Family History

Lund Retreat/Transitions 2021

Thursday, October 21st, 2021

The “Atmospheric river” is still flowing.  The drum solo of rain on the roof hasn’t stopped since arrival here yesterday morning.

 

Before departure from the South Terminal, the agent announced that unless the pilot found a hole in the clouds to allow visibility the flight would go back without landing.  But the young captain with delicate wrists and blond hair flowing over her epaulets brought us in smoothly to the cinder block shack of an airport that hasn’t been improved at least since our arrival here in 1970.

IMG_1473I haven’t yet stopped loving this weather.  The compensation for drought in SLO, the heightened coziness of the wood fire, friendly cats and house’s silence, the 14 hour night and half-light of day inviting intermittent sleep, the absence of stimulation and obligation permit words to flow from thoughts and thoughts to flow from words.

This trip has been intended as a retreat to allow processing of recent events that are taking on the appearance of a life transition. “Retreat” has several associations with this place: its mythic remoteness at the end of the road and the time and expense it takes to get here, the initial retreat from war and society that brought us here from New York in 1970, the  summers of 1996 and 1997 holed up to start and finish my book, “Shakespeare and the Bible,”and the writing and meditation retreat on Cortez Island I attended in 2010.

Meditating hasn’t yet happened here, but this journaling may better serve my purposes.

Life transitions are times when the future seems undetermined, subject to the vagaries of chance and choice, when the present holds promise and danger, when the past reopens.  This one was brought on my long-anticipated retirement from the position of Executive Director of City Farm SLO.  The result of the successful accomplishments of our two young staff members, Kayla and Shane, whose salaries were financed by generous new supporters, it became clear that finally the organization could survive and thrive without me.

At the advice of a canny professional fund-raiser, a campaign was planned to mark the changeover in leadership with a public celebration targeting people of means and influence.  The admission price was $50 along with discreet requests for additional donations. Using a well-tried method for non-profits to generate support and money, the theme was to be a tribute to my past dedication. Kayla focused publicity on her photo of me tending our sheep that recalled the literary archetype of the old shepherd I’d explored 40 years ago in my doctoral dissertation. I sent personalized invitations to all the friends and relatives for whom Jan and I had addresses. (more…)

On the Edge

Wednesday, July 22nd, 2020

July 21

I hear the toilet flush every few minutes.

At dinner tonight, Jan seemed out of sorts and only picked at the meal I’d prepared. She said she’d been having intestinal discomfort all afternoon. When I’d finished, she asked if I could clean up the kitchen so she could lie down.

I went back to the bedroom after I was done and she told me she had bad diarrhea and that she’d looked it up.  That was an initial symptom of Covid 19.  Of course it could be just a stomach flu or food poisoning, since she’d had so little contact with people and was always masked and distant, but who knows.  It was best for me to sleep in my study.

I went back there and read that though not well known, this is a relatively frequent first symptom, especially among the elderly, and that  sometimes it signals a very mild case though sometimes its a prelude to the more serious respiratory symptoms. We will call Dr. Hanson in the morning and try to set up a test.

In the morning I have an appointment to meet Jeff W. at the farm and receive a check for $25,000, the first of two installments of a donation to City Farm by Larry C., whose promise has made the last two weeks some of the most joyful in my life.  They have been filled with plans and prospects and exchanges with all the people associated with the Farm about how this donation, and the possible additional support it can leverage will allow for a campaign to make the place live up to its vast potential within the next two years.  During the same time we have taken on a dynamic new tenant and received word from another quarter of a donation of the money and work to add a 40 tree orchard, along with promises of weed abatement from our neighbors and the City, the commitment of Jen, a highly capable consultant to lead business plan strategizing and a commitment from Josh to help organize a charette for ambitious site development. Also the announcement we were  awarded a  grant from the City Human Relations Commission and the submission of an application for a renewal of our Sprouts Foundation grant.  Also contact from Cheryl at NRCS indicating that she will put in for several EQIP grants for appropriate Farm Projects.  As a result of the concerted efforts of Tree, Shane and me, the vegetable garden has come to full fruit and blossom such that everyone who shows up is astounded. The closest to this I can compare was the news in 1988 that I was hired for the tenure-track job at Cal Poly, a logical, wished-for and seven-year-deferred opportunity to take control of my future and build some long term accomplishments. I’ve been working full time as a volunteer at the Farm an equal amount of time hoping just for this to happen.

