cancer treatment, so I deeply appreciate any support you might send along to keep me awake and the good folks at Meals on Wheels, World Central Kitchen, Team No Kid Hungry, and Feeding America going the distance.
I will make a Shift Cowl for anyone who donates $50, in colors of your choosing. I've made four thus far for folks who asked, and they are an awesome, colorful neck warmer that stays put rather than a pesky scarf.
Staying close to the wealth of nature and making with my hands bring me greatest joy and comfort. You can find me on Instagram as @waterwomanknits, and on Ravelry as Waterwoman-Knits.