Location: one hour from Suffolk, Rockingham, and Scarborough, United States

I'm one of the co-authors of Point of Hopes, Point of Dreams, and The Armor of Light (which, contrary to some reviews is NOT a Points novel). Proud member of CoastLine SF, Piscataqua Obedience Club, and admin for Horseboard.

Saturday, April 30, 2005

Horticulture and Automobiles

Did you know that you can fit a crabapple tree, in a 7 gallon container, standing about 6 feet tall, into a Honda Accord?

Nothing really surprises me about the capabilities of a Honda. Nor should I be surprised at anything that Beth, out at Rolling Green, is able to do.

But people watched in awe as we finessed the second crabapple (dwarf variety, Malus Sargentii Tina) into the passenger seat (tilted all the way back) of my beloved 1991 Accord. And getting it out again was a piece of cake!

So now I have two dwarf crabapple trees waiting to be planted out front, where we managed to dig out the two arborvitae. The soil out there is pretty heavy, but we have loads and loads of compost that we can dig in, which Beth says is the best thing.

In other horticultural news, I was out at Home Depot, checking out pavers and mulch, when I found the most wonderful, not to say adorable, certainly whimsical, little plant. The tag simply said Fiber Optic Grass -- yes, grass. And yes, it does look like a fuzzy little fiber optic lamp. It's actually a rush (well, yes, it's a rush to look at, too), Isolepis cernua. Hardy, alas, only in zones 8-10 (I'm ostensibly in 5, but my garden is actually 6). And thank heavens for Google, I have learned it really likes a wet environment. I'll try to treat it as a container plant, instead of as a garden annual.

Thursday, April 28, 2005

This Spring...

So different from last spring. Last year, I had stereotactic radiosurgery on April 14. At that point, I had been on steroids for 2 weeks. I would be on them until mid-May.

Funny, I was able to function and work fine with the tumor; it was starting on the steroids and their effects that put me on short term disability, more, I think, than anything directly associated with the radiosurgery.

I even went back to work for several days following the radiosurgery because I hadn't been informed that my disability had been okayed.

But I needed the time off. I was tired, and the damn steroids caused myopathy in my legs, making it hard, very, very tiring to walk. They also caused muscle cramps in my legs such as I had never experienced before. My leg and foot would literally lock up on me.

I spent the time curled up on the chaise in the bedroom, reading. Sounds terribly Victorian, doesn't it? Except for the Yukon Gold potato chips, a passion for which was another side effect of the steroids.

Basically, I missed spring last year. I was indoors much of the time from mid-April to mid-May. We went to Provincetown for our 25th anniversary, and there was so much I couldn't do, that we usually did. That I was able to do when I was going through chemo, damn it!

That was then, though. This is now. This is 2005.1. It's April 28, and I just got in from a good long walk with Ms. Vixen on which we both got totally soaked in a sudden, drenching downpour. It's spring, and all my seedlings are up and waiting to be transplanted. I'm seeing the trees leaf out this year, as opposed to last, when I emerged, blinking, in mid-May, and the leaves were all fully unfurled. This is Spring 2005.1, and last week, we enjoyed walking the Robert Frost Interpretive Trail, in Ripton, VT. and going to the UVM Morgan Farm. This spring, I'm mobile!

The MRI last week was very good. The tumor is less than half the size it was when we treated it, smaller even than it was in December. We have downright oodles of space between it and the brain stem now, so Dr. Hartford is conferring with a couple of his colleagues, weighing any risks of doing stereotactic radiosurgery again -- one full dose of the radiation, right on the damn tumor. The fractionated radiosurgery we did delivered a total of 20 grays in 5 treatments. Biologically, that's the equivalent of 12 grays, a very conservative dose. The idea with stereotactic, and with the room we have now (oodles, but the way, translates into millimeters), is to hit it with the full 20 grays, all at once -- which irresistibly reminds me of the Bottle Rockets song, "Radar Gun," with the line "milowatt seconds on maximum output will dusty that puppy!"

Of birds and horses

Over in Saratoga Springs, my friend Jeff saw his first two Thoroughbreds crossing Union Avenue, indicating that the Oklahoma training track is open and becoming populated again. So how appropriate that this morning, while walking Vixen over by the South Mill Pond, that one of the birds I saw was a cormorant, the first I've seen this year. If you're a racing fan, you get that. I also saw my first sandpiper of the season, but which kind, I couldn't say.

I'm still not putting the shovel away. I'm looking for a span of dry, warm (not hot) days so I can put out my basil and tomato plants and repot up my cabbage seedlings.

It looks to be a horse-y weekend, coming up. There's a dressage event at Spinnaker Hill, where some of the EPONA horses are. There's a draft horse event down at the Spencer-Pierce-Little Farm, in Newbury, MA. And there's a series of open farms being held by the Standardbred Pleasure Horse Organization of Maine.

