I invite you to go to the Home page and read what is posted there about Lizann's death and her embrace of the next adventure.
I'm sorry it took so long to include something here.
I admit it: I have not been a very good webmaster. I should have posted something on this blog, too, not just on the Home page. Well, I'm finally doing it.
I invite you to go to the Home page and read what is posted there about Lizann's death and her embrace of the next adventure.
I'm sorry it took so long to include something here.
For witches and non witches who actually farm and work the land, the turning of the Wheel of the Year and the waxing and waning of The Moon inform so many daily decisions of when to let The Earth rest, when to prepare it for new growing, when to plant, when to tend, when to harvest and back to when to rest. For those of us who are not farmers we can still remember there are times and seasons for doing all the different magic we do - and yet sometimes even we witches get so caught up in the details and frenzy of life we forget the Wheel of the Year and the cycles of The Moon give us extra power in our magic if we follow their flow.
I have been thinking about my journey with cancer and realizing how the Wheel of the Year and the cycles of La Luna have brought me deep gifts as I flow through this all too common but powerful human experience.
This cancer, my cancer is for me part of the flow of seasons and cycles that I stepped into when I was born and will end for me when I die.
This cancer began around Samhain of 2016 before I even knew there was cancer growing in my body - not a surprise, Samhain is a time of death and unbeknownst to me it was a dying of what had come before - I was diagnosed much later, actually on Lammas of 2017 by then what had begun growing in my face and neck had metastasized into my lungs and was stage four squamous cell carcinoma. Lammas is a time of harvest, this was a hard harvest and yet even in the midst of that there was abundance as medical folk came into my life and my team of mysterious ones rose to greet me and hold me: The Virgin of Guadalupe, the Compassionate Christ, the Trickster god Loki, Brigid of the Forge, my ancestors and La Luna waxing and waning, bringing in healing medicine, releasing fear and pain and anxiety. They formed a bubble around letting in the blessings and love, prayers and power from people far and wide, yet also forming a barrier so that the fear and anxiety that often accompanies cancer from others hit the bubble and slid to the ground to be transformed and composted. Slowly I shared the diagnosis and found myself surrounded by beloveds who would care for me whatever the harvest. There were tests and and more tests and treatment plans in place as Mabon moved toward Samhain. My very first infusion was on the Full Moon of October, the Blood Moon.
At first the immunotherapy I was on worked well shrinking the tumors in my lungs and killing off cancer cells in my face and neck. I was on a every two weeks schedule so as La Luna waxed and waned I had the powerful sense that infusions during waxing were bringing in healing medicine, and during waning helping clear out the dead cells. Not long after Yule the dead cells became infected and there I was no longer flowing with the seasons but in the midst of a crisis while my medical team worked to make sure I didn’t step off The Wheel at that point and I spent a week in the hospital. I was still here but it became clear I was not getting the calories I needed to sustain my life and so on Ostara of 2018 I was back in the hospital having a feeding tube put in my stomach. Ostara that time of balance of preparing the soil and planning for a new growing season to feed and sustain us. But things went awry in those plans - we were using the wrong formula it turns out and so I was again hospitalized and that first night in the ER I could have easily stepped out of this life. I remember moments of floating in space in the vast beautiful rich velvety darkness feeling held, loved, knowing that whatever happened would be fine - I waited for my ancestors to come for me, they didn’t, and as my body received hydration and medication I once again felt present in this life.
I emerged after another week in the hospital at Beltane. The perfect time to emerge. Beltane that time of dancing around the Maypole winding ribbons symbolizing the ancient understanding of life and sexuality bringing forth life. In my Reclaiming witch tradition we acknowledge that aspect and so much more. And so as I emerged from what could have killed me (severe dehydration and not enough calories in to sustain my life) this Beltane reminded me about the powerful life force flowing through everything. The same power that brings new life to the land after a fire or other natural or human caused disaster that interrupts life. This Beltane for me was about dancing those ribbons in my body, through the amazing medical community who tended me and the passion of family of blood and choice who surrounded me, and all of you who added energy, thoughts, prayers, and love. This Beltane I was blessed beyond measure by the power of life and love. So I rejoiced and sent blessings to everyone and their beloveds this Beltane whether they were lovers, friends, children or a passion for work and/or creativity bringing forth art or the simplest bits of work or play that keeps life juicy.
And here I am moving toward Litha, the Summer Solstice. It feels like I am getting stronger - the treatment plan is transforming growing into something new as The Sun begins the journey away I am hoping that power of leaving will take with it more of the cancer. I am hopeful but also understand that many things can take us away from this life in a heartbeat.
And so there it is my life turning with The Wheel, waxing and waning with La Luna, just as all things do whether we notice or not, your life my life all life. Blessings on you as you live The Wheel, the cycles, the ancient and mysterious magic.
