Friday, June 23, 2006

To Bhagsu and Back

Margi decides that it is time for me to see the Bhagsu waterfalls. She hails an autorickshaw (a 3 wheeled vehicle, open on both sides) and off we go. I hold on for dear life; it is a roller coaster ride with a real cliff below and plenty of obstacles (people, other vehicles, animals) but it is part of the experience.

We begin the arduous hike, and, as Penelope mentioned below, she leaves me in the dust. It is okay, she says, for even those without cancer to take a break. And I do. We finally get to our spot, and it is indeed breathtaking. I take advantage of her good humor and whip out the camera. I know she has gone through this camera ritual with everyone else, but I still need my pictures of her, too. Margi jumps around and poses on rocks; standing, kneeling, sitting; I keep shooting.... I see a few goats nearby and begin to photograph them, as well. And then, we get carried away....Margi decides on a great photo-op: she pulls out a cracker to feed a goat: "Take the picture, Deane!" As I do, we are run over by all the waving candy in front of children. While Margi and I push them, repeatedly, off our rock, I keep shooting. So much for our collective art direction.

On the hike back down the mountain, we stop to visit with Aju, the sweet, gentle young man who runs the chi house up here. As soon as he sees Margi, he begins to share his tale of woe and heartbreak; it is a Shakespearean classic complete with lovers who wish to marry, and families with different plans... So, here is Margi in her element; she becomes Aju's mentor, guide, counselor, and caring friend, offering sound wisdom and advice, as well as words of comfort and support. By the time we make it back down the mountain, it is early evening, but Aju is smiling at last, willing to hope that happiness may soon be his.

Margi and I have fallen into a routine, very similar to the one Penelope created with her. Mornings are quiet, uninterrupted affairs. I paint, draw, hike; Margi takes care of her morning rituals. We sometimes meet for lunch, or for tea on the rooftop to watch the sunset. Today is an easy day, we have plans for tomorrow. But plans can change at any moment: the side effects to chemo are strange and bizarre; Margi reminds me that each day is different, so we take it one afternoon at a time.

I love Penelope's photos; now that I am here, they look very familiar (but no goats...)


Thursday, June 22, 2006

Some views of India, explained

Couldn't figure out how to combine words and text, so here's about the pictures below: Margi on the roof of Ashoka Indian Restaurant, Mcleodganj; Margi on the trail to Bhagsu waterfall, leaving me in the dust; Margi and hydrotherapy in the stream that leads to the waterfall (she liked lying on this rock because she had water flowing on both sides, so complete auditory immersion, as well as cold water flowing over hands and feet and stimulating sensation); Margi and Vinod Shanti, who made us great chai and meals at Angus' house in Dharamkot, above Mcleodganj; Margi and Brian, the computer genius and music/film maven, who with his wonderful wife Sonia brought us movies and meals and took us on trips around the countryside; the hat girls. Margi took the last picture, with my camera upside down out at arm's length, on a rectangular rock where we picnicked above Bhagsu waterfall. I was tempted to post it as taken, inverted.

Some views of India, May-June

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

We are in Dharamsala

The sign in my room at the Him Queen Annex contains the following warning:

"Please close the balcony windows and doors securely when you leave your room because of the monkeys." Just another reminder that I am far from home.

Margi sleeps on the train (we end up with a private compartment, and this makes her very happy), and, even though our train is over 2 hours late, our driver is waiting for us when we arrive at the station with a big smile. We arrive in Mcleod Ganj in time for the afternoon rain, and I am grateful for the cooler temperatures.

I get my first real night of sleep, finally, and I'm up at 6:00 am, ready to walk and explore. Later, Margi takes me on the now famous walk around the temple grounds, and after seeing her so sick on Saturday, a mere 3 days ago, I am amazed at her recovery. Yesterday's rain has left us with a clear sky, and I finally see the Himalayas, peeking out from behind the lush green hills which surround us. They take my breath away. We each spend the afternoon on our own art, and have dinner with Angus at the Ashoka Restaurant. There, on the balcony, just 2 feet from our table, is my first monkey sighting. This, along with Margi's increasing strength, makes me very happy.

Namaste and Toshi Delek (welcome)

Sunday, June 18, 2006

heading for the hills

Margi and I are all set to leave Delhi this evening for the overnight train to Dharamsala. Yeah!!

She had a bit of a rough day Saturday. But we called her doctor, and, after hearing a list of her symptoms, he prescribed an initial treatment plan of Sprite + crackers, before moving on to the big guns. The medicine worked. By 6:00 pm, she was all smiles once again, and we were both relieved and back to jokes and laughter. The longer stay in Delhi turned out to be the right move; knowing that her doctor was close by gave her much confidence; she would not have been able to do the long journey north feeling as she did yesterday.

Correction: Margi is building snakes, not dragons. I was being metaphoric; however, it is Margi's work and accuracy is appropriate here. They will always be dragons to me.

Next stop, Mcleod Ganj.


Thursday, June 15, 2006

in Delhi with Margi

As you can see below from Carolyn's post, Margi's stay in the hospital was a little longer than usual. We will be staying in Delhi a few extra days while she recovers from this particular round of chemo and perhaps a mysterious underlying infection, and then take the overnight train to Dharamsala for the real recuperation.

Kartik picked her up from the hospital and brought her back here to the Prince Polonia. Kartik is a friend of Maya's, who is a friend of Sandy's, and you all know the rest....he is a wonderful storyteller, and regales us with great tales; after hearing of my penchant to pack bottles of water when I travel, he told a story of a famous Indian figure, who, when invited to the Queen's coronation, had 27 (or was it 40? 50? Kartik? I wasn't taking notes; too mesmerized) enormous containers made so that he could fill them with water from the Ganges, where he bathed and drank every day, and still continue to do so when he was far away from his beloved India. He tells us that one of these famous containers is now in a museum.

