Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Rest in peace.

After a two year battle, Denise Roberts died last night in a hospice at 10:55pm surrounded by her family. The cause was pancreatic cancer. I am glad she is finally free of pain.

DEATH be not proud, though some have called thee
Mighty and dreadfull, for, thou art not so,
For, those, whom thou think'st, thou dost overthrow,
Die not, poore death, nor yet canst thou kill me.
From rest and sleepe, which but thy pictures bee,
Much pleasure, then from thee, much more must flow,
And soonest our best men with thee doe goe,
Rest of their bones, and soules deliverie.
Thou art slave to Fate, Chance, kings, and desperate men,
And dost with poyson, warre, and sicknesse dwell,
And poppie, or charmes can make us sleepe as well,
And better then thy stroake; why swell'st thou then;
One short sleepe past, wee wake eternally,
And death shall be no more; death, thou shalt die."

-- John Donne (1572-1631)

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

"Be yourself. Everyone else is already taken." -- Oscar Wilde

They still remembered me at the gym this morning, even though I swear I've not been there for a month. Through the holiday weeks, I've continued to lose weight, though I fear some of what I lost was muscle. It felt good to get a good workout after being housebound so long.

I just had lunch with Juliana, my CPA. She's been that for nearly 15 years because of her rich sense of irony. We ate elegantly at the Taste Cafe at the Seattle Art Museum, then did a bit of shopping afterwards. The Wilde quote is on some cocktail napkins I bought, complete with an eye-popping illustration.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Winds of change.

So the snow has all but disappeared in the Ravenna area, and 45 mph winds are drying things out! And the sun is shining now, after the rains essentially wiped everything clean.

In my weekly column to staff, I indicated that I have made "to not do" resolutions.

In 2009, I will try not to:

Count on something before it is real.

Lose sight of the fact that I can replace my job but not my family.

Set my goals and my expectations so high that I disappoint myself.

Lose sight of the needs of others in a tough economic environment.

Forget that humor and grace and a sense of proportion are invaluable.

I'm taking the winds blowing outside as my cue to declutter the house and prepare to start a new year. I love decorating, the tree, the gifts, the lights....but I also love clean lines and the metaphor of clearing up. By Saturday, I may be able to do some winter gardening. Bring on the garbage and recycling trucks!

Friday, December 26, 2008

Soul Food.

Every year the poet Jim Dodge makes a poem and prints it on the winter solstice at Tangram Press. We look forward to his annual envelope with letter and poem. Unfailingly, the poem provides a bridge to the future. Here are the first lines of this year's poem, titled "The Sanctuary of Light."

When pressed, stressed, fearful, unsure,
Simply slip back to the composing core
Of what you were, will be, and eternally are:
Pure energy vibrating between particle and wave.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Christmas Day 2008

There is nothing like opening presents, especially when there are fewer of them and they all are perfect. Here, based on my performance with a beautiful delicate ornament that Lauren gave me last week, Leroy is holding the delicate object as he pulls it up out of its packing.

It is a "peaches and peony" Chinese vase from the Metropolitan Museum of Art, from my sister Mary and her husband Paul.

Here James examines his big present from Leroy and I this year: all eight volumes of the collected papers of Charles Sanders Pierce, plus a biography of Pierce, collected meticulously online by Leroy for James from many used bookstores or collectors.

Here Leroy and James are looking at a biography of the great naturalist John Muir which James got for Leroy.

My most remarkable present today was an email from the high school teacher who taught me literature, the classics, trumpet and voice. I had mentioned Mr. Larson in a profile which my home town paper did of me recently. Mr. Larson made such an impact on those he taught --not only fiction or poetry or plays, but he read us short stories by Thurber, Mencken, and Hemingway. He put up with requests from our girls' sextet to arrange songs like "To Know Know Know Him is to Love Love Love Him." And he offered an after-school classics seminar to a few of us who were interested. He conducted the band and the chorus, and once or twice a year he and his glamorous wife Lucille (also a teacher) sang duets at the end of a concert. Like my husband, he was truly a renaissance man who did many things well. Mr. Larson had a profound influence on me, which led to two degrees in literature.