It is the middle of the night and I am awake and thinking of Cinco de Mayo. The cancer seems to be a recurring theme in my blood/ancestral line that comes from Josephine Romero my great-grandma whose life I was researching before her "died of cancer of the throat" was simply a small part of her long and amazing story. That part of the story echoed through her bloodline to my cousin (her youngest child's daughter) to my Aunt Hazel (my father's sister) to Aunt Hazel's son Albert who died of squamous carcinoma... That bloodline were Californios folk who never migrated themselves, folk who arrived in California in the 1700s as citizens of Spain, then became citizens of Mexico, then U.S. citizens when gold was discovered and the American's decided this far away place at the other edge of the continent should be theirs and took it from Mexico (ironic since those ancestors brutality stole the land from and committed genocide on the indigenous population who had been here thousands of years before). We were here before Cinco de Mayo became an important celebration to folk migrating from Mexico. I understand why current immigrants make the long journey leaving family and Home and lives in their country in search of a better life. So blessings on everyone celebrating Cinco de Mayo - the descendants of those who have been here longer than any other ethnic group from Europe, blessings on those who more recently put down new roots, blessings on those who are not even hispanic but see it as a day to celebrate (like St. Patrick's day) - it is complicated in this odd time of immigration debates - but have a beer for yourself (never liked the stuff personally) or a shot of good tequila (much better but not a good mix with my cancer meds) and Happy Cinco de Mayo! (and lol rereading this I realize it is a rambling post welcome to my cancer brain).
In the wheel of the Celtic year in the Northern Hemisphere we have reached Beltane. This is a time of dancing around the Maypole winding ribbons symbolizing an ancient understanding of life and sexuality bringing forth life. In my Reclaiming witch tradition we acknowledge that aspect and so much more. As someone who just emerged from what could have killed me (severe dehydration and not enough calories in to sustain my life) this Beltane reminds me about the powerful life force flowing through everything. The same power that brings new life to the land after a fire or other natural or human caused disaster that interrupts life. This Beltane for me it is about dancing those ribbons in my body, through the amazing medical community who tended me and the passion of family of blood and choice who surrounded me, and all of you who added energy, thoughts, prayers, and love. This Beltane I am blessed beyond measure by the power of life and love. Blessings to you and your beloveds this Beltane whether they are lovers, friends, children or a passion for work and/or creativity bringing forth art or the simplest bits of your work keeping life flowing..
It is hard to concentrate. That may be a bit of an understatement. Aren’t the purple flowers pretty. It is impossible to concentrate, to craft words and sentences together in any semblance of way I did a year ago, even a month ago. So I will stop trying. Not sure if it’s the cancer itself or the immunotherapy for treating it or the morphine for pain management but the organ I had formally known as my brain is now in a constant shift of consciousness - which is kinda funny since one of the definitions of a witch in my Reclaiming Tradition is “one who can shift consciousness at will” not sure whose will it is but there definitely is a lot of consciousness shifting going on.
So this column, like the previous few, is being written on my cancer brain - a couple years from when it started growing unbeknownst to me, six months since the diagnosis, five months since the treatment began - this is what words do on the page with my current cancer brain which may be different from someone else’s.
…I am grateful for the purple flowers sitting in a vase on my dining room table as I write. My first step-father who has stayed in my life even as others came and went, has made it a practice to send me flowers every two weeks, they arrive the day I return from getting an infusion in San Francisco. He is my brother’s father and was my legal step-dad from the time I was eight until I was sixteen. The flowers remind me of how grateful I am that in my family divorce doesn’t always mean the severing of relationship with beloveds. Having said that I am also grateful that in my family divorce does mean we no longer have to deal with other folk who weren’t so beloved.
…I am grateful for the dog and the cat that have been my companions through this journey - Dash is a twelve year old Norwich Terrier (and indeed God does love a Terrier…which also makes me grateful for the brilliant minds that gave us “Best in Show” among other things)…Dash is getting cataracts and losing his hearing and sleeps a lot, but then so do I, sleep a lot, so we’re a good match…the cat is newer to our household - she came right before the diagnosis so in a way our relationship mirrors my relationship with this experience - as the months and weeks have rolled by both relationships have gotten more familiar (she may even be on her way to becoming my familiar). Both the dog and the cat came into my life through another beloved who I see daily, another being for whom I am grateful. The cat has taken quite a shine to my mother and the beloved with whom I live (different from the beloved who brought me the fur beings). Like the cat, I too have found myself more and more in love with these two humans as they rise to the task of caring for me. My beloved with whom I live is good at the little things - do I have clean drinking glasses since all my food is drunk, is there a fire in the living room to keep me warm since I have lost all the fat I’d gained since I was a teenager and have no extra layers to do that important winter task.