Margi takes this opportunity to show us her current body of work, and spreads out a series of very new collages, talking about her 2 shows in the fall in Los Angeles. She has decided that she doesn't really have time for cancer; she has shows in the fall. She orders mango lassi each for her and Kartik, I have tea. She allows me to keep the label from my teabag this time; it is my first day here, after all, but she will need any others I collect; she is building dragons, after all.

Margi and I laugh and giggle that afternoon at her favorite restaurant here, the Malhotra, and teaches me how to roll my chicken tikka inside the pita like bread. We talk about Dorland time here in India, each of us working on our own art while seeing each other once or twice a day. She is very spirited and full of life and ideas. She talks about her installation at Rio Hondo; what she can now include there because it is a non-profit venue. Since I started teaching this spring at Rio Hondo, I can describe the space to her; I think it will be an excellent venue for her work.

Haven't done any exploring of Delhi yet; just trying to rest up and get my sea legs back after the 22 hour flight. Thanks to Carolyn for picking me up at the airport, even though her own flight out was just a few hours later. I hope she is thoroughly enjoying her few days in Thailand of r&r before heading back home. How extraordinary you are, Carolyn, to have been here all these months with Margi.

So happy to be here and see Margi's smiling face. And so looking forward to going to Dharamsala. Margi warns me that it will be very crowded in Mcleod Ganj, where we will be staying; the Dalai Lama (spelling?) is doing some teachings here at his Tibetan home in exile. But I hunger to see the mountains. I am looking forward to hiking and painting and giving my lungs some fresher air.


Tuesday, June 13, 2006

chemo #6 almost

well, actually, there hasn't been a chemo #6 yet, since Margi's WBC (white blood count) was too low for them to safely give the chemo. so she had an extra night in the hospital and was given some IV solutions to help boost her system and then will have the chemo today, pending results from the lab.

it is surprising that her count was low, since she seems to be doing ok (no fever, no diarrhea). she did have a couple of tougher days this past time in D'sala with some diarrhea and a short-lived fever, but that had seemed to pass without incident, so it leaves us all a bit perplexed. Margi was thinking that the insecticide spray at the hotel might have contributed to her not feeling so well....just too much for her system to handle with chemo and everything else.

they did a chest xray yesterday, but that was clear. she has been feeling more lightheaded these past couple of weeks, but that doesn't seem to be related to the low WBC count, according to the doctors. when i spoke to her this morning, she was feeling better, so the IV has done something good.

Margi is entertaining herself at the hospital while i am running around trying to do the last minute things before i leave. thank goodness Deane is coming so that Margi will have someone to be with her when i leave! their train tickets have been changed to Sunday night to accomodate the chemo schedule. it will be a hot couple of days for Deane, but there is AC to retreat so i'm sure she'll be entertained with all that is around here.

i've contacted her friends here in Delhi, so they know that she might need some support in the next few days before she leaves for D'sala. and Brian has been alerted as well. so all support is in line!!!! hurray.

it is hard for me to leave at such a point. i was really intending to see her through the last and final chemo and make sure all things were good before leaving. but the wheels are in motion, and i have to get going. i'm glad that i know she is in good hands though, so it will be ok. the Hotel is a wonderful place for her, we have been so lucky.

i will be stateside by the end of June. yikes. i've been in the "Margi bubble" for awhile now, the US will be another shock again.

so now i will be one of the blog watchers waiting for updates and info!
until then,

Saturday, June 10, 2006

Visiting Margi

I leave for India on Tuesday, June 13. I am so looking forward to seeing Margi and seeing this place called Dharamsala that she loves so much.

Lucky me: I own three beautiful Margi collages, and have found myself, these last few months especially, in silent meditation and prayer in front of them. Now, I will get to see the inspiration for "Deluxe India Rose" and "Pencil Road Collage" and take a look at the new work Margi has recently begun.

Penelope's e-mails were invaluable; full of all the practical information I needed to properly plan my trip, while thoroughly answering my many questions. I hope she had a smooth journey home.

Carolyn and I will cross paths for a day; she will be there for chemo #6, and I will arrive just as Margi is ready to leave Delhi for the north. Somehow or other, I will do my best to keep up with Margi, the intrepid traveler and adventurer.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Leaving the mountains

Tomorrow Margi and I will leave Dharamsala for Delhi - me to prepare to fly back to California on Friday, Margi to get ready for chemo #6, scheduled for Monday. Carolyn will join us in Delhi, and will be with Margi through chemo #6 and just after; another California friend, Deane, will join Margi the night of June 14, then train back to Dharamsala with her on June 15, the same night Carolyn flies back to the U.S. It was serendipitous (and very kind) of Deane to reschedule her arrival from June 19 to June 14, to connect with Margi in time to travel with her back to the mountains.

It's been a lovely and rich time for me here. I will think about these three weeks for a long time. Here's a poem written in the first few days of being at Pema Thang Guesthouse. It's based on a partial fallacy (if you look really, really hard, you can see that the blue prayerflags on the horizon actually do still have some words on them, albeit very faded), but I stand by my false premise.


All the words have drained
from blue prayerflags
encircling the guesthouse.

Faded by wind and rain,
they move beyond description.
Line ends tethered to the roof peak

suspend pink yellow green
sheets still wearing pleas,
but on horizon line

turquoise pages float
blank and eloquent
before pines, misty valley.