Brain Freeze/Brain Thaw

Fiction doesn’t have to wait for anything to happen before it can be written. Well, maybe the seat-on-chair glue has to set up first. But no events. It springs from the forehead of the author and leaps onto the page. Did I say springs and leaps? That’s a lot of hyperbole for one sentence.

Non-fiction is a different animule altogether. Something, an event or series of events in real life, has to happen first. Then someone – maybe you – decides to write about it.

Something has been going on in my life that stopped me from writing more than a few scattered words for the past five months. It scared me into a brain freeze. It scared me into wiping out old blogs, packing up unfinished manuscripts, staring into space with what felt like a permanent painful throb in my right eye, and becoming nearly certain I would never write (or smile) again.

No, it wasn’t writer’s block or anything associated with the creative process. Or maybe it was.

My husband, Buck, was diagnosed with a rare form of non-Hodgkin lymphoma known as mantle cell in late May. We’ve been in a real swippet ever since. He’s in complete remission as of last week. I’m dead certain that’s why my urge to pick up a pen has returned. His form of this nasty beasty was sufficiently indolent that it got stopped at the border before it crossed from a small cluster of nodes above his collar bone into major organs or bone marrow. The chemo and immunotherapy portion of the festivities is over. What remains is close to a month of image guided radiation therapy to “salt the earth” and make it inhospitable to enemy mantle cells in case they manage to regenerate somewhere down the road.

We’ve been driving over to the Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville a lot the last five month for all sorts of tests, procedures, and chemical infusions. I could probably go back and count the times on my calendar, but I don’t want to do that. We would both rather look forward. Each of our earlier stays was in the motel attached to the clinic. The people were nice. The suite with a kitchen was incredibly helpful. But it will be too soon if we never stay there again, you know?

We have to go back. But this time, both the economics and the aesthetics made the case to rent a pleasant condo in Ponte Vedra Beach with a shady screened porch and miles of sidewalks. The ocean is only a mile walk, and I hope to drink morning coffee with the sunrise there most every day.

Buck’s fatigue is fading. He had one more very cool twist to add to his novel manuscript — which he is working on right this minute, standing up at the kitchen island bar, papers spread everywhere — and then it will go to an editor for discussion and polishing.


The weather has turned, too. The long hot summer is over, and we are back to walking the woods together. Short strolls are growing into longer walk-abouts. After so many hours spent indoors this summer among the smells of Purelle and the taste of metal, the fresh air of our Longleaf woods is like a triple shot of pure good health, energy, and the belief that our bluebird of happiness has rejoined our midst.


I had a few minutes to spare before we left the house last week to return to Mayo for a restaging PET/CT scan which would tell us if the chemo had worked, so I sat down at the big old black beast of a piano, flipped through an anthology of Baroque music that was in a stack on the floor by the bench, and played the first thing I came to. But first I laughed out loud. It was Biblical Sonata No. 4: The Mortally Ill and Then Restored Hezekiah by Johann Kuhnau (1660-1722).

I’ve taken to calling Buck “Hezekiah.” 

Rainbow over our house/late September 2014. I’m pretty sure it was the same day the lurking owl that showed up in May left.

I hope all is well in your neck of the woods.

5 thoughts on “Brain Freeze/Brain Thaw

  1. How wonderful you’re both able to feel “your” turf under your feet again and breathe in the wonderful scent of “your” longleaf pines! Isn’t this turn of weather welcome! About the same time you were blessed with a rainbow over the homestead, Gini and I were heading to a beach breakfast appointment and spotted one over the salt marsh (image soon to be posted). Coincidence??

    For some reason (most likely my own laziness), I did not realize you were writing the articles I see prior to this one. Abject guilt has consumed my soul. Well, that might be a bit of an overstatement. If I knew how to say Mea culpa or knew what it meant, I probably would.

    Talk to y’all soon! WE LOVE YOU!!


    1. Love you guys, too, Wally & Gini. May I assume you’ll be out photographing the lunar elipse (is it Thursday morning)? Maybe some fabulous winged creature heading home after partying all night will fly across the moon for you to capture in that amazing viewfinder. A girl can dream. . . .


  2. Oh, Beth. I was so shocked to see that the anonymous blog I was reading was yours. I had no idea, as was your intention, I’m sure! I am so grateful that things are going better for your dear Buck, but what terrible suffering you’ve both endured. I hope you’ll continue to write through it — it’s what you do best (after caring for him) and I, for one, always love your insight and beautiful visual eye.


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