Three months

IMG_8099Michael only seems elusive because I don’t think of him all the time and then when I do I get a little shock…not like a cattle prod but enough. I don’t know where my ordinary mind thinks he is but it has not sunk in all the way that he is really dead and gone.

Today was my 67.5 unbirthday and two letters came from the V.A. One was for 300$ for funeral expenses and one was for a 30% disability back payment for his PTSD claim. They denied the Agent Orange, which was expected. All of this has left me slightly stunned.

One thing of note is that people continue to make assumptions about how I must be feeling and it is absolute truism that I want to debunk, at least for this widow woman. The current Assumption is that the Holidays are a hard time after loss. No, not this year. It’s been Orien’s 34th birthday then on Christmas morning we had the neighbors (and some other folks) over for waffles then had the Bird Tree then went to a movie before a lovely big home cooked vegetarian dinner. If I were alone then Yes, I suppose so, but luckily I wasn’t. IMG_4661IMG_4656Today, after a few hours of some vigorous work around the land I got to be with Orien and Keith to hear about the hot air balloon ride they took this morning and got to go wine tasting with my old friend Bill Helmer to New Clairvaux in Vina.

photo 2photo 3 Energetically I’ve felt a lot of pressured momentum which may just be some distortion of the Solstice energy. I have some desire for a more mellow flow within myself and less of a driven sensation. I’m in the moment but it is very syncopated and staccato which is somewhat discomforting. It’s not that way all the time but enough.


I’m going over to the coast. My first time away by myself, although I’ll be with old friends. It’s like I’m my own version of Pygmalion. I’m tentative with the raw clay of my becoming.



On this Day…

IMG_4623IMG_3332Orien was born and my mom died. Tonight we will go out to dinner and come home to cake and ice cream. Tonight Orien and Keith (and Sheldon,) will help transport guests for Safe Space so some of our homeless brothers and sisters can have a comfortable place to sleep this cold night.

I haven’t been posting because my hard drive was failing. It took a long time to get things cleaned up and I’m grateful to Henri Flores for helping me although I’m still struggling a bit to find things and not mess up what he cleaned up.

Looks like I can’t control where the photos go this time so will just say that the photo below of Sheldon, Penni, Orien, Michael and I is from 2011. He and I were not big Christmas buffs –everything for us has been about Orien’s Bday over the years. Of course there was the terrible Christmas on 2012 when he was starting chemo but by 2013, despite the return of the cancer, we were all about the usual things– the only photo that will upload is of  Chase (Greg and Ajanis’ daughter) and Michael. I’m grateful for all the good memories, believe me, and am not suffering any intense grief… I miss him but am ok. (I did have a bit of a grief bomb when I thought I couldn’t retrieve my photos from the old hard drive, that’s for sure.) I hope this blog will go smoother next time I try to post.

I wish you a wonderful Solstice, Chanukah, Christmas and Kwanzaa. Love surround you and keep your spirit bright.




A Brave New Day


IMG_4544Oh Brave New World that hath such creatures in it! Selkie and I went to Oroville this morning with Charles and Kathy. IMG_4552After the San Bruno pipeline rupture PGE decided they need 30 feet clearance for all pipelines in the state. They paid off the Oroville City authorities and have cut many trees (and will be heading to Chico next to negotiate the same deal behind closed doors.) IMG_4570Some optimists tried to rebuild new trees but these trees along the old cemetery are over over a hundred years, planted well before the pipelines went in. IMG_4580And luckily the people of Oroville aren’t going to let anymore of them be cut down. There is one more meeting before Wednesday when the chainsaws return. If they come back we’ll be waiting for them. IMG_4586We rushed back to Chico in the 59 MPG Jetta (on bio-diesel) and then I rode my bike downtown to the nut factory where the march against police violence, white privilege and racism was just starting. IMG_4596I donned an ACLU tee shirt and took up the role of Event Monitor but these young people were orderly and their soft blockades were short and  calm– marchers and motorists alike. The police only sent one patrol car.

IMG_4597Despite our differences we were united in our purpose and determination.

IMG_4603What was new and exciting to me was that young people organized, set the tone and carried out both the march and the rally that followed. IMG_4611












I’m tired but so grateful to have had such a stirring and positive day. I loved the energy, the speeches and the people themselves. We can have a better world with these new leaders and determined justice seekers.



That two years ago feeling

Michael, Orien, Chris, Suman, Kareem, Lauren

Michael, Orien, Chris, Suman, Kareem, Lauren

I’ve been holding back this post and sometimes not needing to write it but knowing it was coming. In early December 2011 Orien graduated from law school and was sworn in. We were really proud and happy for her and Lauren and her other friends who are now practicing attorneys. Always there are bookends for important times and they are often other important times.