I have not heard from Mr. Larson since I left high school, over 40 years ago. His email today took me back to the classroom and the sound of his voice reading to us about a world we had only begun to understand. I remember now why I might have had something to do with his reading aloud.
Way back when, someone left a note on my desk: "It is the custom on rainy days to read stories to the class." You, for one, are unforgettable. Thank you so much for your recent remembrance of me.

Monday, December 22, 2008

And more snow!

Here is the view from the upstairs reading room today, Monday morning about 11am...

Here is one of Leroy's open house concoctions, pannetonne bread, for the feast we had last Saturday evening with about 30 intrepid souls who ventured out in the storm.

We actually went out late yesterday afternoon in the Audi, up the hill to Suzie's open house. It was still snowing. These last two are shots from the front porch also about 11am today.

James got to Cincinnati, where his flight to Seattle was not available. They are backtracking him to Manhattan, where he's ticketed for a direct flight to arrive around midnight. We have our fingers crossed on weather, which right now looks good for New York, with all runways open in Seattle.

Friday, December 19, 2008

All is bright.

I am now officially on vacation from this evening through the end of next week. Earlier today, I shot some photos of the snow.

I worked today from home, like many Seattleites, bedazzled by the beauty of the snow and the sunshine in 25 degree temperatures.

What amazed me most last night was the absolute silence of the street, with no cars moving. That silence followed hours of neighborhood kids sledding down this hill yesterday, and again today. I was tempted to join them. I remember well how it felt to be cold but exhilarated, going fast on a sled down the hill on a sunny day when there was no it felt when it got dark, and I resisted my mother's voice calling us in for dinner, to get just one more ride in.
Tonight, the first celebration of my vacation: Lauren, home from UNC at Chapel Hill, came to dinner. She is the most appreciative eater that Leroy ever cooks for, so he made her salmon with strawberries, his special little red potatoes in a creamy sauce, and a tofu-cabbage-mushroom-celery-sauerkraut side vegetable dish. Lauren has bandwidth in so many areas of interest, born probably in part out of her time as a reporter. Her work seems to be going well, as she juggles a full load of courses with being a teaching assistant. We hope to see her again several times at least while she is home. And next spring, when I take my train rides around the country with my camera, I have already checked to be sure that I can stop in Chapel Hill and spend some time with her. She is a person I know that I will care about all my life.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Simple Gifts.

We've tried to make this Christmas a sparer and simpler one, without so much "stuff." Both of Leroy's gifts from me this year involve music. This afternoon the first gift took shape -- the piano got tuned. And we've met another truly interesting person, piano tuner Richard Weeks, who is also a jazz musician.

I bought the Chickering upright piano new from Sherman Clay in the fall of 1985 for Leroy, after I had left the Seattle Art Museum, using part of my 401k to do it. My banker, himself a Helden tenor, shivered when I told him. I bought it just as I was starting to run what was then still a very small computer company, with a child just under a year old. A lot of risk, you might say. A frivolous thing to do? If it was, it would be because neither of us played the piano at that time. And now look at what we have wrought: a composer/musician/professor and all three children, who play the piano to some extent. As do our grandchildren, each and every one.

Leroy's birthday dinner that year was quite splendid. I had Sherman Clay deliver the piano and move it into place in the afternoon before he was home. We managed to keep him out of the living room until the last moment. That evening our dinner guests included Cassandra and Richard, who had driven up from Oregon to gave us a memorable performance after dinner. They were both in music school at the time. Today, Richard's arrangements and compositions are published frequently; and Cassandra sings professionally. Music is what keeps them going after their day jobs are over.

I can't wait until our open house this weekend, when I am hoping our neighbor Matt, an accomplished pianist, will play the piano to celebrate the joys of making music.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

White magic.

The passages below (not in linear order) are from Joseph Wood Krutch's "The Twelve Seasons: A Perpetual Calendar for the Country" which was published in 1949. It is one of my favorite books. This section is from the chapter on the month of December.

"Let the man who boasts that his common sense is continuous and unassailable arise about three or four o'clock on some snowy morning when there is a moon still up. I shall not recommend that he go out of doors; cetainly not that he move even a few steps from his house; for I do not want to answer for the consequences if he should do any such thing.

