On the Summit


One cannot stay on the summit forever –
One has to come down again.

So why bother in the first place? Just this.
What is above knows what is below –
But what is below does not know what is above.

One climbs, one sees –
One descends and sees no longer
But one has seen!

There is an art of conducting one’s self in
The lower regions by the memory of
What one saw higher up.

When one can no longer see,
One does at least still know.

Poem from ‘Mount Analogue’
René Daumal (1908–1944)

Rene Daumal was a French spiritual surrealist writer and poet who was born in Boulzicourt, Ardennes, France in 1908. One can assume that when this poem was written he was relating to life in general and I find the first line to be profoundly moving, “One cannot stay on the summit forever.”  This is not a sad statement because this brief poem gives us hope and confidence that what we saw and experienced on the summit and can no longer see is always with us.  Furthermore, this poem gives me the sense that there are many trips to the summit and descents as we travel through life.

Yesterday at yoga class, the instructor read this poem during the resting phase of our workout. Instantly, it struck a chord with me and my recent experiences with relapse and treatment and it somewhat changed the direction I was planning to travel in this new post.  It even changed the title which I had tentatively decided would be Unpredictable

The past seven months have been, at best, unpredictable.  There have been so many trips to the summit and descents to the valley and most with no predictability.  I never really know when I will be feeling well and enjoying the view from the summit or when I will be too tired to do much of anything but nap.  Over these months, I have had some very good days and if I didn’t know better, I would think I was back in remission and feeling well or maybe I could even imagine that I had never been sick in the first place.  Along with these wonderful days, there have been a fair number of days of illness (shingles, colds, coughs) and then there were the low blood counts that caused me to miss treatments.  These missed treatments and my trip to Washington DC, which caused a gap in the cycles, allowed the lambda light chain to reverse its downward trend and go back up.  Fortunately, it has only gone up about 20 points.  

In all this unpredictability, there is one positive constant:  Velcade doesn’t make me feel nauseous or sick at all.  However, it often makes me incredibly tired and head-achy. I do know and understand that being tired is a lot easier to cope with than being nauseated and I am grateful for that.  Another positive note is I won’t lose my hair.

Now how does this all tie in with the poem with which I began this post?  As I listened to our instructor read the poem, I realized that when I am at the summit, I am collecting knowledge and memories for those times when I have descended back down the mountain.  No matter how tired I may be or worried or frightened about my future, I can “have the memory of what I saw higher up” and I still know that I can climb there again and I will. . . many times.  I can see that with clarity now. 

Finding Peace and Contentment in My Own Backyard
This summer has been one of the best ever in Western Washington State.  We have had many summers in the past that never seemed to quite materialize into the lazy, warm days that we all love and enjoy.   Well, this summer has been one to remember with warm sun, little rain and many hours of daylight.  Because of this lovely weather, I have been outside more and our backyard has never looked better.  Now, I must confess, neither Brent nor I are crazy about gardening or yard work and if you were to look too closely, you would probably see more than a few weeds.  We have lived in this house for 39 years and the yard has evolved more by happenstance than planning and much of the “borrowed scenery” beyond our yard is wild, but I love the natural beauty and privacy it affords.  It has been a great source of peace and contentment to me more than ever before.  
Enjoying the Morning Sun
“Borrowed Scenery”
Tomato Crop on the Porch
“Borrowed Scenery” Beyond the Hydrangea
 Evening Falls