I returned home last week after spending ten weeks caring for a friend in Las Vegas who was diagnosed last December with the deadly brain cancer, glioblastoma multiforme IV.
It was early spring when I left my central Virginia home; my outdoor world was quietly bursting into more than a dozen shades of green as trees opened their leaves, grasses emerged from their winter rest, and a myriad of plants and bushes happily sprang to life beneath radiant warm sunshine. I confess it was hard to leave in the midst of such glorious re-birth. As I drove away on Easter Sunday, I gazed longingly at my fallow garden.
An un-traveled woman, I was transported up and away in my plane for several hours to Las Vegas, Nevada for my first visit. As we prepared to land, I gazed down at a desert world that was all shades of brown, even the mountains, and where I could see no green whatsoever. My senses felt bereft: I hadn’t considered until this moment that springtime was not luxuriantly green in every part of the world.
When I entered my friend’s home, I felt as bereft as when I’d seen my aerial view of the desert. She’d had a craniotomy, followed by several weeks of chemo and radiation, and was an exhausted shell of the woman I’d seen last Thanksgiving. Our future weeks got even worse, with life-threatening complications of low white blood counts and then multiple blood clots.
Yet slowly I adjusted to the desert, increasingly appreciating the unique beauty of the outdoor environment while seeking to be a positive part of the critical indoor landscape. As the weeks passed, my friend, still plagued with blood clots, slowly improved. Then, two weeks ago her MRI showed the tumor had not grown and swelling around her brain had decreased; she should return in two months for another MRI. We took time to celebrate this reprieve; I called them our golden days.
Her oncologist promised, however, that the pervasive cancer would return and encouraged my friend to think about her next treatment options.
Meanwhile, it was time for me to return home for much needed change and I boarded the plane again. Yet the seven hour journey, I quickly realized, didn’t just drop me off to pick up my life where I’d left off last Easter. I came home, in many ways, a stranger now to my life on this mountain.
I found myself, for example, aching for bright, colorful flowers. A trip to the garden center revealed my favorite brilliant red geraniums for the mailbox planter were sold out. I purchased others that would do, then remembered the last time my soul felt this depleted, how I’d turned to quilting.
Flowers, my heart pleaded. Grandmother’s flower garden pattern, I decided. I enlarged the tiny petal pattern because I wanted this project to come alive soon, not take months. I sorted out the brightest colors from my fabric stash and started cutting the pieces for what I could now see would be a flower-filled tablecloth for the heart of my kitchen: my table.
The project is moving along quickly. As my sewing machine and I create each flower, this activity feels almost sacrosanct as each flower grows into being. I am also, in some mysterious way, renewing as I wait for the desert part of my soul to help me understand other recent shifts in my inner landscape.