I was speaking to a long time friend about our recent cancer diagnosis-es. We have known each other for about 20 years and both recently began our journeys as cancer survivors.
We both were struck how our lives had been redefined by cancer as we gabbed, catching up and discussing the latest about our conditions.
When we met 20 years ago neither of us knew the word metastasize or five year survival rate or waiting for the day you could say you were cancer free… Neither of us knew the side effects of surgery to remove tumors, chemotherapy or radiation. Now people ask us questions about these things and want our opinions.
I called my friend at the dinner hour. 20 years ago I would have said “I know its dinner time and you need to feed your family but I just wanted to say hi, lets talk soon.” or she would have said “I have to get dinner on the table, can we talk later?”
But we have been redefined. Life is short. Dinner can wait but friendships can’t.
The beast leaned into him, huffing it’s warm breath over his cheek. He leaned into the beast, taking in the sweet musty smell of the animal. The smell of tea shrubs and fragrant white flowers.
Alone he had removed the rocks and debris from the field. Raked the earth smooth until it was finally ready for the beast.
The beast stepped forward, it’s great hoof covering his bare foot. The sharp sound of bones breaking and the intense pain lifted his spirits. A sign that it was time to begin.
Stepping into the field the beast followed him. The hooves of this son and grandson of great Samurai warrior horses left deep indentations as he followed the limping monk back and forth across the field. Finally the field appeared as though filled with gentle waves of the ocean coming into high tide. The beast nodded it’s head as if to bow to the monk sensing it’s duty was done.
A simple meal of boiled millet and pickled vegetables was eaten with the hashi (chopsticks) he kept in his sleeve. Tying the hashi together with a small length of red silk cord from the beast’s armor he was ready for the next task.
Into the middle of each hoof print he pushed his hashi into the earth. Into that hole he dropped one tea seed. Covering each seed with the rich soil he moved to the next hoof print and continued until the entire field was planted.
In the fall of the third year the plants were shoulder height. The monk knew the first harvest would occur the coming spring. The monk also knew that harvest would produce the finest tea, honcha, the real tea. Those worthy of this scarce treasure, and who could afford the cost, would enjoy a tea ceremony attaining ultimate understanding, good fortune and good health.
As the monk limped through the field he allowed simple pleasures to fill his heart, taking in the familiar musty smell of tea shrubs and white fragrant flowers and the great beast.
Randolph’s social life was reduced to the grocery store. He tried to go every day just to get out of the house. Spending time in the deli where he could buy premade meals, imagining sharing a meal with anyone and having a conversation over good food. Yup tonight it was going to be a special meal. He allowed himself lasagna on those days he really needed a pick me up. Store brand canned beans for lunch. A macaroni salad and what the heck, a green salad if he felt like something healthy…. And a carton of that disgusting lactaid milk.
Standing in his favorite checker’s lane, Polly kept looking over and smiling at him. Bless her.
“Yikes Randolph! Your milk is leaking!”
“I’ll just run and get a replacement, you take this lady behind me in the meantime.”
Randolph guessed it wasn’t going to be that great of a day spirits falling as he went for the replacement carton. Old fool didn’t even notice the milk was leaking.
Rushing back to check out Polly was just finishing up with that lady, they both turned to him with big smiles! Maybe his zipper was undone? Still it was nice to have a couple of ladies smiling at him like that.
Handing Polly his replacement carton he noticed his groceries were already sacked.
“Hey Randolph, that lady bought all your groceries for you. She said for you to have a nice day! ”
An impish smile lit up his face which stayed with him all nice day long.