Archive for December, 2011

We’ve turned the corner of dark winter days, past the solstice into the cold but gradually longer days of December and January.

Van Gogh, Snowy Landscape with Stooping Woman

This is the time of year when I like to take long walks in mid-afternoon, squinting into the yellow glare of weak sunlight reflecting on snow and icy water. I vividly remember walking five years ago in December, listening to Steve Tibbets and Choying Drolma’s album Cho as huge rounded gatherings of birds swerved and fluttered in the air above me. I was following the paved trail along the Jordan River in Riverton, at the south end of the Salt Lake Valley, where straw-colored clumps of grasses provided the only color other than white snow and brown-gray tree trunks and limbs. Those birds seemed to pull my thoughts along, dizzying as they shot between branches, then lifted as a single body into the sky and disappear ahead of me. Moments later they’d return, fluttering again, then settle down to a quiet circling around the trees that lined the quiet, almost empty river.

Five years, but so much living between then and now.

I saw my oncologist on December 20, first day of Hannukah, the day before the solstice this year. Not surprising, but disappointing, a change of plans: I’m no longer on docetaxel and have started taking abiraterone acetate (Zytiga®) instead. In the last six weeks I’ve felt a fair amount of pain in various bones and muscles, and it turns out that my PSA has doubled to around 300 and CT and bone scans are showing increased lesions in the pelvis, spine, and a few ribs. Here we go again.

We’ve had almost no snow this winter. A couple small storms in December, even though the first snows were in early October and continued into November. It feels odd, and here on the mountain people are waiting for the big snows to return. Who knows? We had record amounts of snow last year, so no one’s concerned about drought. It’s just bitter cold, nasty gray smog socked into the valleys with the temperature inversions, and now and then a small window of blue sky, like today.

Although I’m working this week, mostly from home, it’s been so quiet here at the house after the holidays. Dorothy and I both are feeling subdued, as if having a quiet break has taken us out of the rushed holiday mindset and dropped us into a cold, empty landscape where we thought we’d feel comforted and calmed. Instead it’s just calm with a hint of sad.

I’m still trying to figure out what’s going on with my health. It seems that I’ve done the best, most reliable treatments and am now entering the less certain phase of experimenting with other, possibly helpful drugs. It’s a sobering change of direction, one that I haven’t quite made peace with. I need more pathways along rivers and murmurations of starlings to move me along. Or maybe a quiet, cold red cliff in southern Utah where I can hear the sharp, shearing sound of a raven’s wing tips as it plunges through the air, dropping hundreds of feet down, playing in the empty air with its fellow raven.

Cold, wintry thoughts indeed.


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