The wind blew so hard it sucked my breath and rattled my heart. I pushed hard to walk around the corner of the barn. It was like carrying two buckets of water every time I walked outside. When I finished chores, I watched a turkey buzzard drop off the barn roof and lift high, sketching the currents by how the wind carried her, overhead, over the trees. She was reaching for the oaks. She hovered overhead a long time. An omen? The Holy Spirit using brown feathers to show how she blows where she will, like Jesus said?
Or just a predator fighting the wind, aiming for a new place to settle. The sun stared back, faded behind the all day clouds. We’ve had some hard news here on this farm.
Before sleep, I took the dogs out and blessed the closeness of the night, the stillness. The air no longer beat us up. Fog blurred the neighbors’ farm and the moon was a bare shadow of light.
Did you know a woman’s breast looks like a sun rise over earth, what astronauts see when you look at a digital x ray? I wondered about halos and auras and if the machine was showing mine. I sometimes see that silver on wet clover when the sun is behind me. The radiologist said, “Look there. We need to take those out, tiny bits of calcium.” I said, “We’re soaked in Round Up where we live. All our pines have died.”
“I’ll see you next week,” he said.
I wonder if the earth hurts like a woman does, when we make her lie still and drive our wells into her, drawing up water, oil, gas, things we live by, and some we treasure like diamonds. We bruise her I think.
Doc said he got a good sample, of the tiny shells, those calcifications that danced in a circle, close to my chest.
Even though I had to drop my breast through a hole that looked like the seat in the outhouse, the whole thing was an exercise in kindness. I lay facing this marvelous picture of a Japanese garden during autumn. I wanted to look and breathe, while he drove the core, seeking those fossils, but the nurse tried to talk to me about my job and blocked my view. I’d gone deep into myself.
They asked if I was all right. Well, no, I am sad. This hurts. My war horse, might be crippled, the mare I brought home to ride into spiritual battle, has lost a little sense in her hind legs. I think about the horses buried with their warriors and see the ancients’ sense. Is she going? Am I? So my eyes seeped when Doc came into my line of sight, saying he had to make sure he’d caught the shells, he’d be right back. Yes, he’d gotten a good sample, nearly all of them. “I have to place a sliver of titanium to mark where I’ve been.” His eyes were kind. “Are you all right?”
The nurse said, “It’s not cancer, but you need surgery because the cells are changing and will become cancer. They need to come out.”
I blinked in the bright white light of the conference room. I thought of my cells auditioning for the lead role of horsing up my life, but we nixed their chances.
“This is why we do mammograms. It’ll take about a month to get the surgery done. It’s not an emergency. We’ll look at the cells even closer.”
“Thank everyone for their kindness.” I mumble something. about the beautiful picture.
I am relieved. I’ve brushed up against tumors a few other times, one in my colon, another in my uterus, some lesions in my brain. I’ve numbered my days, and though it’s supposed to teach wisdom, I’m not sure it’s done much more than depress me. My mother died when she was sixty. How do I live past that number? I’m line bred on cancer and heart trouble and dementia. I wonder if these cells are going awry, what others might? The nurse said this will do it, and I’ll be done. But I wonder if my increasing addiction to Diet Coke, or the Round Up our neighbors spray every year, or sugar have set my body off. I wonder if I need to buckle down and practice thanks, or let the wad of grief unravel into a proper tears instead of chocolate and Diet Coke. Mostly I wonder how long the surgery will hold me back from my summer, riding Tessie, driving Morgen.
I talked to the vet today about Tessie’s illness. She has tested mildly positive for Lyme and he wants to treat her with doxycycline for thirty days. She also has markers for EPM, a protozoa that wrecks horses neurologically. He named her numbers: SAG 1 is 16, SAG 5 is 32 and Sag 6 is 64. Anything over 4 shows her reaction to the protozoa. Her C Reactive Protein is 18. “Something is causing inflammation<” he said. “EPM can be a subclinical disease that horses can have for years. I know one that has had it for fourteen.” It’s not just horses wobbling off their hindquarters. I asked him to check because I’ve noticed her stumbling when I ride and her trot doesn’t feel right. Bruce said it didn’t look right. When the vet set her hind leg down, it stayed crossed behind the other. She was wonky when he pulled her tail. I am left with much hope.
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