Welcome to 2020. A friend said this year makes her think of 20/20 eyesight — so may this be a year, and a decade, of clear thinking and deepening, widening perception.
January is named for the Roman god Janus, who has two faces — one looking forward, one backward. So this month is a time for looking back as well as ahead — and there should be another face, for being in the present — the only time we really have. As Werner Heisenberg, the physicist who first articulated the “uncertainty principal,” said to a policeman who arrested him for speeding: “I don’t know how fast I’m going, but I know exactly where I am.” Or as I wrote in a recent poem, “You are Here. Now. You are.” I feel in a strange, liminal area — not outwardly ill, but not well. I am learning to navigate this space and time. It is mysterious, not knowing what is going on inside my body, and a bit like cocooning — valuing quiet and unscheduled (except for appointments and meds) stretches of time.
I am happy to be here in 2020. When first diagnosed last February, I despaired of even seeing the new year, much less my 75th birthday, coming on March 15. Now that I am here, still feeling relatively well — due in large part to the excellent medical treatment I have been engaged in, as well as the love and support of my partner, son, other family, and friends — I am beginning to see my way clear to my birthday, and beyond. Roger and I have our 75th birthdays close together (his is March 9), and we are already (optimistically) planning a party for the Ides of March. We don’t want to “beware” the Ides, but rather to welcome them — and the time beyond. I recently read a wonderful novel by Shani Mootoo, Moving Forward Sideways Like a Crab, and perhaps that is what we are all doing in our lives, and in the stories we tell about these lives.
Medically, the news is pretty good. I continue to feel well (though with less energy than before), and my recent bloodwork showed improvement. I have a CT scan on January 14 and then meet with my oncologist to discuss the results and see if we will continue the current treatment or if I can be “maintained” with two of the three medications I am now taking. I like the word “maintained” — it implies a certain ongoing-ness.
Looking back over this past year, since my diagnosis, I want to thank my partner Roger, my son Joe, all my family and friends, and all of you reading this, for your support, encouragement, and loving thoughts. Whether I see you in person or we connect by phone, email, or snail-mail, I value all your good wishes, and am glad you are in my life. Special thanks to Lil Blume for helping publish and launch my book, The Day I Saw Willie Mays, and Other Poems. Lil also has given me an interesting question to think about: How do you want to be in the world? Something we all can ponder.
I feel deep gratitude to Dr. Eric Chen of Princess Margaret Hospital, who as well as being an excellent physician, has seen from the beginning that I have a strong will to live. Thanks, too, to all the staff at Princess Margaret — nurses, technicians, receptionists, volunteers. And good wishes to all the patients I meet — we share a smile, a nod, an acknowledgement of who we are. This is also true of the people I meet at my relaxation & guided imagery group at Welllspring Cancer Centre (downtown Toronto), led by the wonderful Jean Jackson; in addition to the healing power of relaxation, I have made some new and good friends there.
In terms of writing, I have a poem in Issue #4 (Divine Darkness) of Black Bough Poetry (https://www.blackboughpoetry.com/publications), p. 33, and have 3 poems and a photo in the Winter issue of Devour: Art and Lit Canada: https://issuu.com/richardgrove1/docs/devour_-_issue_004_-_winter. My poems and photo (shot in our co-op courtyard) are on pages 26, 39 (with photo), and 45. And these 3 poems are NOT about cancer! It’s good to be writing about other things, as well as the illness. Thanks to Richard Grove, editor, and April Bulmer and Bruce Kauffman, who selected my poems for this issue.
Finally a prayer for the people killed in the crash of the Ukranian airliner in Iran and their loved ones — and a hope that this terrible disaster will help the world find a way toward peace and negotiation, not push us closer to war.
peacock snow-angel: photo sent by my friend Hannele Pohjanmies, in Finland.