Our cat Layla has taken to rubbing her face in the back of my mother’s head any time she can get behind her on the couch - it is fascinating to ponder what it is about my mother’s hair/head is Layla catnip. This whole cancer thing has been harder on my mother than me perhaps - she is seventeen years older than I and for most of our lives we have operated as siblings but this thing happening to me has shifted that and in many ways she is now able to take care of me in a way she wasn’t capable of as an adolescent.
I am grateful for my friend/sister Pam. Pam lives with her own chronic illness and knows more about navigating the medical system than most people on the planet. She is the reason I am doing immunotherapy which is so much gentler on my body than a ten hour surgery followed up by chemo and radiation would have been. She not only knew everything one outside the medical field could know about it, but has gone with me to most appointments asking questions I wouldn’t have even dreamed of knowing to ask. And then there is the fact that she sings to me via the poop emoji on my iPhone, and for that I am stunningly grateful.
I am grateful for my friend/sister Luanne who is always up for a trip to the beach or a little retail therapy or to sip soup together. But mostly to talk about stuff…political stuff…theological stuff…family stuff…cancer stuff…silly stuff…deepest corner of the emotional closet stuff. And she loves the purple flowers too.
I am grateful for “the original Jeff”. We have been BFFs since seminary, I the Grace to his Will he the Will to my Grace. Somewhere as the years progressed we realized we were partners for life which makes it confusing since one of my other partners also is named Jeff - but now that I have cancer I’m really really grateful for having multiple partners! The original Jeff has also been there at the hospital, at the appointments, at the melt downs, he is particularly good with the times I am beyond out of it.
I am grateful for the witches who have come to lend their magic to my healing or a place to stay in the city or containers of soup, I am grateful to my Trivia sisters who drive me and walk me and laugh with me. I am grateful to my clergy sisters who come and lend their magic to my healing - it should come as no surprise that most clergy women in progressive christian denominations are also witches - shhh. I am grateful for the little old ladies who knit prayer shawls and send them to people with cancer - one of those has been my “binkey” from the beginning of this. I am grateful for people who I have mentored over the years visiting me and lending their love and strength. I am grateful for old friends, for neighbors, for kind people on the UCSF shuttle, I am grateful…mostly I am grateful. It seems my brain on cancer is mostly grateful.
Did I tell you about the pretty purple flowers?
Here in the Northern Hemisphere today is the shortest day and longest night, it is The Winter Solstice. Within my body I treasure the darkness, that blessed and sacred time of rest and regeneration. And for me the knowledge that inside my face and neck and lungs there are cancer cells transitioning into death, releasing their life/light and going dark so that my whole body can be stronger and healthier is powerful magic and a joyful gift. Blessings this Winter Solstice to everyone who needs rest and regeneration, blessings on all who need cells in their body, or relationships in their lives, or larger cultural and political situations to release their life/light and go dark for the greater health of the individual bodies or the larger body politic. Blessings to my dear friends living in the Southern Hemisphere celebrating the opposite, the longest day and shortest night - may good things grow in the abundance of light in your hemisphere.
In my Christian Tradition we are entering the third week of Advent, the four week period before Christmas when we reflect on the gift of incarnation - the miracle of cells infused with The Divine living in embodied Hope, Peace, Joy and Love. Joy is the word, the concept, the state of being we explore in this third week. This morning as I walked through our Farmer's Market I delighted in the joyful riot of color and texture of the persimmons and carrots, squash and chocolate, winter greens and honey. I delighted in the joyful mix of old farm families mostly of European ancestry, generations of folk who have migrated from Central and South America, hippy grandparents tending their hippy grandchildren, people dressed in the rich textures of sweaters and scarves, boots and velvet - all walking breathing living examples of that embodied Joy of The Divine. Blessings on that embodied Joy, blessings on the delights of carrots and velvet, sunlight and laughing children. Blessings on you may you see, taste, touch, hear, smell, and be Embodied Joy.
