Tuesday, May 19, 2009


Posted Sep 2, 2008 2:55pm

Thank you, thank you, to all of you who send your good wishes, contribute your suggestions for remedies, offer to take me to appointments, sit through my treatments. And I really appreciate the private message with the term “infusion room” instead of “chemo room.” It conjures up visions of a relaxing day at the spa!

We had a fabulous weekend, which certainly helped get my mind off the usual routine. Saturday we enjoyed the warm late afternoon and cooling evening at a mini-Woodstock in Shingle Springs. These friends have 5 wooded acres where they hold an event they call “Humpbuckle” every Labor Day weekend. They are part-time musicians, and other musicians and bands of all genres and levels of fame gather there to camp out and entertain. This was Humpbuckle #25, and a grand celebration it was!

Our hosts are an engaging pair and by the end of the night Mr. “Humpbuckle” had blasted through my protests and dragged me out to the concrete dance floor of the “band barn.” What followed in his confident grip was an invigorating style that can only be described as an eclectic combination of two-step, crazed tango and intoxicating (intoxicated??) disco twirls. Thankfully, he stopped short before trying to lift me into the air, and we didn’t fall to the ground once, which I can’t say for his previous partner. I haven’t had that much exercise since a self imposed jump rope competition in the 3rd grade; we looked like quite a pair and certainly added to the entertainment!

Sunday morning we headed for Davenport (north of Santa Cruz) to join the camping entourage of Dave’s Dad and his wife. His Dad was born on this property, which had been in the family for many years before, and everyone refers his nearly 100 acres of redwood forest as “The Ranch.” Their one bedroom home is nearly a mile from the main road, which itself is several miles off the coastal highway. The home of their daughter and granddaughter is a quarter mile further along their well maintained dirt road, which runs parallel to the creek.

About 100 yards before the main house there is a vast clearing with a fire pit, large barbeque, and rustic outdoor kitchen facilities. It is the common area that easily accommodates the growing crowd that comes to camp and celebrate every Memorial Day and Labor Day weekend. The seating along the six long picnic tables gets tighter every year, as the size of the group expands with each generation. The biannual event started with about a half dozen couples and their kids. As the kids grow, they eventually bring partners who become spouses, and then their growing families.

If the kids ever tire of drenching all their available clothes as they explore the shallow creek, they are entertained closer to the main house in a play area, with an assortment of swings, structures and even a climbing wall. There is no shortage of areas to set up tents, and since our camper had to be put to rest a couple of years ago, we stay in the permanent camper near the main house. This tiny luxury accommodation is set up on a platform within listening distance of the creek (and walking distance to the real bathroom), with a queen sized bed, a real floor and electricity.

Even the changing generations of dogs look forward to making new friends with the other family dogs, and quickly introduce them to chewing stones in the stream and the art of rolling their wet fur in the dried redwood carpet, followed by affectionately rubbing on everyone to share the slobber.

The main activity, besides indulging in the overabundance of food and beverages, is an ongoing card game interjected with exaggerated stories and really bad jokes. Folks come and go through the rounds, taking breaks to socialize by the fire, hike, read, snooze or supervise the latest project on the lumber mill.

One of the younger women survived advanced breast cancer a few years ago, which involved a double mastectomy, chemo and the double reconstruction. She is doing great, and offered wonderful words of support and encouragement. Two of the other women in our age group talked about their recent scares with suspected lumps, and I encouraged them to follow up closely – and soon.

We discussed the cancer experiences of our own and our friends like we were exchanging tips to improve our latest hobby; it could have just as well been about beading or backpacking. Have we come to accept the toxicity of our planet that endangers our health as a way of life? Although medical treatments are saving lives, we had better recognize so much cancer as a stern warning that our planet is reclaiming its power to demand balance, before it defends itself by killing us off with our own poison.

On a lighter note… the temperature changes frequently, so we trek about with layers of clothing to sustain our comfort according to the level of shade or sun. Sunday night I welcomed my hot flashes to keep me warm! I had an incredibly restful sleep under a light sheet by staking a claim in front of the open window of the camper. Dave slept closer to the closed door, shivering under layers of blankets and comforters, every now and then nudging toward me to absorb some radiant heat. To avoid the risk of the consequences, he kept a safe distance – close enough for comfort, but not enough to elevate my temperature, in which case I’d kick all the covers onto the chilly tile floor.

After community breakfast on Monday morning I spent some time for exploring alone in the gentle silence and the clean air. By late summer the creek that ripples through the property is hidden under giant ferns, flourishing in the moist shade, occasionally splattered with the scarce sunlight as it sneaks through the protective evergreen canopy. This delicate row of green umbrellas diffuses the tranquil gurgle of the water over the rocks, the only sound to be heard once you are a short distance from the campground. The redwoods cast a spell that disconnects me from the rest of the world. No cell phones, no computer; nothing can get in, and nothing exists beyond this soaring shelter.

We periodically discuss if this would be a good place to retire, but ultimately agree that after a relaxing week or so we would go stark raving mad. Although we enjoy the brief seclusion, we love our own home, the proximity to civilization and the connection with our friends both near and far. Life in Folsom reminds us that there is ongoing activity, whether or not we chose to participate at any given time. “The Ranch” seems to suspend time and eradicate the rest of the world. Although this can be a soothing reprieve a few times a year, an extended stay starts erasing the memory of life to that moment.

There are still more experiences we want to remember than forget, more connections to make than to release. We enjoy our socializing, create solitude in our garden, and love our life. The following prayer from the Rig Veda is always on my mind, helps me stay on track, and assures me that at any given moment, we are surely in the right place at the right time.

God made the rivers to flow
They feel no weariness, they cease not from flowing;
they flow swiftly like birds in air.
May the stream of my life flow into the river of righteousness.
Loosen the bonds of sin that bind me.
Let not my work be ended before I am done
and let not the thread of my song be cut while I sing.