Archive for the ‘Look back’ Category

Just the details…

From Shinto by Jorge Luis Borges:

When misfortune confounds us
in an instant we are saved
by the humblest actions
of memory or attention:
the taste of fruit, the taste of water,
that face returned to us in dream,
the first jasmine flowers of November,
the infinite yearning of the compass,
a book we thought forever lost,
the pulsing of a hexameter…

When I was well into recovery, my oncologist had asked me how things were going. I broke into a litany of complaints about my job, the economy, car trouble, the heat, and on and on. He stood back a bit, smiled, and said “When you don’t have your health, you have one problem. When you do have your health, you have many problems.”

When faced with the diagnosis of cancer, your vision becomes exceedingly narrow.  Your world shrinks into treatment times, side effects, medications, frustration and worry about recovery. But there is a point when you move from a highly distracted point of view to something a bit more focused. And that’s when you begin to discover the smaller things you’re surrounded with always taken for granted.

The taste of sweet or salt, to read a book, to enjoy the company and comfort of devoted family and friends becomes highly prized and sought after. The revelation for me came one morning, about two months into recovery at home after everyone had left for work one morning. Watching the morning news, I saw some footage of a line of red lights on the expressway, creeping their way towards the bridge. I could sense the frustration of the drivers as they sat in their cars in their rush to work, the radio tuned to the traffic reports, the steam from the cup of coffee in the holder rising over their drumming fingers on the console. Yet, those were the very things that I wanted at that moment – to trade places with them, to listen to the radio, to sit quietly in the car on the way to an appointment, to enjoy that cup of coffee. To have an ordinary day.

There is no doubt that the very roots of our existence are shaken with a cancer diagnosis. If there’s any lesson to be learned it’s that our time here is finite. That the things that are enjoyed are ephemeral. Maybe that’s why I picked up a camera again nearly 40 years after putting it down. To be able to capture that essence of a moment, that smallest detail that catches my eye. Because, after all, it’s really those small details that are most important, that make us most human.

The saying goes “don’t sweat the small stuff”. But do pay attention.

pink whitepink white
photo © Jeff Kopito

[h/t to David Kanigan for the lead into the poem…]


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The leaps I’ve taken this morning leave me a bit lost knowing where it started…ran out of bread crumbs so just following what was interesting to me…

Back before treatment began, I watched the series John from Cincinnatti. Quirky, California weirdness, board surfin’ and some good tunes. Something about the show kept me going and I saved the DVR copy for months – and also included Bob Dylan’s Series of Dreams in the music queue I used while under radiation treatment.

The show was taken off the air – but if you can buy, rent, or borrow the DVD’s, go for it. Worth the time – especially the last episode. But you have to watch the series to understand…



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Mirror image…

A few weeks ago, the office where I work finally began updating their ancient technology. Our hiccuping servers were to be replaced as well as desktops that coughed and stalled at the most critical times. Part of what had to be done was clean out old email files from several years ago and a memo was circulated that we should all delete, save, or archive whatever we wanted to keep.

I asked one of my coworkers to please check and see if the emails that passed between me and several close office mates, during the time I was in treatment and recovery, were still on our old servers. I managed to salvage several, dating back to those tough weeks when I was undergoing chemo and radiation, was temporarily living in an apartment in NYC and I writing to them of my difficulties while they wrote back to me their support. I barely remembered those emails since I was in the midst of treatment – twice a day radiation – and severe fatigue had taken over my days.

Then this morning, on my laptop, I stumbled on just a few emails that passed between me and my wife while I was at home recovering and she was at her office. I was only two months out of treatment at that time and still in recovery mode but beginning to take short trips from home and experimenting with my recovering taste buds and appetite.

I wrote of my stop for some office supplies, then picking up some chicken soup with matzoh balls at the local deli. I also proudly boasted that I bought a hot dog with sauerkraut, probably wouldn’t be able to eat it, but felt good about buying it and imagining its taste and texture.

A few minutes ago I paid my daily visit to Michael Wade at his Execupundit blog. He had an entry about the value of the personal handwritten letter. I commented on it but put it into the context of my recent finds above. Although I’m a loyal supporter of the written word and the tactile feel of pen in hand with paper underneath, e-communication does have its place even if only for convenience. The risk though is the loss of these electronic messages because of expiring technology or outdated storage (remember VHS tapes and audiocassettes, or even floppy disks of any size).

Yet the tactile feel of memory remains no matter the medium. The touch of my wife’s hand, the reassuring embrace of friends and family.

What brought that into focus was yet another email from an old business friend and client from that period in my life – in fact, he was the one who nicknamed me LazarusDodge. I had forwarded one of the old emails to him this morning with the final sign off – sometimes you really do appreciate more what’s in front by looking back. No matter the medium.

Lesson learned…never underestimate the power and memory of the written word.

PS – I printed out all those emails mentioned above and stored them for safekeeping. Kindle that…or not…



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