Chain reaction

I have a kitchen window that faces the back of my property. The window is positively awful. It is small. The trim is old, crummy and needs painted. The wallpaper around the window is peeling from the humidity generated by the sink and the outdoor temperatures. The screen is in need of repair. The glass is filthy because I have an aversion to window washing. (Some might call it laziness. I call it time-saving. Do you know what happens days after you wash a window? It is dirty again.) The space between the glass and the screen is filled with dead bugs and cobwebs.

I kind of like the cobwebs. They remind me of the spider who set up residence in this window the summer I was on chemo. I felt like I was in a nature center as I watched her progress through the weeks of her life: spinning the intricate web until it nearly filled the space, catching bug after bug (such a smart girl; for whatever reasons, this window is a bug festival), eventually building a little egg sac. Of course, the fascinating little spider soon disappeared, shortly after to be replaced by her millions of offspring. A few of them then set up residence in the window. A dozen or so made their ways into my kitchen through cracks in the seals and met an untimely death at the end of my fingers. It’s ok. There were lots more and maybe not enough food to go around.

(C’mon people. Charlotte’s Web was a children’s book. This was real life and I didn’t want any damn spiders in my house.)

So, the dirty, yucky window faces the lake, which you can see through the trees now that the leaves are gone. The lake is beautiful all year round. My house is up on a hill, so the view is really very spectacular. I always feel like I live in a tree house when I look out my kitchen window.

(The picture above is a winter sunrise taken from behind my house. This is the view.)

It’s very easy to overlook the frame for this scene – look past the dirt, grime and dessicated bugs. In fact, it’s probably my favorite spot in the whole house – disrepair and all.

I look out this window several times a day and there is always something different to see. It fascinates me how the lake changes from one day to the next. The color of the water depends on so many things: the mood of the sky, the colors in the trees, whether it has rained recently or not, how many farm chemicals are concentrated in the water, how much silt is churning up from the bottom and more.

I once was putting the morning dishes in the sink and looked out this window to find myself face to face with a deer. I dropped the dishes and screamed, of course. The deer, and her two partners, turned on a dime and ran through the woods away from the noisy lady. I wondered later how long the deer had been observing me in my natural habitat!

Since that deer experience, a deck was built just off the back of the house, so deer would probably never come as close as those did – doing so would put them on the deck.

This week, I went to the kitchen at 10:30 a.m. to refill my coffee mug. As I was stirring in the cream (yummy cream), I looked out the window and saw an enormous bird in a tree. On another day at the same window, I saw a bald eagle plunge from a similar position and snatch a huge fish from the water and take off in a gliding flight pattern around the lake. It had all happened so fast I was never certain it was a bald eagle, but based on the wing span, it’s fishing abilities, my belief I saw a white head and the fact there is a bald eagle restoration project within 70 miles of my house at Lake Monroe and they have been seen fishing at Eagle Creek reservoir just a few miles away, makes me think it was. So, spotting this bird, I felt the need to identify it right away.

As much as I strained, I couldn’t decide whether it was large hawk or an owl. I’ve seen owl out here in the daytime and they are always beautiful to see (spooky at night!). So, I cautiously opened the door to the deck. I knew I risked scaring it away as I stepped onto some leaves, but there was no way across the deck without crossing the leaves.

With the crunch of the leaves, a chain reaction was sparked.

The bird, who I was so intently focused on, turned to look at me and I could see it was a large hawk. (Sorry birdwatchers, that’s all I can tell you.) He stared at me as I noticed a movement to my left. I turned my head to look that direction just in time to see the three young deer who had been quietly munching something at the edge of my deck scatter in three directions through the trees. I heard an awful noise and turned back toward the hawk just in time to see a blue heron jump from the shoreline. She was a ballerina who sprang into the air, but suddenly developed wings and never floated back down to her partners arms. Well, except this ballerina was pissed. I had disturbed her peace and she croaked loudly about it as she flew to the dam at the end of the lake. (You can hear the croaking on Wikipedia, actually – scroll down, after the bulleted list.) The croaking echoed all around through the trees and bounced back and forth across the lake telling everyone about my transgression! The hawk, too, shot me an angry look – I think he had set he eyes on either picking on the heron or stealing her fish – then flew a few trees away and sat fluffing his feathers while giving me backward glances.

After all was peaceful again, the deer obscured by the brush and trees, the hawk on his limb and the heron quietly on the dam, I felt chagrined. I had heard the disappointment in the voice of the heron, seen the angry look in the hawk’s eyes and scared the living daylights out of the deer. And I was trying so hard not to disturb anything but the leaves.

So, I crunched back inside and, I’m sure while doing so, a squirrel somewhere was sticking up his middle finger at me for disturbing his morning nap.

The whole experience just reminded me how the tiniest little movement, feeling or thought can often set off the most unexpected chain of events. How many times have I carelessly set down a small item on a countertop, which then touches something else and within 5 seconds there is makeup, food, glass or some other undesirable thing on the floor needing to be cleaned up? How many times have I dashed off an e-mail with unintentional shortness, only to have 15 people ticked off at me within a day or so? How many times have I glaned – merely glanced – at my ringing cell phone, setting off brake slamming, coffee sliding and all manner of flying objects in my car?

I wonder a lot about the event that touched off the cancer that grew within me. Actually, I’m sure it was a confluence of events – if any part had been missing, though, perhaps the conditions would not have been right for the cancer to grow. And at what points in my history did these actions and reactions begin inside of me?

It’s fruitless to worry about the conditions that caused my cancer. I certainly did for a while after diagnosis and nearly everyone I know with cancer does the same. You try so hard to pinpoint a cause. A cause means you have answers and if you can fix the cause, you can prevent it from coming back – you hope.

It’s a wasted exercise, really. Doctors know what cause cancer. Are you ready for the super-secret life-changing answer? Here goes: lots and lots of things cause cancer! But not one thing is a sure cause for every person. Otherwise, all smokers would have cancer and that isn’t nearly the case.

It is known that a healthy lifestyle will help fight cancer – will help you never get it and will help fight a recurrence, too. And while that isn’t much consolation – it’s no “sure thing,” as much as certain people selling certain items will want you to believe it is – it really is true. Statistics bear out that people who deal with stress well, who eat right and exercise have much fewer diseases than the rest of us – regardless of family history, weight, the water they drink, the air they breathe and all the other factors that aren’t always in our control.

The idea of cancer preventation is a “big picture” idea – to create a healthy mind, body and spirit in whatever way that works for you. Perhaps if I had been looking at the “big picture” outside of my window the other day, rather than focusing on one little bird, I would have avoided being on the receiving end of furious feelings from several different creatures!

Author: rosie

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