Poem: Clearing the Horizon


Clearing the Horizon

You walk through the graves.
The ground is soft from rain.
Leaves fall wistfully from the November trees.

There is a chill in the air, and yet
the sun, when you choose to stop,
heats you. There is no wind.

The stitches pull at your middle.
Standing straight causes pain,
but you play the ramrod nonetheless,

eager to stretch yourself back to a semblance
of who and what you were before.
Growth and healing has it’s pain, well worth the effort.

This graveyard is a place of history.
You do not recognize the names chiseled into the stones.
You do not know their stories, and yet

you feel a kinship, knowing how close,
how often, you have neared joining them
in whatever version of heaven or hell you are presented.

But not today. Today you are healing.
Life is as bright as the yellow leaves falling,
clearing the horizon for the heat of the sun

for another year.

About this poem

I am sitting in my backup diner. Country music is playing on the tinny speakers on the wall. It is good to get out.

I preached this past Sunday. First time in weeks. I had to sit as I gave the sermon, but otherwise, it was pretty normal except for the exhaustion afterwards. This recovery thing is slow.

It would be easy to be frustrated. I am a doer. I do things around the house. I do housework. I moves stuff. Life, for me, is a collection of projects, and not being able to do them yet, being limited to lifting ten measly pounds (I have cats that weigh more than that!) drives me a little crazy. I understand the whys, but habits die hard.

But watching others over the years has taught me one thing: The docs know what they are about. Do things their way and we heal and heal faster and completely. Ignore them an we heal slower and too often, not completely.

So after years of telling people and patients the same thing, I am now in a place where I have to actually do it myself.

The problem is that I am not a very good rule follower. I never have been. When were kids, my dad would talk about the three of us, “If I tell Lynn (my sister) not to do something, she says yes sir and  does not do it. If I tell Susan (my other sister) not to do something, She will argue, but ultimately she will do what I say. When I tell Tommy not to do something, he says nothing, and does whatever he wants.)

Guess who drove my dad craziest?

That’s kind of been the pattern of my life. I don’t seem to have had a straight path to anything, career-wise, creative-wise, relationship-wise, or spiritually speaking. It’s all been convoluted, never by the tried and true path. Sometimes that has worked out well for me, sometimes not.

I’ve never tried to figure out whether my slightly contrarian way of being has been better or worse. I have had some spectacular success and a couple of just as spectacular failures. All I can tell you is that none of it has been dull.

Much of my life, I had this sense that I knew better than most anyone one around me. That worked pretty great till my late forties. Then it worked spectacularly badly. It’s taken me a decade to regain my confidence in myself and my instincts. I am not somewhere in between, neither cocky nor too humble. I’ve learned a lot, grown a lot, and healed a lot when it comes to my work, my relationships, my spiritual and creative self.

But the body? When it’s been invaded by cancer and then little robotic arms? When stuff has been torn apart and tied together and removed? I am out of my league on that one. Gotta trust the docs. Gotta be the good patient. Follow the rules. Do the stuff.

It’s been humbling. I’ve had, all in all, remarkably good health most of my life. Before the surgery, I was devoid of the aches and pains many of my same age friends deal with each day. I have diabeties, but it’s mostly controlled and doesn’t really affect my day to day life much. I had good energy.

Now of course, I hurt. Things don’t work right. I have to be careful of not pulling stitches when I cough or when I laugh (and my wife and I laugh a lot!) I’ve lost a of weight. I am stupid weak.

In a way, it’s been humbling, but in another way, it’s felt like a miracle, to heal from where I was a few weeks ago to where I am now. Even if I am no where near where I hope to be in another few months, the progress, in its step by step, day by day, itty bit by itty bit way has been remarkable. I am in awe of what the body can do, and what the doctors can do.

So I trust them, those docs who do this all the time. I do what I am supposed to do. I don’t do what I am not supposed to do. It’s been a good lesson in discipline. Not easy, but good.

I am well enough that I can wonder if I will go back to my errant ways after the healing is done, or will I take the lesson to heart and behave in a less contrarian way. I really don’t know.  Evidently, I have not become completely predictable yet.

My wife, the woman I love, probably knows. She often seems to know things about me I don’t even know myself. Each step of this experience, she has been able to pinpoint just what infraction I was considering, and warn me against it. She’s not the bossy type, at least not with me, but she has been adamant. in making me behave. Hard love, I think they call it.

And it’s working. I am healing. I am getting better, one day at a time. No set backs, not even these past couple of days when I caught her cold/flu stuff and coughed and sneezed, threatening my internal stitches. She kept me on track, reminded me to hold my stomach and would not let me do any housework. I hated it. She was right. The cold is leaving. I am less sore across the middle.

I am amazed at the body’s capacity to heal.  Simply. Amazed.

Be well. Travel wisely,



  1. Receiving a long period of forced rest is a gift if you use it wisely. It’s often hard to remember this but you strike me as a wise man! Listen to the lady!!

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