Yes, I’m writing!

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Wow!  Summer has just come and gone and here we are now in November!  It’s been a full few months for me, with back to back Lost Borders programs, the Washington Guides Gathering in the Eastern Cascades, and travel to my family in Germany.

My last blog post was back in June!  Writing has had to take the back seat for too long and I’ve been craving to make time for it.  So much so, that I decided to take my laptop along, to the last wilderness program of the year that I just returned from a little while ago.  With nightfall so early this time of year, I hauled up in the passenger seat of the truck at night, to sit and write (and to take a nice break from the relentless cold wind).

What began to form during my time in the Eureka Valley, is an exploration of the stories, the archetypical myths, that cancer evokes in us.  While there are many other threatening and terminal diseases, cancer elicits the confrontation with death in a particularly edgy way.  The mythos of a hostile take over of unwholesome, mutated, out of control cell growth aiming to kill us is unequivocally dark.  But that’s only one story.  An old story, and perhaps one in need of a fresh set of eyes…

But equally fascinating, if not more, are the stories that emerge in response to cancer.  Because regardless of what medical treatments we decide on, we also choose to adapt a story about our cancer: why we got it, how we live with it or through it, and how it integrates into the greater story of our lives.

The piece has given me a run for my money!  I was hoping to return from my time out with an article ready to post on this blog, but far from it.  Instead, it has stirred a deeper inquiry in me and I know it will need some more time to reveal itself.  So this is just a teaser note, to say “Yes, I’m writing (again)!” But it may take a little while before this piece finds its way into the light of day…

In the meantime, I want to share a 40-minute radio interview that I did in September, with Rev.  Kristin Powell on Cancer as a Rite of Passage.  A bit daunting because it made me realize how much I have yet to learn about public speaking 🙂 But in the spirit of beginner’s mind, here it is:

 

And here are a few short clips from it, on the topics listed below:

Diagnosis (3:37 minutes): 

Treatment (5:02 minutes): 

Survivorship (3:04 minutes):

As we are traveling into the oncoming darkness of days growing shorter, may we be able to make space for some quiet time, in the midst of this crazy human holiday business, to restore and resource ourselves.  It is so essential to allow time in the fertile cauldron of this season, where memories are stirred, seasoned and simmered into the rich broth that will feed us anew on the other side, come spring.

May we continue to risk ourselves for what we love.  Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours!

With all my love,

Petra

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LOVE – what else?

The following is a letter to my sweet soul sister Theresa, from a couple of weeks ago, around Valentine’s day.  We call each other cougars because we both continue to courageously turn into our own healing journey with cancer, and cougar has become somewhat of a code name for us to speak to the medicine power, the fierceness, the strength and the grace that is called out from us in the process.  So here is goes:

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Dear Cougar Sister,

Yes, I know Valentines’ day is super cheesy and I can’t believe I’m writing you a Valentine’s letter.  Hearts and all!   But these days, and in this new life, things are more fluid, and sometimes things emerges that are as surprising to me as to anyone around me….

I’d already noticed last Christmas that I was less than average cynical about the whole holiday. Not a traditional Christian at heart I used to struggle to find my true place within the cultural anxiety grit of this holiday. For years I simply did it for my children, making their holidays bright, and trying to generate good memories for them, keeping things as sane and heart centered as possible.

But this last year, my growing children, my youngest 15 going on 25, were more leaned back about the whole thing than ever. With my lover feeling some of my usual pre-holiday angst, I was surprised to instead discover this genuine excitement about the upcoming feast inside me, even including all the parts that are always complicated, like dinner at my ex-husband’s house. I found myself humming and truly enjoying our Christmas tree, that for the first time was decorated with all white lights, as my young man finally seem to have outgrown the colored light preference of his childhood. There was a feeling of preciousness that made me feel soft, open, grateful and blessed. Who knows how many holidays I would still have with my kids, before my son was off to college abroad or elsewhere involved in his own life?

As our dying practice continues to teach us, it is in our letting go that we come ever more fully alive and I feel the truth of this running strongly through all major tangents of my life these days. There is simply no place left in this life that is not sacred, beautiful, and blessed – even the culturally loaded holidays or, and yes, maybe even the far fetched wanna-be occasions like Valentine’s day beckon our appreciation.

In this life, partnered by the firm hand of cancer, there is no space left for cynicism, too precious is each moment and each blade of grass under our feet. To us, the simple witnessing of clouds shape shifting is a blessing, even when they occasionally obscure the sun. In this presence, all is well – even that which isn’t so well. There is no longer room for ’no’ but only an ever evolving ‘yes’ to life, to love, to risk ourselves, to laugh, to make mistakes, to surrender any remaining resistance to the beauty and blessedness of all things, even death, to be honest, outrageous and irrational. To trust, to leap and to embrace, to forgive, to let go and to continue to open into the unknown, with every fiber of our heart.

And so it is with this long intro that I send you sweetest Valentine’s Day wishes.   Because there is no reason too small (or too cheesy!) for an invitation to celebrate. Ultimately, is it not what we are here for in the first place, to turn our bodies and minds over and have love have her way with us?

With gratitude for all the ways that we continue to turn into the blessedness of our living and dying.

Petra, your cougar sister