Rainy night, Portugal

The view from my office window tonight.

Had a hell of a time focusing on writing today. My end goal is to get a few more things submitted for publication but I tend to get lost in the details. The last batch of poems I sent out was rejected but with a personal letter from the editor inviting me to submit something again for their following issue. I probably will. In the meantime, I'm looking for other journals that sound interesting but what usually happens, and it did again today, is that I end up muddling around with edits instead. At least today it lead me to finally making peace with a poem I wrote some years ago and have been arguing with ever since. It was always my idea to squeeze it into a haiku but it was never right. Finally, today, I surrendered to the fact that it is just not willing to cooperate. Words have a mind of their own.


Dear Signore Robot,

01000100 01100101 01100001 01110010 00100000 01010011 01101001 01100111 01101110 01101111 01110010 01100101 00100000 01100100 01100001 00100000 01010110 01101001 01101110 01100011 01101001 00101100 00100000 01110100 01101000 01100001 01101110 01101011 00100000 01111001 01101111 01110101 00100000 01110110 01100101 01110010 01111001 00100000 01101101 01110101 01100011 01101000 00100000 01100110 01101111 01110010 00100000 01101101 01100001 01101011 01101001 01101110 01100111 00100000 01101101 01111001 00100000 01100100 01100101 01101100 01101001 01100011 01100001 01110100 01100101 00100000 01110011 01110101 01110010 01100111 01100101 01110010 01111001 00100000 01110000 01101111 01110011 01110011 01101001 01100010 01101100 01100101 00101110 00100000 01001001 00100000 01100001 01101101 00100000 01100100 01101111 01101001 01101110 01100111 00100000 01110110 01100101 01110010 01111001 00100000 01110111 01100101 01101100 01101100 00101110 00100000 01011001 01101111 01110101 00100000 01100001 01110010 01100101 00100000 01100001 00100000 01110100 01110010 01110101 01100101 00100000 01101101 01100001 01100101 01110011 01110100 01110010 01101111 00101110 00100000 01000010 01100101 01110011 01110100 00101100 00100000 01100001 01110011 01101000 01100001

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Halloween with Henri, Le Chat Noir

Halloween and I'm celebrating by watching Henri 4, L'Haunting.



For my future reference, what follows is the timeline regarding
my diagnosis and treatment for Myoepithelial Carcinoma


On 25 Jan. 2019, during a yearly physical in Nevada, I mentioned it felt like I had a sea serpent in my belly. Ok, it was a wild exaggeration, but in the US most doctor's attention span is controlled by insurance companies, not people's concerns. My old doctor spent about five minutes per patient. After the allotted time, if I had a question, I had to physically plant myself in front of the door to block his exit. This was a new doctor so I wasn't sure she'd listen but she did and was very gracious about it.

Yes, gracious as in "pleasantly kind, benevolent, courteous". Dr. Nguyen was seven when she came to America from Vietnam. "We were boat people", she said in an interview for Carson Now. Her father was a doctor but, with the fall of Saigon, her parents had to leave the maternity hospital behind they'd opened together and were able to do so because of the sponsorship of a gracious church in Michigan.

Anyway, Dr. Nguyen scheduled an ultrasound for Feb. 15. I got the results on Feb. 27. They indicated a mass on my kidney so she scheduled further tests. On the 7th of March I had a second ultrasound followed by a CT scan with dye. Those tests clearly showed an 8 cm mass on my kidney. I met with a Nevada urologist on March 18. He wanted to do a biopsy.

However, at the same time, we were nearly done sorting through, tossing, donating, giving away or selling most of our possessions, selling our house, and relocating near family and friends in Oregon. Furthermore, we had plans brewing well over a year to move to Europe part time. We had to go.

The Nevada doctor gave me a referral to one in Oregon. I met with him on 8 April. Our flight to London was on 14 April. He tried to schedule the procedure before that but couldn't until 17 April. M. Lee and I decided he should still leave as planned. The plane fare and lodging was already paid. I had the biopsy on 17 April and two days later left for Europe.

I was told I'd get the results in five to seven days. After a week, I called them but they could tell me nothing. Another week went by but still no word so I called again. The receptionist didn't know anything and seemed irritated by my question. A third week passed and still no report—so I called again. This time she said the Oregon lab couldn't identify the mass and sent it to a lab in Indiana which hadn't finished their analysis yet. On 9 May, the Oregon doctor called me in Portugal with results, myoepithelial carcinoma, a very rare form of cancer generally occurring in a salivary gland. We discussed me returning to the US for surgery as it is currently the only known treatment for this form of cancer.