In early December 2012 Riparia celebrated our 25th Anniversary together as an intentional community.IMG_7989 IMG_8053However, on December 14th, 2012 our wonderful lives were challenged by the cancer that took Michael 22 months later. He’d been having a week of abdominal discomfort but that day, at 8am we were at Prompt Care to try to figure out the source of his gnawing pain. By midnight he was in a room at Enloe Hospital waiting for a biopsy that wasn’t done until the 16th because someone messed up and gave him a heparin (clotting prevention) shot that first night. The results– adenocarcinoma in his omentum, the bubble-wrap type covering that protects the abdominal organs. Then it was on to trying to find out where the primary tumor was but in the meantime he skied on the 19th, calling it the best ski ever. On the solstice he was back in the hospital after a procedure to scope his stomach and upper intestines failed to find the primary and he was at risk from a bowel obstruction. I wrote, “Sinking deeper into what is in each nuance. Fear in waves– deep, low. A rise, a cry- it doesn’t pass but I get bored with it and pick up my book.” On Christmas eve that year he started chemo on the oncology unit of Enloe Hospital. So scary. I emailed my family and Orien that we were going to be out of cell range and would get in touch after Christmas so were very much alone except for a few friends who knew.

Michael chin up Dec. 17, 2012

Michael chin up Dec. 17, 2012

I can’t locate those photos… hmm… the Christmas tree in front of the hospital, Dave Guzzetti in an isolation gown, Michael with a few little wrapped gifts on his bedside table… what a time that was but still there were angels with us– nurses. Semina from Pakistan, Mesfin from Ethiopia, Belarmino from Uganda, Sue who is Hmong, Stephen… Soon Michael had found his stride with cancer and his “tai chemo.” By New Year’s eve we had met Dr. Graves, the surgeon who bought him what time we got and Michael had bought a new inflatable kayak. As I approach the anniversary of that terrifying long day, Dec. 14th, then that lonely, scary solstice and Christmas… I’m faced with me alone now in this comfortable home that Michael built, in the silence, with the memories. I just have to give it the respect and emotional power it is due for that was our life, our greatest challenge and we faced it together, with determination, problem solving and Love. It was our reckoning. Our grace. Our becoming. Our beginning of loss. mcGowan p ca 012Then by Jan. 1st we were out skiing. He never missed a beat on skiing the fresh snow despite the chemo and he’d have been really happy for this storm we just had and probably in the mountains first thing tomorrow morning if he were here embodied. IMG_1433And this time last year (here with Jenny’s son on the tractor,) he was still doing the Tai Chemo of relishing life, thinking, despite the recurrence of the cancer after the first round of chemo and the surgery, that he would live long and me believing in him and our shared dream of years of adventure to come… Looking back I believe it was just fine the way he lived it and the delusion I let myself believe in because he made wellness seem so possible, that was ok too. Fearlessly, in each moment, sweeter with each day, intensely.. death can take someone but there is something that remains of their spirit and I sense a freedom and celebration about the energy that was him and I can’t stay sad for long.  I miss him. I love him.  But, there’s no point staying in the past with the weight of this two year anniversary. The trauma of that time I’ve expressed here and I expressed it on the Veggie Voyagers blog when we were experiencing it. I’ll let the feelings be as they need to come up but know this writing releases them. (Remembering Brautigan… it was written in watermelon sugar and writ again, to paraphrase, but hopefully you know what I mean.)


The Widows Club

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI wanted to get away and carved out the time after Thanksgiving to do it. At first I was headed to Arcata but there was also an opportunity to go with a friend who was driving down to help another friend who had broken four of her fingers in a fall. Both places had the advantage of beaches and friends but the disadvantage of a rainy forecast. Santa Cruz won out by a slim margin and there were strong rays of light and good times that made it well worth going.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAJane “lost” Jim three years ago, Mathilde “lost” Doug eight years ago, you know about me and Marge “lost” Steve two years ago. We are different stages with our individual losses and a lot of it seems to pivot around the conditions of our dear-ones’ dying. We shared those stories and listened and felt into each others emotional states which seemed to vary with our individual temperaments.

A friend of Jane’s came by one afternoon and that woman’s husband is dying a very difficult death with ALS– he is having a lot of trouble breathing and it is very hard on her too. She said with the frustration and resignation and pain of what they are going through, “well, guess I’ll be joining your club soon.” What a difficult initiation one passes through to join this club– like hazing…it shouldn’t be allowed but here we are smiling and managing on.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAMarge and Jane go way back, just like Mathilde and I do, but Jane’s broken fingers amplified her loss because she is also having such a rough time caring for even her most simple needs. A lot of what came up for us was about aging and the vulnerabilities we face with being alone. It was good to talk about but really there are no answers or assurances for any of us.

SAMSUNGStill it was good to break the pattern of my days and get out of my comfort zone (and get to new ones, like this bakery.)

SAMSUNGAnd after four days of looking at pictures of Michael in the “Gallery” of my cell phone at every quiet moment we left beautiful Santa Cruz this morning in sometimes blinding rain to arrive home to sodden conditions here at home too. Despite the good company, in the silence of catching up on email, facebook and laundry I feel comfort flood back into myself for my own process and the quiet accompaniment of the rain.