Monday, November 23, 2009


I've been working hard, writing a poemish thing about being on the backside of a local racetrack early mornings from June until the last sad day in November. It's about 140 pages, and I've gone over it a number of times, written a cast of characters and today I'm going to print it out so I can, hopefully, tell whether I've built them up sufficiently over time. And, this weekend I turned fifty or so digital images into small black-and-white photographs of feed buckets and grain bags and hoof prints in the mud. So, I was sitting at the computer a long time doing that and my body does not like sitting or much of anything else, for that matter. 

On Friday, a nice fellow came over to instal InDesign, a program that would allow me to stream text and insert images. I'd already bought the wrong program, not noticing that it was for PC. This time, I'd thought I was golden, but my attempts to upload it didn't work. And neither did his. It turns out that you need an intel processor (or something like that) to upload it and my computer is too old. So, $50 to him and we'll see if I can return the program.  The fortunate thing is that while he was thinking the problem might be my password and in trying to find that program, I found an old Quark. I like Quark, though the fellow told me all sorts of reasons that I shouldn't. Anyway, now I have Quark that he re-installed.

The point of all this is that while I was at the computer on Sunday, I must have turned oddly and pulled out a muscle in my ribcage. At the same time, I had a repeating odd pain in my fat stomach, lower right. When things like this happen, my body goes into hyper alert [reason: my mother died when I was twelve. No one except my father was aware of the seriousness of her illness. Lesson learned -- watch out, be alert, monitor every tiny signal. You never know what's happening.] and I thought I might be dying. I've done this many times, so I know to pace around, because if you're standing up, there's less likelihood of dying. Etc. After some time, I decided I wasn't dying.

It was cleanathon day at Feet of Clay, 11-2. And I planned to be there at ten so L. and I could get the job we always do. But the line at Starbucks was very long, I needed my latte, I was late, we didn't get to do what I wanted to do, but we were washing boards and I told L. about my flirt with fear of death. And she told me that she's been having pains for two years, been looked at and poked at, some odd symptoms, etc. "We're at that age. The question is have you done everything you need to do." Or anyway, it was a phrase like that. She's a Buddhist and I knew she'd done a program about aging, death and has considered just what she has to get finished. And she's pretty well done with what she needs to do. "I could die. I'm finished." 

Well, L. isn't finished. She's about to move to New Mexico and start a new life. She's the most traveling seventy-year-old I know. No matter what pain she has from a cranky body, she's full of energy. But I knew what she means.

And I also know THAT I HAVE FIVE MORE LARGE PROJECTS, thank you, that I NEED to get done. I'm extremely glad that I didn't have to go to the hospital yesterday for the heart attack (yes, that's what I imagined) and that I was able to work for all those hours (even if it was difficult to take a deep breath) and that I am going to print out the text today so that I can work on the track piece.

Yesterday, I talked to Joe, my friend who is a Cuban Thoroughbred trainer, and seriously ill. We're going to breakfast at the Bagel Bin on Wednesday. He told me that his friend, Philippe, maybe sixty-seven, born in Argentina, mother was Sicilian, still exercising riding in the morning, making a living in a business where an ambulance must be present at all times if any horses and riders are on the track -- early morning training and racing, died after being thrown. He died a day or so ago.  Just weeks ago. I just talked to him in the track kitchen, about his son who is working at Walmart in Maine, a job that Philippe thought makes too little money, living with his girlfriend. Oh, Philippe, I'm sorry.


  1. it's a nice contrast, melissa, the story of the woman who has assessed her life and made tidy decisions about what she wants to get finished, and yet still is so full of life energy that she is heading off to start a new chapter--and Philippe, whose life was not at all tidy and who came to an abrupt and messy ending...
    and you, of course, have your father's genes...and lots to do.

  2. Is the fine photo of pocked bark or pocked stone?

    So many things at once. Poor Philippe.

    I too get very nervous about possible medical problems. A doctor told me it was normal.

  3. Wow, what a posting, Melissa.

    It must be something that hits you after fifty, though I've been a tad hypochondriacal (or is it hyperchondriacal?-must be hyper for more, hypo for less, I think)) all my life.

    Losing your mother at twelve is the worst of it. My mother's ninety but I often think she's more clean living than me and hence her longevity. I can't compete.

    Someone once said when faced with a terrible loss, 'at least there's work to do', my sentiments too. So get on with your five large projects and keep standing. You never know, you too might reach ninety and beyond.

    As a child I thought it would be a good idea to die at sixty, these days I think another twenty or thirty years is preferable. Like you I have so much to do.

    So we'd best keep on writing.