On 10 May, as we were in Portugal, M. Lee emailed the Champalimaud Center for the Unknown, a private biomedical research foundation here in Lisbon. They immediately assigned us a personal representative we could contact at anytime and made an appointment with Dr. Miguel Almeida for 13 May. On that day, Dr. Almeida scheduled five tests, all completed the following week.

Not wanting to do a second biopsy, Dr. Almeida wanted the slides from Indiana. In Europe your body parts belong to you. You want them, no problem. In America, no. I called the lab several times, signed and sent various requests to no avail. Even Dr. Almeida personally called and spoke to the head of the lab and sent signed forms requesting samples. By the time he finally received the biopsy we had returned to the US to apply for a Portuguese visa.

The process of applying for Portuguese citizenship is many stages, very backed up, and incredibly tedious. We had an appointment in San Francisco on 10 June. It required delivering a massive amount of paperwork, including an FBI background check, Portuguese tax number, bank account, and residence address in person. We had to go.

July 1 we returned to Portugal. While we were gone, Dr. Almeida put together a "dream team" including Dr. Christophe Assenmacher who flew in from Brussels. The surgery was 12 July and was done using Champalimaud's da Vinci robot which the surgeon controls from a console. This is a minimally invasive form of surgery, capable of greater accuracy and, if all goes well, reduces recovery time. The da Vinci made six small incisions in my abdomen for its "hands". One held the kidney while another carefully cut off the infected part and, before removing it from my body, still others slipped the tumor into a plastic bag, sealed and compressed it and yet another hand pulled the bag out through the largest incision which was about an inch and a half or some 4 cm long. They also removed a second tumor from the back of my neck which appeared last year. I remained in ICU for three days as bleeding can be a problem. It wasn't. I was discharged on the fourth day and have been feeling fine.

Oct. 8 I had a follow up CT scan of my entire body and tomorrow, Oct. 24, I will find out if I am, at this time, cancer free or not.

Oct 24 met with Dr. Almeida. The CT scan did not detect any cancer at this time. I didn't get elated when he told me. I felt grateful and have had moments of well-being and belonging, rare anytime for me and very welcome.


Cnoc a' Carin Hill

Dingle, Ireland - Irish Grass in the famine graveyard
Last October when we were in Ireland, we visited Dingle's famine graveyard, one of many in the country. About a million to a million and a half people died during, what I was told growing up, was a famine due to the loss of the potato crops (1845-1852). Later I learned it wasn't the failure of the potato crops that killed so many people. It was the English colonial indifference and greed rampant at the time.

Some 3,000 people are buried on Dingle's Carin Hill (Cnoc a' Cairn). So many died everyday there was no time for coffins. There are no names—just men, women and children laid one on top of another in trenches and an occasional unmarked stone standing guard along the way. This is the reilig an ghorta (the famine graveyard) of the Gorta Mór (the great famine).

Later that day I wrote a poem about my experience there which was then published in the West & Mid Kerry Live (pg. 24).


The impeachment circus comes to town

Ivanka waving to delegates at the UN General Assembly
September 23, 2019
I haven't spent much time here on American fascism these last two years. I wrote plenty of political blog posts during the Bush-Cheney-Rove era but at that time, I at least, failed to notice the fascism just below the surface. Now it defines the Republican party and Twitter has been the outlet for my rage against it, Trump, FOX not News, climate deniers, both-sides-ism, nutjob evangelicals, white supremacists and all the other throwbacks, like radicalized incels, the NRA and its minions, go-along-to-get-along Americans, Repub or Dem, who remain silent as the sewer of fascism rises in America and around the world.

Silence is compliance

So I tweeted an offhand comment about Ivanka Trump being a bimbo at the UN General Assembly in NYC yesterday and got banned for six days. OK. It's a public space and it's not the first time. I'll dial it back but damn . . .  today the impeachment circus came to town.

Actual quote from Donald J. Trump
Nancy Pelosi finally launched a formal impeachment inquiry into this ham-fisted mobster trying to install himself as King of America for life. It's going to be fun on Twitter the next few days and I'm locked out. Oh well. It won't be over in six days, six weeks or probably six years. The Republican Party serves the same entrenched international oligarchy the late Jeffrey Epstein served. It supports abhorrent things like baby jails, environmental destruction, and the retooling of America into a Christian theocracy, genocide. Time it implodes and goes away or, at least, vomits out the fascism and joins the 21st century. As for Trump, his cronies, and spawn . . . I hope they spend rest of their days in court fighting criminal charges like flies caught in a web from which there is no escape then, dare I hope, in jail for the rest of their miserable lives.


