Yet Further Evidence of Autumn

My writer-friend-across-the-miles, Chris James, loves autumn as much as I do but takes much better photos of this extraordinary time of year. So, I’m stealing his latest blog post for my blog so I can look at them.

Chris James's blog

There are some days when, as an enthusiastic amateur photographer, you can’t ask for better conditions, when certain scenes just beg to be captured.  The “Golden Autumn” is a well enough known phenomenon in Poland, but like many weather-related events, it is never guaranteed.  This year, however, we’ve enjoyed long, hot sunny days which have slowed autumn’s progress.  In most years, by now the trees would be bare through a combination of the first winter frosts followed by leaf-stripping rain or snow.  So far this autumn, it’s been more like summer.  And with a sky of deep, Mediterranean blue as a background, it really is simply a case of taking Crazy the dog for a walk, and pointing and clicking with my camera.

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For this and more, I give thanks.

This year, I’ve discovered poetry. Yes, of course I knew of its existence previously. I had even rhymed and waxed on about a few words. But now, I delight in it.  I often participate in the biweekly Quadrille prompts over at d’Verse Poets Pub.  It’s a lovely way to shake up my thinking and staid, stale writing habits.

I’ve settled down. I know I’m slower but I tell myself it is because I’m more deliberate in my actions. No flitting, no flouncing, no sudden movements.This includes my thinking. No flitting or sudden movements of thought either. What a relief. Maturity has settled in and I’ve made it my friend.

I’ve realized the beauty in engaging others help. This actually began a couple of years ago when I called in 1-800-got-junk to take away the inherited broken patio furniture on my balcony. Three eager young people arrived, took it away, swept the balcony thoroughly. They insisted I just sit (playing to my strengths there) and point out what needed doing. Here’s the thing. I’d worried about that ‘stuff’ for a long time. It was a burden. When they took it away, I realized just how much it had bothered me. I pledged to myself to take the kinder, gentler way from then on: ask for help when I need it.

Quiet. It’s been months since I turned on the television. While I have always enjoyed listening to the news, and watching old movies, the noise of tv stresses me. When I get home from work, I like calm quiet (as much of it as a city neighbourhood can provide). I keep up to date through online sources, and at low volume.

Vegetarianism. I don’t think I can label myself truly vegetarian as I still eat seafood. But, the label isn’t as important as taking the action. It was a gradual change but one I felt called towards. I’m not an exciting vegetarian, I’m a mundane one. No fancy recipes, no moves to become vegan. Just me. Me and my carrots.

For all this, I give thanks.  In celebration, here’s Yo-Yo Ma, with Kathryn Stott, playing one of the most beautiful pieces of music ever written. The Swan encompasses the seasons in the arc of a life. At least that’s what I think. Perfect for autumn and Thanksgiving.

 

A Pitiless Pitstop

Erudite Chris James expounds on writing life and the meaning of it all, informed by a recent hospital stay. Thoughtful and beautifully written.

Chris James's blog

Spoiler alert: this post is very wordy.  While I try to be as erudite as usual… *** waits patiently for you to stop laughing*** …this picture of ice frozen into a plant in my garden is the only picture, so you might want to fix yourself a cup of your preferred beverage and settle down for a few minutes with this post, thanks.

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Fiction writers have a mental exercise to keep their imaginations in good working order, which is this: every time you talk to someone, anyone—the checkout person at your local supermarket, the receptionist at the office you’re visiting, the cab driver taking you to the airport, the doctor uttering the ultimate reassuring line of, “Don’t worry, it’s normal for men of your age,”—you build the background of their lives and write the scripts of their futures.

At first, this exercise requires effort and concentration; after a few…

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Defining goodbye

Twenty five years ago today, I sat in my mother’s room at the hospice, holding her hand as the clock ticked down her final hours. This is a vigil that many will keep but this is my blog so this is my story.

Being the only child of a single parent defined my life and continues to do so even though I am now just an only child full stop. Perhaps this is why I write. Once I die, my mother’s stories and mine will both be completed. I feel the overwhelming responsibility of this although I feel honoured too.

