Sunday, June 29, 2008

Ruby...New Hope

The cool ocean breeze laps at my face as I sit quietly on the shore of the coastal Maine inlet. Since my cancer diagnosis last September, the urge to write had seemed to fade to some unknown place. In my patience for the return of ink to paper, I wondered what would create the urge to write again. I thought I had lost my ability and joy in being a storyteller- something that has been part of me since I was a child sitting at the dining room table.

Within the last few days, I finished a pet portrait of an adorable shaggy haired golden doodle named Ruby. Like my writing, I wondered if the desire and passion for painting would return. My time and this painting were donated for an auction held to raise money for an educational institution. When I agreed to the painting, I did not realize how difficult I would find putting brush to white canvas.

Ruby was painful for me at first, both emotionally and physically. Where do I begin? What if I have forgotten how to paint? What do I use as a background? How do I capture the sparkle and mischief in Ruby’s eyes? Why did I commit to this? How can I even lift a paintbrush when my arms and muscles still ache from the reconstructive surgery?

The painting of Ruby was even more painful as only a month before I learned that one of the people whom I cherish and hold dear- my art instructor- was fighting her own battle with cancer. Her diagnosis, like mine and all of us who have experienced this disease, was a shock. She entered the hospital and had to stay for over three weeks, was sent home, then had to re-enter for more treatment. How could I paint without her prodding and critiquing me along the way?

Over a two to three week timeframe, I persisted in making Ruby come alive on canvas. Colors of golden light and washes of sienna were added one stroke at a time. I finished Ruby and lovingly packed the portrait to be shipped off to her owner. Within a few days, an email had arrived saying, “This is fantastic. We love it. She is our first dog and she means a lot to us.” My family members thought Ruby’s portrait was one of my best. That might be so, but it wasn’t the easiest. I look forward to more painting in the days to come, though, and know I can’t let it go.

The writing began to emerge slowly, like the painting and like everything else that was part of my pre-cancer life. A few days ago, after spending months taking long walks with my labradoodle, I tried running. Not far…not a long distance…but it was a beginning. As I ran at a slow and deliberate pace, I knew that the writing, like the painting and running, would return. As my strong legs carried me words began to flow in my mind. Running has always been meditative for me. I write in my head before putting pen to paper. I design keynotes, retreats and plan business strategies. The running allows my mind to be creative. As I ran intermittently, I knew the writing would flow again if I was patient.

As I write this, I am preparing to facilitate a planning retreat for twelve people. I arrived early to this quiet Oceanside inn. The ocean always brings me a sense of tranquility. I spent the afternoon roaming around exploring the back roads that led to nowhere other than a circle around the harbor. The late evening sun bathes the lobster boats, dingys and pleasure boats in a warm glow of yellow. The clicking of my camera alerts me to the desire to watercolor the photos I am now capturing on film. A child’s voice calls out, “Daddy.” The seagulls cry overhead. The moon slowly rises over the trees, becoming more luminescent as the sun disappears into the western sky.

Yes, I will write. Yes, I will paint. I hope you will join me from time to time on my journey of renewed hope, new dreams, new possibilities and a new future beyond cancer.

Thank you, Ruby, for helping me take the first step.