Week 0 – 24-Hour Rendezvous
It’s the 4th of July. Life is both more beautiful and terrifying than before. Two weeks ago today I was diagnosed with breast cancer. Three hours before that I met the man of my dreams. It’s nearly 100 degrees outside and I’m sitting on the lawn at the Waterfront Blues Festival in downtown Portland thinking about all of it. I laugh, cry, sing, drink wine… When I heard the words cancer, over the phone from my doctor, I thought of how satisfied I was with my life; my adult step-sons, family, friends, the places I’ve traveled, the way I’ve lived full out. Then I cried. I cried thinking I may miss the possibile “future” with this amazing man. I know, a strange thing to cry over considering we just met and I have had a life full of love already, but I did.
We sit in the tall grasses at the Oregon coast. Mid-July now in jeans, sweatshirt and scarf. A 24-hour get away to escape and yet be present. We flew here in his plane via Packard, Washington, where we stopped near the glacial river for lunch. He whisked me away because he could and I wanted to be. The gorgeous Cascade Range, we can see 5 mountains. The devastated side of Mt. St. Helens is just 10 miles from our flight path. We talk of the day she blew 30 years ago. We were both in 4th grade, but my world went dark that day, while his on the east coast was unaffected. I wonder how connected we are right now, if the affects of this new volcano will be the same. I try to stop thinking about the future and be in the moment. The moment is where we’ve lived this last month or so. It’s been an extraordinary way to get to know someone. I’m grateful and wonderfully distracted. I’m thankful to have this strong, handsome, 6’3” man to laugh with and spend hours in the arms of.
My long red locks blow across my face and into Archer’s. My metallic red toenails peek up through the warm sand. The miniature sand dunes, just 2 feet high, reflect and absorb the late afternoon light. We imagine them from a new perspective. The entire Sahara right here as the grains of sand are lifted from the top of the ridge and carried on the air to rise and fall into constantly changing shapes. Sand, the sum of tiny grains, each having bared witness to the circle of life from volcanic eruption to the journey through rivers, seas and the ultimate simplicity of breakdown. The wind aligns each piece into a whole of a dune at the angle of repose. We run our fingers along the bottom and watch as the sand collapses into small waterfalls running upward. Perhaps Mt St. Helens collapsed like this as well. We try to find the perfect starting point where the fall will reach all the way to the top and not stop short. I do a little happy dance when it does and we walk away laughing.
I take out my notebook the next morning and write about the Finding Beauty project. Boxes of nothingness, some with the words “Empty” then next to them “Recreate, Choose, Possibility” then “extend time in the spaces between.”
He takes my camera and asks if he can photograph me nude in the private forest where we’ve parked the plane and stop to have our lunch. The ocean surf rises and falls in the distance. I step out of my clothes and he moves me into the dappled light, then lays me back on a hill of bright green moss. He puts his hand behind my head and spreads my red hair out against the contrasting color, which he also sees with the same artist’s eye I do. He photographs my breasts and tells me to move my face until I feel the sun, then he exclaims how beautiful the light crossing through my iris looks. He helps me up and puts pieces of moss into my hair. He poses my body like the snapshot of a sculpture from the art museum he sent to me as a text the week before. He rotates me slowly to find the right light, composition, moment. I am the art and not the artist now. A few minutes before I received a call from the doctor. The bone scan shows two suspicious areas in my right arm and the MRI shows a possible second tumor. I need to come back for more testing. I ask all the questions I can think to then hang up the phone. He stands in front of me and lifts my arms around him. I shake before the tears come and he supports my weight. I see his wet eyes as we move apart and he takes my camera.