In my christian tradition we are entering the second week of Advent. It is a time when we read and reflect on a beautiful and revolutionary part of the first chapter of the Gospel of Luke found in the Christian Scriptures. The verses are known as The Magnificat and tell the story of a very pregnant, young, first century girl from rural Palestine journeying to visit her kinswoman, a very pregnant, old woman whose own pregnancy was a miracle. As the two women meet, the young woman says many things but these two phrases always strike me, the young woman, Mary, pregnant with Jesus, says "My soul magnifies The Divine... The Divine has brought down the powerful from their thrones, and lifted up the lowly; The Divine has filled the hungry with good things, and sent the rich away empty." I am again reminded of what the Liberation Theologians in my Christian Tradition call "God's preferential option for the poor" that, based on Jesus teachings as an adult, individuals and whole societies will be judged by how they cared for their most vulnerable members, that political policies and institutional systems must strive for economic equality and steer away from policies that simply consolidate the wealth of a society in the hands of a few. Blessings on all who hear and heed these first century calls from the poor young teenager who was the mother of Jesus. No Justice, No Peace. Peace = Justice
In my christian tradition today is the first Sunday of Advent. Advent is a time when my christian spiritual community ponders our powerful mythological claim that incarnation - the embodiment of the divine in fragile human flesh - is possible. But first a young woman has to say yes to filling her life, her womb, her whole consciousness with this particular manifestation of "The Divine in our midst" growing cell by cell in her uterus, fed by her blood and willingness and hope for her baby, herself, her world. My dear beloved Jeff Spencer preached a sermon this morning on the Annunciation, the part of the story where the Angel Gabriel and Mary have their meeting. He touches on this 2000 year old story in the context of the current #metoo conversations and how important a culture of consent is, even between an angel and a young Palestinian peasant girl. This Advent I have the blessing of doing nothing but reading, writing, dreaming, healing and hoping. And so this week I will spent my time trancing and dancing with Mary as she enters this time of Hope. Blessings on my christian family walking this journey with me. Blessings on all people who hope The Divine will manifest in their lives. Blessings on all people who Hope.
I am infinitely awed by human bodies including my own. I revel and delight in the full range of embodied human experience. Now, in my late fifties, post-menopausal, I am experiencing another common embodied human experience, I have stage four squamous cell cancer in my body. This embodied human experience, for me, is also powerful, amazing and fascinating.
When I first got my diagnosis four deities with whom I have long relationships, showed up and offered to work this spiritual journey of embodied cancer with me: The Norse trickster god Loki, the Christian god Jesus, the Irish goddess Brigid, and The Virgin of Guadalupe. I gratefully accepted their offer and set up my home altar to welcome them. I poured a shot of Jameson for Brigid, some wine for Jesus, Tequila for The Virgin of Guadalupe, and cheap whiskey for Loki. I asked if they would surround me with a protective bubble and be my partners in this work whatever the outcome. Loki for the humor and curiosity, Jesus for the deep healing compassion, Brigid for the hard work of forging the tools I need for the journey, and The Virgin of Guadalupe for the continuity with my Spanish/Mexican ancestors who it seems have also struggled with this particular common human embodied experience of cancer.
I knew that as news of my diagnosis spread many people in the communities of which I am part would want to send their blessings, prayers, good wishes, and healing love. I know that those energies will strengthen my body and spirit. I also know from being a minister for many years and a witch for my whole life, that sometimes along with those good energies, people also accidentally send their own fears and anxieties from their own past experiences with cancer in their own bodies or the bodies of loved ones. That energy is not as helpful to me. There are also folk who feed off other people’s drama and my bubble helps deflect that hunger as well. My deity created protective bubble lets in what is healing and redirects or even transforms what is not.
Several friends have shared that they understand Brigid, Jesus and The Virgin of Guadalupe, but curious why Loki? My deep fascination with the full range of human experience may be part of why since I was a child I have spent time playing with Loki. My experience of Loki is of an insatiably curious deity as fascinated by the ever changing kaleidoscopic movement of time and all the beings interacting within it as I am. My experience of Loki is of a being who stirs up trouble not so much for the sake of making trouble, but out of a deep curiosity of how the other beings impacted will act and react. It has been delightful to have Loki along on this cancer journey, a kindred being with whom to step back and be amazed by the shifts and changes in my own body as well as the wildly choreographed dance number happening all around me as people move in and out my my inner circle to share love and support and medical care.
With Loki I am exploring what it feels like to have tumors pushing bones and teeth and flesh and nerves and arteries into new configurations there on the right side of my face and neck. What it feels like to have tumors laying in my lungs changing my very breath. What it takes to be infinitely creative in order to get food into my mouth held almost completely shut by tumors wrapped around my jaw. I am fascinated to see which muscles are working extra hard in my cheek and neck as I try to form words or even smile. Curious to learn what happens to other systems in my body when I use opioids for pain relief.
Loki is as fascinated as I am by the immunotherapy treatment I am receiving at UCSF in San Francisco. Unlike traditional chemo and radiation which simply goes in and kills all kinds of cells both cancer and regular healthy cells, immunotherapy stimulates my own immune system to find the cancer cells and put a cap over their receptors so that in effect, they starve to death and then become food for my healthy white blood cells. It turns out that cancer cells come and go in all healthy humans and when they show up, our own immune system takes care of them, unless our immune system goes off line like mine did in my forties, then when the cancer begins to multiply there is nothing to keep it in check.
So here I am in this slower pace of embodied cancer time where I am present in each moment and aware of the incredible amount of healing work happening in all my systems and on a deep cellular level. I have always been, and will continue to be, fascinated with embodiment, even this particular all too common experience of human embodiment called cancer. Blessings on all our embodied selves, blessings on the full range of human embodied experience. Blessings on your full range of human embodied experience.
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