Twenty five years ago. It seems longer somehow. My mother died from lung cancer, a disease we both knew she would get given her smoking. I don’t say this lightly. My mother smoked 3 to 4 packs of cigarettes a day for over thirty years. Think about that. Unfiltered cigarettes. They were bound to take their toll. I got upset with her about her smoking very rarely. If I remember correctly, only twice did I raise the issue. It doesn’t matter now and it didn’t matter then. Her smoking was a fact of life. We all have something we wish we could change, don’t we?

From her diagnosis to her death was a span of 6 months. She went for treatment to ease the symptoms but she was so frightened of the radiation, I had to go with her and stand immediately outside the door. She was very upset they wouldn’t let me in the room when she had her bronchoscopy. That day I became the adult.  The doctor came out of the surgery room and sat down beside me on the bench in the corridor. He told me that he hadn’t been able to finish the test because it had been too traumatic for her, but that he’d seen how large the tumour was. He knew it was cancer, inoperable and that she had only about six months to live. In my mind’s eye, I can still see the wood grain of that bench. I couldn’t look up into the doctor’s eyes. I wondered how many relatives had received such news while sitting there. It was terrible knowledge to have before my mom had it herself.

The hospice was five months later, after one stay in a regular hospital ward and two stays in the hospital palliative care unit. Luckily at the time, I worked at that hospital. It was easier to have her there because I visited her before I went into work, I went over to see her at lunch. After work, I went to back to her hospital room and stayed until well after visiting hours were over. Many times she was sleeping for the majority of the time I was there. But there I sat. I sat and made lists of things to do like giving notice at her apartment, moving her belongings, making phone calls to her friends. I love the friends that visited her. Her elementary school friend, now they were both in their 60s, brought her mauve flowers (my mom’s favourite colour) and a mango. My mother had never eaten a mango, so her dear, dear friend sliced it up and fed it to her. It was such a comforting, loving gesture. I shall never forget it.

The hospice was a few miles away but relatively close to where I lived. It was as homey an atmosphere as they could make a small facility. There was a communal table where the residents ate dinner, with their guests if they had any.  It was usually soup and my mom, not always being in the present (dementia set in due to a lack of oxygen) would sometimes need help eating it. She let me feed her but I could tell that she often didn’t know who I was. Her eyes were glassy. Time was running short.

For me, the thing I remember about the hospice was that they had a package of flavoured tea. I drank all the orange spice. The scent of that tea always takes me back to standing in the hospice kitchen while another doctor quietly gave me the news that my mom would die in a few days. Three days later, she did.

I was holding my mom’s hand when she passed away. Her breathing by then was so laborious, intermittent, with long pauses between each gaspy rattle. I watched as the pauses became longer.

When she died, I felt my mom leave.  Her spirit lifted up and went away. I cannot describe it any other way. I called out quietly for the nurse on duty. Yes, she said after checking her. Your mom is gone.

I didn’t cry immediately. I felt dizzy. I had cried a lot before and I cried a lot later. But at the time…

So, yes. 25 years ago. Long, long ago.

E.E. Cummings’s words, though written for a different kind of love and a different kind of situation, express best this defining goodbye – how I feel, how I felt then, my great responsibility, my great honour.

I continue this journey for the both of us now, and will until my own last laboured breath:

i carry your heart(i carry it in my heart)

Class Action on Kindle Countdown

Chris James's blog

(Psst: today’s the day when it’s cheapest 🙂 $0.99 in the US; £0.99 in the UK)

cakindlecover“A unique fusion of court-room drama, international conspiracy and science fiction. In 2032, young litigator Alek Moreyl is sucked into a frightening world of terrorism as one new technological breakthrough wreaks havoc on society.
Many authors can write future dystopias, but only Chris James can imagine how the world gets from here to there. And as with every Chris James novel, it’s a story that will not only entertain and provoke you, but also a story the like of which you are guaranteed never to have read anywhere else before.” – J. Teal, Vancouver

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Getting back on schedule

I’m pleased to be back online with a new writing blog.  I will be posting regularly from now on; content will be a combination of fiction and non-fiction writing, and there will be at least 2 posts a week (though not always on the same day a week).

Thank you for visiting!