"But let him simply look from his bedroom window at the waning moon about to set in the west. A waning moon it will be if there is any moon at all at that time in that position, and it will have a quality of its own...."

"And how quietly the flakes fall, either one by one or collected into soft, harmless-seeming masses. You would never suspect that anything so small and so soft could ever become formidable. You cannot even feel the weight of one flake on your cheek -- only the tiny point of coldness when it touches and the tiny point of wetness as it melts.....Perhpas none of the other grand natural phenomena--certainly not the various kinds of rain--occurs in such a variety of ways as the snow, which comes either crystal by crystal or in fluffy masses."

I found a wonderful Noble Fir tree yesterday with my friend Suzie, who then cut fresh holly for me from her tree. Now the living room is soft with lights and ornaments, and smells like a forest. Though aches and pains caused me to miss the Green lake luminarias and a holiday party thrown by an old friend and colleague, I was able to shoot these photos about 9:30pm last night to a nearly full moon from my upstairs window and at 7:30am this morning from my front porch.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Light the way.

Exercise has slipped out of my routine in the last month or so. I'd just finished negotiating a new trainer contract at my gym after a lot of soulsearching, when along came a first 2009 Kindred Spirits Training Schedule from Penny Kellam, starting with a SuperBowl walk on February 1st.

I don't think most people realize that the ideal training program for the walk takes six months. Last year, an ideal program was undercut with a couple of nasty personal injuries that took time for recovery. I hope to do a lot better in 2009.

Having a big goal helps set the sub-goals more clearly. It's been too dark at 5:30am to walk, but we should pass the winter solstice on December 21 and things will look brighter at that hour.

Tomorrow evening, we celebrate one of the truly awesome events in our area at Green Lake. The overhead artificial lights are turned off. Luminarias light the way the whole 2.8 miles around the lake. Last year, my first, we ran across musical groups singing carols as well as jugglers and mimes as we walked. If you have the time, come to Green Lake and experience one of the least commercial events you will find in the season. I'll try to take some photographs and post them here.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Holiday letter.

Usually for the past 20 years or so I have written a holiday letter and enclosed it with our card. This year, it felt remarkably lightening to know that I could skip the letter because anyone interested could read my blog and get most of the picture. Tonight I came home and opened five cards, each with their own letter. So here's the letter I wrote but did not send.

"Whether it was the primaries and then the election itself, or the steady unraveling of the financial environment, we have seen significant change in 2008 -- and more change, happily, is on the way!

Leroy has become the first “Hanauer Honors Professor of Western Civilization” at the University of Washington. It’s a two year appointment that allows him not only do special work with honors students, but also create a new course called "The Traditions of Justice." He spent a week or so in residence at Johns Hopkins University last spring. He continues to write and arrange music, and host the Ravenna Brass Ensemble each Sunday afternoon here at home. He took the Harley and three trumpets to Walla Walla this summer for “Midsummer Musical Madness.” And his custom motorcycle continues to take shape in the garage/shop.

We returned from a trip to the Modern Language Conference in Chicago in early January, then visited Cassandra and Sabrina and their families in Phoenix in late February. While in Arizona, we drove up to Carefree to have a wonderful Sunday brunch with cousins Ann Newman and her sister Margaret Newman Crawford, and Bill Crawford. In June, Leroy and I flew to Iowa City for a reunion of 42 Hayes cousins celebrating the birthday of 1142 East Court, my cousin Jim Hayes' remarkable Historic Register home that escaped any damage from the terrible Iowa floods.

I flew to DC in March to present a keynote address on pandemic flu for a federal regulators conference, and continue to represent the financial sector in regional critical infrastructure work sessions. I've opted to stay at JPMorgan Chase through March, and then take some time to visit family and old friends on other coasts with my camera,at least partly by train. I am looking at the nonprofit and/or government arenas for my next adventure. After working through several nasty injuries earlier in 2008, I completed a second 3 Day Walk for breast cancer in mid-September, and brought my fundraising total to nearly $47,000 over the past two years. I just signed up for the 2009 walk!

