Monthly Archives: October 2011

Waking Up

As the Crow Flies

October 27th, 2010

Very early in the morning on October 27th, 2010, I was laying in bed, my head swirling with all the day was about to bring. Bags and clothes and supplies and photography equipment were scattered all over my room at my family’s farm in Eliot, Maine. Outside, the sun was coming up, and a balmy fog blanketed the field next to the farm house, suspending itself in perfect light between the high tension lines. Birds were flying. The house was stirring. I was waking up.

Very early in the morning on October 27th, 2010, I felt the lump in my chest. I felt the heaviness in my heart. A sinking in the pit of my stomach. But there was no time, it seemed, to think the worst. I had worked too hard getting myself into an upright and locked position to be able to finally take flight. There were only a few more hours, a million things to do, before I could stop to take a breath. Life was starting over thousands of miles away. I was waking up.

Very early this morning, on October 27th, 2011, I was laying in bed, my head swirling with all the day was about to bring. Bags and clothes and supplies and photography equipment scattered all over my seaside cottage in Kittery Point, Maine. Dim rays of rain-soaked light suspended themselves over a deep blue sea. Thousands of miles away from this day last year, I could no longer feel my chest. I couldn’t feel my arm. But I could feel my lungs fill under the heavy blankets with chilly morning air as I took a breath. I was waking up.

Sometimes Words Fall Short

There haven’t been many words here in the last few months. Up until the last post, I had been pretty honest about how I was doing, what it felt like to be trapped in this sick body. But in this last little bit, while I was finishing up the second round of chemo, healing up from my surgery, gearing up for another one, and spending every last possible moment I could out on the water, I couldn’t find the words in me to talk about it. The chemo had finally won, I gave in to it, as body and brain squeezed through a meat grinder of physical and emotional agony. It took everything I had just to do it. To get from one end of the day to the other. To endure myself. And I wouldn’t have done myself justice trying to explain it all anyways. Sometimes, words just fall short. Instead, I set out to sea with all the force of a spent wave and let the wind and water make all the noise for awhile.

I am within days of the anniversary of my departure to Berlin. A year ago I packed my bags, found the lump, boarded the plane. For a few months in Europe I was a sponge. I soaked up every moment as if it could be snatched away at any moment. I took chances on things that would have had me thinking twice back home. I met interesting, wonderful people, I danced, I ate crepes every day. In the early mornings, in my studio in Berlin, I would photograph myself. I didn’t know for sure what was wrong, but I had a gut feeling, as the dots began to align and German doctors ranted, and I wanted to capture myself in photographs before my life, my body, was potentially altered for good. I allowed myself to see what was coming only through the lens. I tucked each days photos away, I tucked the worry away, and went on living. There was no need to talk about it. The morning was over.

But there is something to tell this morning.

A year after I looked at myself through the lens of my camera, decidedly a different girl, I AM a different girl. I beat breast cancer. I have been declared free to go. The cancer is in remission, last week’s ancillary node dissection surgery revealing 13 out of 13 lymph nodes negative for cancer cells (unlike the last surgery)! And… I woke up with the most beautiful set of knockers a girl with cancer could ever ask for.

I won this round.

And still, sometimes words fall very, very short. There are so many things I want to say. There was a winter of such discontent, the depths of which no chart would dare mark. And as these depths changed with the tide, so too, did the course. On shore, the hard choices were riddled with the flotsam and jetsam of doubt and fear. But out there, an invincible summer began. Saltwater snuck it’s way past the poison, back into my veins. A sailboat appeared on the horizon, with crisp white sails gasping for fresh salt air. My hair came back in whisps then, curls. Wool was traded for silk. With a co-conspirator at my side and plenty of rum at the ready, we cast off on a permanent starboard tack to find secret beaches, breath-stealing sunsets and rising moons, constellations in the quiet, rocking dark of sea-damp nights. With fish jumping and seagulls squawking, we floated away whole days in the seaweed of Smuttynose, arms outstretched, the sun and saltwater righting us, healing wounds our blue-green eyes couldn’t see. Laughing our salty heads off at the very notion of peril. Where the waves whispered wild and sweet, I wasn’t sick. If words fail you now, sailor, blame the halyards. We did everything right.

And this morning, as I lay here in my bed by the sea, Asher beside me, the rain on the roof, leaves on the ground, the waves crashing within earshot, the Isles of Shoals floating within sight, in a house built by the Thaxter’s themselves, I am a soul in division from itself. Heriocally lost. Heriocally found. And I can tell you with absolute certainty these next few words…

I wouldn’t have traded this last year for anything.

Not one precious salty drop of it.

And this probably makes no sense to anyone at all.

Like when they tell you that you’re 38 years old and you have cancer.

And then they tell you that you don’t.

Sometimes words fall short.

~ Ali

I’d like to thank my friend, artist Dennis Michael Jones, for inspiring this post. Sometimes your words get me thinking.

Sometimes Words… by Dennis Michael Jones