Equinox 2019 - The Balance

I'm mostly ignorant of the solstice and equinox mysteries and rituals through the millennia. I haven't even watched the sun rise on Stonehenge, the most famous and popular of the prehistoric stone circles, though I have, on ordinary days, stood in the middle of a few in Ireland that were maybe three or four thousand years old and I am known to burn a candle in the dark of a solstice eve.

2019 Autumn Equinox PST
View from here - Autumn Equinox 2019

Today I read up on the difference between the meteorological and astronomical beginnings of the seasons. According to the meteorological calculation, each season always begins on the same calendar day. For example, in the northern hemisphere, autumn always begins on September 1.

OTOH, the astronomical calculation marks the beginning of the seasons by the relationship of the earth to the sun. There are spring and fall equinoxes (equal night/day) and the winter and summer solstices (longest/shortest night/day).

So today, 23 September at 07:50 UTC, the sun was directly over earth's equator. In the northern hemisphere this is the astronomical autumn equinox and beginning of Fall. In my current time zone that means the moment when light/dark were equal the world over occurred at 12:50 AM PST. I was asleep.

So . . . Happy Equinox 2019. Enjoy the balance. Let go. Rest a moment as the gears change. Now spring begins in the Southern Hemisphere and Autumn here in the north.

Autumn Equinox and already Alley's special morning sunny spot is fading so much sooner that it did.
Autumn Equinox and already
Alley's special morning sunny spot is not lasting as long.


Dear Aliens

If any of those supposed UFO sightings are real, seems it couldn't hurt to send send them this note:

Deal Aliens,

Please come and save us. We are not evil, just stupid, too stupid to not destroy our house and home and everything beautiful in it. Oh, and yeah, we're violent but mostly because we're so fucking stupid. A lot of us are trying to do better but we're feeble and inconsistent. I know we're just a speck and don't matter to anyone but ourselves but we'd appreciate a hand and will try to do better if we survive long enough to sort that out.

Hoping to hear from you soon. please read before it's too late.

Best regards,
An Earthling


August update

I mentioned earlier that this May I was diagnosed with cancer. It's a very rare type, myoepithelial carcinoma. Less than 600 cases have been reported since its discovery in 1972. MC usually occurs in a salivary gland but was on my kidney. The thing is, about 15 years ago I did have an enlarged salivary gland removed but, at the time, it was considered benign. Now we're not so sure. Most likely, the Nevada lab doing the biopsy had never heard of myoepithelial carcinoma.

Even this spring, after weeks of trying and being unable to determine exactly what it was, the Oregon lab had to send the kidney biopsy to a bigger, better equipped facility in Indiana for identification. In July, I had surgery at the Champalimaud in Portugal. An 8 cm (3.14 in) kidney tumor and a second smaller one on my neck were removed. Both were MC. At least for now there is nothing more to do. With MC, surgery is not generally followed with any other treatment though that may change as more becomes known about it. All I know at this point is that I'm tumor free. I'll be having initial follow-up tests in October to see what's up.


Note in a bottle

Hi world. What are you doing today? It's evening here where I am. I know. It's every time of day and night for you but where I am the sky is still blue and there are voices off in the distance and the sound of cars. Always the sound of cars. A vine is growing up the window screen. It's a beautiful thing to watch . . . strands winding around each other, their tips fragile and moist. I haven't got much else to say really.


Summer solistice 2019

In the southern hemisphere this is the shortest day of the year, the longest night, the pause, the time of in-going and renewal, the beginning of winter. Here in the northern hemisphere this is the longest day of the year, the beginning of summer, the dance, the lingering and going about. Wherever you are, whatever species you encounter as you go along your way today, be kind.

Unfortunately, the Summer Solstice is also the beginning of the 10 day Yulin dog meat "festival" during which thousands of dogs and cats are bludgeoned, blow-torched, skinned, and boiled alive for a 10 day drunken "feast".

Please help shut down the Yulin!

Sign the HSI petition and pass the link around. Thank you.