Cassandra and Sabrina and their families live just outside Phoenix, both still working in the real estate industry. All six grandchildren are healthy and extremely interesting, active individuals – though their parents seem even more active in both professional and community affairs.

James moved to Pittsburgh in late July, to take up graduate studies at Carnegie Mellon University. He’ll finish a master’s degree this spring, and is in the process of applying to Ph.D. programs. He flew to Stockholm in September to present a paper at an international conference on metaphor, which is being published as part of the proceedings. He's in his element. He’ll travel to Washington D.C. in January, for the inauguration of Barack Obama, and send back photos and impressions for my blog. Being physically present at remarkable events in our nation's history is a Searle tradition. We wish personal peace, clarity and good health for each of you in the new year."

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Deck the halls.

Each month, Jo and Charlie, neighbors for all the years we have lived here, invite everyone from blocks around to their "First Friday" event, to unwind and share food and drink. There's usually music and lively political discussions. Because of the 3 Day Walk and then preoccupation related to work, we've missed the last several. We were welcomed back warmly last night. It made me think how very important it is to have connections outside one's family and one's work, to be involved in others' lives to celebrate or sympathize with them. And we have our rituals to cherish. Each year, we light our streets with Christmas Eve luminarias, all the way to the Ravenna Park ravine and out to 65th. Neighbors have been doing an Easter Egg Hunt in the spring and an ice cream social in the summer for more than 25 years. A summer block party with a band from the neighborhood was added a couple of years ago. And this year, we are going to revive the Christmas caroling tradition on December 23rd. So you could say we are all a part of one another.

I'm decorating the house today for the first of two open houses this month. Yesterday I nipped in to Hunter Tree Farms' lot to pick up a wreath for the front porch. We've been buying fresh greens there since we arrived in Seattle. I try to add a couple of new holiday decorations each year, so today I'll visit Martha Harris' flower shop in Madison Park, hands down the best decorations anywhere. As I polish and clean my treasures, it occurs to me that my life is both long and wide and I have had many adventures, many of them manifest in the ornaments themselves. If I am a pack rat of any kind -- and there are many who would doubt that -- it is of seasonal decorations and photographs that mark times when I, like the seasons, am open to change and happy for all the turns that my life has taken.
Fa la la la la, la la, la la.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

AntiCancer and Anti-Genocide

My friend Mona, herself a breast cancer patient, recommended a book called AntiCancer, by the physician/psychiatrist David Servan-Schreiber. It is an amazing book, a journey inside cancer and the research labs, as well as a book with a premise about living. I recommend it highly because of the personal narrative of the author, a brain cancer survivor -- and because it echoes so many other recommendations about food, about environment, about inflammation and the immune system, and about healing mental wounds, and finding peace. As a psychiatrist, he manages also to pepper the book with stories from various patients on how they came to terms with adjustments they had to make in their lives and outlooks to live through or with cancer.

As I was reading the book last night, I was also watching "Scream Bloody Murder," Christiane Amapour's tough program on CNN last night on how little progress we have made in the world over 70+ years on genocide. She profiled leaders who asked other governments and the United Nations to intervene in countries where genocide was taking place. No one listened.

The book was actually more comforting than the program. I feel as if I am topped up and topped out on genocide and on cancer. We need to open our eyes around the world and step up in countries such as in Rwanda and Darfur. On the cancer side, we must ensure that early detection and cutting edge research and clinical trials are available to those sure to be marginalized in such a tough economic environment.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Love without end.

An email this evening from my friend and pancreatic cancer patient, Denise, who has survived two plus years of first opinions, second opinions, third opinions, chemotherapy, radiation, surgery, more chemotherapy -- and who tomorrow will have another surgery to sever nerve endings in the pancreatic area.

"The tumor is growing and the pain is increasing, as a result. This procedure will give me immediate results and should last about 2 months. This will also put me in a pain free environment so I can make some decisions on the next step(s) of my journey...For right now, it's one day at a time....Then we tackle the next day."

We may think that things are bad, but there is nothing like this note to ratchet things into perspective. I put my head down on my desk when I read her signoff to the email.

It says "Love without end, Denise."