The skinny branches

Our second-story bedroom window looks out at a group of deciduous trees. (I’ll post a pic on-line at some point…)

Now that the leaves have fallen, I pass the time in bed by watching the squirrels run across the branches. The branches sway and the squirrel sometimes pauses. But I’m constantly awed at the ability of the squirrels to stay balanced on such skinny limbs, and the ability of the branches to stay strong and hold the squirrel.

This season, we’ve had many turkeys in our neighborhood. Up close, they are much larger than I imagined. From our kitchen window, I can see them nibbling on the kale and chard in our planter:

Turkeys eating kale and chard

The other day, I noticed a group of turkeys at our neighbor’s house and was amazed to see them walk across the top of on a fence.

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And then, I saw one nesting in a tree!

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Larger and heavier than a squirrel, I was even more in awe of their ability to balance, and of the tree’s ability to hold them.

I recently received the results of my CT scan, and was thrilled to hear that everything looks stable. I know that I am lucky to be alive this far out from my initial diagnosis, and at this time of year, I think back to the time I was initially diagnosed.

For me, the roughly 8 weeks between my diagnosis and start of chemo was unsettling (to say the least). It felt like I was facing a death sentence and unable to do anything about it.

During this time, though, one of my friends sent an article to me about a scientist named Stephen Jay Gould.

Stephen Jay Gould was a professor of zoology at Harvard University, and a specialist in the theory of evolution. In July 1982, at the age of 40, he was diagnosed with mesothelioma, a rare and incurable cancer, with a median survival time of eight months after diagnosis.

The distribution curve looks like this (adapted from the graph on page 12 of the excellent book Anticancer by David Servan-Schreiber):

This meant that half of the population diagnosed with mesothelioma died before eight months.

“But the other half, on the right, naturally spreads out beyond eight months, and the curve … always has a long tail that can extend to a considerable length of time.  … Stephen Jay Gould died twenty years later of another disease.”

He figured that someone’s got to be on that skinny end. It might as well be him.

I decided to adopt his mindset, and while I have wobbled on those skinny branches from time to time, I’m gratefully still here.

The squirrels and the turkeys remind me that although it might look crazy and impossible to balance on those skinny branches, they do it. They inspire me.

And it occurs to me, frequently, that you are helping to keep those branches strong, and to remind me that sometimes, they sway in the wind but it is all good. Thank you.

With love and gratitude,
Marie

 

6 thoughts on “The skinny branches

  1. I totally loved coming in and seeing you manning the stove and, from there, nourishing the family. You’re right in there. Keep it going. Sending love and prayers (some a bit sandy).

    Sent from my iPad

    >

  2. God Marie you are just exquisite! I so enjoy reading your posts and just love the photos of the turkeys…you keep on wobbling on skinny branches girl! I draw such inspiration from your insight and your journey.

  3. I have wondered the same things about these awkward yet graceful birds–especially when I see one swoosh up onto a fence or branch! Thanks for this new viewpoint.

  4. I love that story behind the distribution curve and can’t wait to share it with Irene! Thank you for continuing to inspire so many people. Much love. xoxo

  5. As you might imagine, find great comfort and inspiration in the distribution curve – thank you so much for sharing it. I continue to hold you in my heart as we both make our journeys booth physical and spiritual. Blessings for the new year!

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