But accompanying the excitement has been a  undertone of foreboding.  With the sadness and fear that’s come over the world since last February, how is it possible that I could be so blessed?  With the  powerlessness felt by so many, how can I dare to feel so empowered?

It’s still possible that Jan’s condition could be a false alarm. But unlikely. If not, the grand new changes will be overshadowed by others.

I remain in this space: http://www.stevenmarx.net/2012/06/biopsy/

July 22

Jan sleeps all day and doesnt eat. I make an appointment for COVID test for both of us, for the next day at the Vet’s Hall.  Last time our results were negative.

I’m at Farm on and off.

July 23

Jan wakes up feeling better, but still strange.  We drives separately to the Vets hall for the test. No results available for 4-6 days.  Neither our primary physician nor her nurse is available. Jan sets up protocol whereby we approach only at 6 foot distance, both masked.  She has me set up table beside bedroom door where I leave her food and other stuff.  We communicate mostly by text and email.

I write a thank you letter to Larry outlining plans for use of his donation, ready to send as soon as the check is deposited. Jeff meets me at the farm with the check, I deposit it and send letter, and correspond with Connor about the Tuffshed barn. Jan’s students are submitting their masters’ theses about which she and they have fretted for months. She’s deeply gratified by the results.

July 24

I finalize the Tuffshed order–alot of poor communication with the salesperson. Corey gives me a hard time when I tell him we’ll need his front acre starting January 2021.

I pick 12lbs of peaches at Cal Poly.

I experience slight dizziness, which get me scared.

July 26 8:00 a.m.

Jan organized a Zoom birthday party for herself yesterday and led it from the bedroom, still in quarantine.  Attended by Joe, Amy, Abel, Ethan, Mark, Sonia, Travis, Hana, Dahlia, Claire, Lucas, Gregg and me.  Claire supplied balloons, bday cake and banner.  A lovely time, but a little anxious.

I woke this morning to an email with my test results: negative.  Big relief, especially after hearing yesterday’s Sci-Fri podcast about the long term after-effects of infection.  I’m impatient to hear Jan’s.  She sleeps for another two hours, gets up but her results not sent. We maintain distance.

July 27

At my bathroom run at 2:30 A.M. I see light under the bedroom door where Jan is quarantined.  I dont knock but wonder what’s happening. When I come out at 5:00 she’s still asleep, but as I drink my coffee in the arm chair her door opens and hear her glittering voice: “I got the results.  They’re negative.”

Shelter at Home

Thursday, April 2nd, 2020

[for our  53rd anniversary]

In the living room within these walls
Snug we sit on the softened sofa
And watch the dance of pixels on the screen
Replacing our extinguished hearth.

I recall the cozy chesterfield
Where we cuddled in front of the fire
While the storm roared in the hollow,
Our future but a threatening swirl.

Could we then have seen ahead
Our joy and comfort half a century hence,
Before the plague began to rage,
That moment might have lost its treasured worth

Like this perilous time’s, when every minute counts
When 25 million precious minutes since
Cannot be taken from us
By whatever now our future holds in store.

 

Reminders of the “Good Old Days”

Tuesday, April 9th, 2013

[Updated June 30 2013]

gute alte zeit_2.jpg

Soon after their move to San Luis Obispo in 1989, my parents, Lise and Henry Marx, presented Jan and me with a gift they’d been working on for several years: a collection of German proverbs they had learned from their parents and grandparents.

I remember continually hearing these sayings from my earliest childhood until their final days. Each time one was uttered there was a moment of satisfaction”the speaker pleased to have found a way to make familiar sense out of some new experience and the hearer gratified to grasp the connection.  Growing up as a first generation American, I reacted to these old-world pieties with boredom and embarrassment.

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