If it shapes up to be warm and dry, however, all bets are off, and you'll probably find me in the garden.

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Well, we can't say he didn't warn us...

No, I'm not talking about the new pope.

Have you noticed that the really popular, not to say cult-y films get their titles abbreviated by the faithful? The Lord of the Rings films become, respectively, LOTR: FOTR, LOTR:TT, and LORT: ROTK. I have already seen the new Pirates of the Caribbean referred to as POC:DMC (Dead Man's Chest).

So, look at what George Lucas has in store for us next month:



Thursday, April 14, 2005

An Anniversary

A year ago today, I had fractionated radiosurgery up at Dartmouth-Hitchcock for what I have learned NOT to call a brain tumor. As you know if you've been reading this (no, I promise, there will not be a test), what we treated was a sanctuary site metastasis of the original breast cancer -- that just happened to be in the brain. In the cerebellum. Next to the brain stem.

It was wicked cool, the whole procedure, even having the frame literally screwed onto my head. The Bob Vila School of Neurosurgery, I call it.

That night, we went out to dinner at the wonderful restaurant Grenache (no long with us, alas) with my head swathed in gauze bandages (even when they don't cut your head open, the like to make it look as though they did). The restaurant staff didn't bat an eyelash. As the best restaurant close to the hospital, I imagine they've seen all that and more.

One week from today, I head up there again, for a follow-up MRI. Certainly when I had the stereotactic radiosurgery a year ago, we did not anticipate having to do fractionated radiosurgery this past January. But we did it, and I was in a much more kick-ass frame of mind. This thing is going to be sorry it thought to mess with me.

We're going to turn the trip into a mini-vacation -- we're heading over to Vermont for a few days, staying at a Morgan Horse farm in Stockbridge! I'm hoping mud season isn't too muddy, but I have Muck boots and will bring them if I have to!

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

And what does THAT say about me?

I was just doing an online word puzzle, and the clue was "kneecap." Oh, dear, I do wonder what it says about me that I first thought of the verb, and not the noun....

Thursday, April 07, 2005

Better than last spring

Now that spring weather is here -- complete with afternoon seabreezes, which means we're a good ten degrees cooler than spots inland -- it's such a pleasure to be working outside. Hell, it's a pleasure to be working outside, period. Last spring was when I was diagnosed with a sanctuary site metastastis of the original breast cancer. In the brain. Right next to the brain stem. I had nystagmus, some double vision, and minor balance issues. Really minor: I managed to get the kitchen painted before I knew what precisely was wrong. Even when I was diagnosed, the neurosurgeon I saw said the my deficits were minor. But enough to make me disinclined to drive out to EPONA and work with 1000 pound animals, or even to root around in the soil very much.

This year, I feel so much better. The fact that the last MRI showed that the little bastard is smaller than it was in December certainly helps! I'm also not on the damn steroids.

This year, I got my seeds started! The cabbages and tomatoes already need to be put into pots; the basil is coming along wonderfully.

And last weekend -- on a day that was unexpectedly dry -- I managed to cut, hack, dig, and grub out one of a pair of old arbovitae in front of our house. They were (once) globe arborvitae, but had become more like amorphous arborvitae. They were repeatedly damaged by snow and ice, causing the main trunks to split; they were sheared by the city sidewalk plows. But did they have the grace to die? No. So last weekend, I went out there with my loppers and pruning saw and got one of them back to the main trunk, and got that almost down to the ground (I left enough to act as a handle). I then went out to Home Depot and asked one of the folks there to recommend the best tool for getting the rootball out, understanding that there was no room to swing anything -- it had to be a digging tool. He recommended a terrific construction spade.

Digging out the roots became a job that required not just four hands, but at least one foot, as well, as we pulled and twisted the bulk of it up and around to lop off the remaining roots, but, by golly, shortly before 1 PM (a good thing, since the NASCAR race at Bristol was due to start at 1:30, and I would have been left to carry on by myself), we wrenched the damn thing from the ground.

What a wonderful feeling of accomplishment! I was muddy and sweaty, but it was great to get my hands into the dirt -- even if it was mud and clay. And I got a terrific and unusual recommendation for what to replace the arborvitae with. I had been thinking of holly, or something like that, but one of the women at Rolling Green Nursery suggested a super-dwarf variety of crabapple! And Melissa and I both think that's a dynamite idea. We can prune it back as hard as we need to contain it -- the space they'll be in is very limited and we don't want them encroaching on the sidewalk -- we can underplant, and there will be fruits for the birds through much of the winter.

So far, folks, 2005.1 has been awfully darned nice.