Sunday, November 9, 2014


Sunrise sky
A portal I passed through this week has surely been another stage of accepting my mortality, which has continued to be largely an abstraction for me until now. I am beginning to let go of an expectation that I can persist in a routine of reading, writing reviews, and blogging, while actively participating in an online community of like-minded virtual friends.

In recent weeks, as the latest round of chemo has slowed me down again, I have become aware of the effort required to do all that. I have been surprised by a falling off of interest in reading and a diminished ability to write coherently and at length about books and films that I can relate to what has been a focus of my blog—frontier fiction as it originated and continues to evolve and flourish.

Sun in the morning sky, with vapor trail
This shift has happened as my wife and I consider options for travel, which I have resisted until now from a belief that travel for a cancer patient is an admission that time is running out for it. While results of chemotherapy indicate that treatment has been doing a good job of buying time, I can’t know how long I’ll hold out against the inevitable. The day will come when anything as ambitious as travel will no longer be as doable as it is for me now.

Meanwhile, I spent an hour with the psychologist at the Cancer Center this week discussing the more immediate need to get around on my own closer to home. This will take some experimenting to find out whether it’s feasible, but a bus will pick me up about five minutes from my house and take me to Palm Springs, where I can meet up with a friend or two for coffee, or get to gatherings of the Center for Spiritual Living, which has interesting events and meditation sessions.

New stock pot
Another big shift for me this week took place right under my own roof. Following recipes from a new cookbook, The Cancer-Fighting Kitchen, and another called just Soups, I shopped for organic ingredients at a Clark’s Natural Foods Market, which is 2-3 exits away on I-10. Afterward, back home, I made a batch of vegetable broth and two soups, one of them using a new 16-quart stockpot that my wife found at Costco. 

The pot is big enough to cook whole chickens for soup with homemade chicken broth, which compared to what comes from the store is far superior and redefines the words “taste” and “flavor,” both of which have been compromised for me by chemo treatments.

Cooking doesn’t exactly replace reading and blogging, but it reduces the time my wife and overworked caregiver needs to spend in the kitchen. It also gives me a feeling of accomplishment. Plus, for someone with a mostly sedentary life, with all the food prep (slicing, dicing, chopping) and being on my feet crisscrossing the kitchen, kneeling, stooping, reaching to get into cupboards, not to mention cleanup (when I’m done with a kitchen, it looks like a disaster area), cooking is a much-needed physical activity.

Sky at sundown
Add to that one other perk for the cook. Working in the kitchen, I can also listen to my music—not an option for the writer in me who needs silence for concentration. Sorting through a big collection of CDs to donate to the library, I’m finding jazz and forgotten mixes of rock and country songs downloaded from iTunes and burned onto discs for the car stereo, each of them representing another portal passed through over the years in other far different times and places. (More of that next time.)

And so life goes on, chicken soup chasing away the “kinda blues.”

I’m closing again with a jazz video suggested by a reader. In response to a couple of requests for Thelonious Monk, here is his entire album, Monk’s Dream, recorded in 1963. The quartet is made up of Monk (piano), Charlie Rouse (tenor sax), John Ore (bass), and Frankie Dunlop (drums). First tune, “Monk’s Dream”; second, “Body and Soul.”

Any other readers with jazz favorites of their own, links to them are welcome.

Previously: Kinda blue


  1. Sending you thoughts and prayers, Ron.

  2. Glad you're considering variety in your activities. Does chemo dull your taste buds as they say smoking does? Or is it that you just don't feel hunger, the way a person doesn't when grieving? Do we get a photo of your wife, even from the back or side. Then we can fit her into the 'big' picture. And the dog, too.

  3. Ron, as I have said earlier, your journal entries are truly motivating. For instance, "Portals" is telling me to value the simple pleasures of life such as walking, reading, writing, meditating...doing things that bring joy and peace. I cook occasionally and it relieves stress in spite of the clang of pots and pans.

  4. You are always in my heart, Ron. I value your journal of discovery.

  5. I tend not to listen to music while I write either. I need to focus. and I indeed find cooking to be a fairly 'active' behavior. It sounds like you are experiencing some natural ebb and flow of interests. Nothing unusual in that.

  6. You're cooking reminds me of the publication Chicken Soup for the Soul. I tried cooking a chicken in a pot of water with added spices and veggies and it came out pretty good. The chicken was nicely cooked and the soup was soothing to say the least. A diversion is always fun as long as it is not overdone. I enjoy a little travel when the urge hits. Good luck, Ron.

  7. Travel for me, even if it isn't far, is something I always enjoy, a nice diversion after cleaning up the kitchen.