Can't See Me

Several years ago I went through a very bad time. I was living in the hills of West Virginia and would come into town now and then to open my then husband's tiny electronic repair shop. He was a whiz that way. When I got to town the first thing I'd do was buy a bag short dogs, sit in the alley beside the shop and drink a couple. Then I'd open the shop. I didn't go in very often but as I recall we never had any customers when I was there. I played a lot of country music real loud those days. It helped. Marshal Tucker's "Can't You See" was a special comfort. I'm listening to it tonight as I write this. I don't live in West Virginia anymore. I don't even live in America anymore but it's another bad time and that song is still a comfort. This coming week I start a round a tests to determine if I have cancer.


German cornflakes in Portugal

It's been 17 days since leaving Nevada. So much has gone on. This morning my breakfast is German cornflakes in Portugal, but to recap . . . before we left Nevada Penny (the) Robin came by. Nice to see her in the Bird Park one last time. Also I went to Comma Coffee one last time, the scene of several poetry reading with Ash Canyon Poets though, ultimately that scene dried up and I lost contact with them.

The morning we left I hosted a giant feast in the Bird Park. In true crow fashion, Minerva put out the word and news spread fast. Literally in minutes more crows showed up than ever dropped by one time, even in winter. And, of course, Maggie, her magpie friends, and all the other birds also attended but it was the crows who made the biggest splash. For a brief while they flooded the place. It was wonderful. Of course I took a lot of photos but most didn't record. I don't know what exactly I did wrong but something. My favorite, that didn't take, was of a crow who landed very close, probably Charlie or Minerva. I'm sure it was to say thank you and good-bye. Crows are, after all, known for their willingness to befriend individuals of other species and their sense of fair play.


No way to say goodbye

Packing, sorting, pruning and letting go of almost two decades of my life has been overwhelming but mostly it's done now and what's left tucked in boxes and ready to go. We move at the beginning of next week and then what? A new phase of my life? The last phase? I'm saying good-bye to friends. We assure one another we'll meet again but will we? Sometimes a door closes for the last time.

And then there are my beloved friends in the Bird Park. They made Nevada livable for me, even delightful . . . Maggie the 7 o'clock Magpie (7 o'clock because in the beginning she always came at 7 AM, before everyone else) and her tiding . . . the charmer Chatterbox Charlie along with beautiful Minerva and the rest of the crow congress . . . Plonk and his flight of pigeons . . . the bevy of doves with their sweet, forever melancholy call . . . the drifts of quail, generations now . . . the hilarious, head-banging quarrel of finches with their ridiculously comical, very serious fights . . . the mild-mannered sparrows . . . the flock of grackles with their most mellifluous song . . . Babette and Mr. Fancy Pants . . . the pool parties and dust baths . . . the old pigeon who came to spend his last days and after whom we named the pile of torn out lawn turf Old Man Hills . . . Penny Robin who came for her apples so many springs, even this one . . . I will miss them all terribly but always and especiallyMaggie.

7 o'clock Maggie Magpie wielding her apple
Maggie and a bit of apple

There is no way I can tell them that I love them but I'm going anyway, no way to say goodbye other than remove the little white table where, every morning I've been here for the past seventeen years, they have come for breakfast. The Bird Park was a haven most of that time, until the hawks showed up. At least that part will also end.


Moving update

Today is the Equinox, the beginning of spring here in the northern hemisphere, autumn in the south. May we all enjoy, if only briefly, this moment when light and dark are in balance.

I'm finally on the downside of packing. We move at the end of the month. It feels like a death, but not just because we've been in Nevada for 17 years. It's something deeper. Sorting through the memories, stones, and mementos I've collected along the way . . . the skull of a horse I found near a dry water hole, a horse killed in a brawl with another, head kicked in, jaw broken in several places . . . a whole mummified eagle's body . . . the half-billion-year-old trilobites I found in the Great Basin left from when this now desert was a vast, warm inland sea under the equator . . . the night coyotes sniffed our feet as we lay naked on our makeshift bed in back of the truck . . . the petroglyph of a pony express stop carved in nearby stone sometime in the previous two centuries . . . this is not just the end of a chapter, it is the end of a journey that is now a time gone by.

April 14 we leave for Portugal to apply to their residence program. This, of course, if I get my passport back in time. I forgot to sign the renewal application. When I realized this and called they assured me I'll get the new one before April 14. We shall see.

In more soothing news, the magpies, crows, and starlings have devoured their breakfast and moved on with their day. The little birds and quail are strolling around nibbling seed. Even Jimmy the squirrel put in an appearance.