“I will take a little bag of prairie dirt. I cannot take the sky.


Pre Op cycst/tumor

Pre Op cycst/tumor




tie-dye brain

broken egg

grandma Bertha’s broken egg

6.26 scan

most recent scan 7.26.2013

I have on one bookshelf a collection of favorite books from the early times of raising Hannah and Libby. Fond memories of the family: Laura, dogs ZuZu and Gracie curled up in bed, the girls squealing with anticipated delight as the familiar story lines unfolded. “Caps! Caps for Sale! Fifty cents a cap! shouted the peddler.” Or the tactile serenity of The Snow Tree. The lupine beauty of Miss Rumphius. The mettle of Katy and the Big Snow. The Wild Party of the Barnyard Dance. Tikki Tikki Tembo. We’re Going On a Bear Hunt. The Christmas Reindeer. And many more. But there is one book, What You Know First which pulls my heart right out front. With simple text and exquisite artwork, the story is as much about going away as it is about going somewhere. It is about loss, fear, wonder, love, family and the longing for a sense of place. It is one of my favorite books and also one of the saddest I know.


I am a passionate person. Our best qualities can also be our downfall. I have to be careful lest I get swept up and carried away by the high tide, left to drown in the ocean. Or just simply pulled every which way by rip currents, ultimately dragged over the coral, smashed against the rocks. When I was a child, on the beaches of Avalon, New Jersey I was once swept away by a rip current. I remember seeing my family ashore and realizing that I was being carried off. I yelled to them. They could not hear me. I was getting tired from fighting the water’s force. A calm washed over me. I had this sensation that I was about to let go. Not give up, but to let go. To slip into the deep. And it was OK, This dream state was interrupted when I was rescued by a lifeguard. I was probably eight or nine.

Letting go. The egg. That was grandma Bennett’s egg. She was a china painter. The date was 1972 so I was 5 when she painted it for me. I have other items she painted from her large shop of china, imported from Japan, France, Portugal and her travels around the world. But the egg was special. This and a small mug with a dutch boy with my name she had painted for me. Somehow, over all these years the egg and the mug survived.

I don’t know what to make of omens except to say I suppose we find messages and meaning when and where we need them most. When the egg casually, and, as if by its own force, rolled off of my bureau, I watched in slow motion as it fell and smashed to the wooden floor. I put the pieces in a bag. Rather than try to glue it back, I think I might bury them. Omen? My health continues to challenge, vex, harrass as one might discern from the images indicates a fourth surgery, a cyst now removed and build up of CSF ( cerebral spinal fluid) causing pressure. I will know more soon. The challenge is that because of the uniqueness of the tumor ( grade III anaplastic astrocytoma/ependymoma) there aren’t any clinical trials nor treatment protocol.

Recently I spoke with a woman at a conference who was walking in the same direction as I. Within two minutes she asked if I had taken the Lord Jesus as my Savior after finding out about my cancer. I kindly shared that I had not done so but that I thought that he sounded like a pretty cool guy from what I had heard. She didn’t miss a beat and then asked me where I sought spirituality. I replied that this is a life journey, that I was willing to consider any point of view, that my Quaker schooling and Jewish upbringing informed some but not all of my views and that my place of peace is in nature, on a ski trail, a hiking trail, sleeping beneath the stars or floating in the ocean. Nature was my cathedral.

Expecting her to take me further down the Jesus road, she simply smiled, shared that when we are in the natural world we ARE in the presence of God. That sounded good to me, whatever God means. Finally, as we reached the doors to the conference she shared that she had had open heart surgery and that she felt that this health challenge had been a wake-up call and opportunity for her to get right with the lord. Amen to that sister. Amen to that. LET THE MYSTERY BE! David Byrne and Natalie Merchant



About moosevt

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10 Responses to “I will take a little bag of prairie dirt. I cannot take the sky.

  1. Wendy Whitman says:

    What a beautiful, lyrical, heartbreaking, riveting story you have to tell. I follow your journey with bated breath, hoping for good news, trying with all my strength to send positive energy to you. Since I started reading your blog in June, I have thought about you often, even though we have had no contact since high school. Your blog touches, teaches and inspires many, many people, probably more than you imagine. Thank you for that.
    I hope and wish and even pray (it can’t hurt!) for your good health, continued strength, and well being.

  2. humanekt says:

    Sending you much love, Mark. As always.

  3. Beth Nikles says:

    Well, here is yet another skipping rock hop on your unbelievably quirky, wild, jam packed to the hilt and overflowing, zig zaggity, passionate, brilliant……path through life! You manage to experience each minute of each hour of each day in such a frenetically unique and wonderfully all-observant state, osmosing everything around you, storing all of these minuscule atom-like mini bits of life rushing over, around, and past you, and then recalling them, sitting only long enough to share them so beautifully with all around you. You are blessed with wonderful daughters, great parents, supportive and dear friends, and you are, God knows, one incredibly great guy and such a talented writer! We are all so blessed to know you! You keep on reaching out, writing, and teaching us to see so much through your eyes! Write! Share! Teach! Write! Write! Keep writing your story! We are all holding you in our hearts and battling right there, alongside of you! God Bless You! Love you, Beth, Ed, Diane and Dave, Denise and Ed, Jr xoxo P.S We look forward to your return to visit us at the lake!

  4. Jean E. Brown says:

    Thinking of you – as always – jean

  5. Laurie Fichter says:

    Mark- I think of you often and of the beautiful and wise girls you have raised in this crazy world. You have done a lot right, but your daughters are your masterpieces! Love to you all-

  6. Alli Lubin says:

    I think of you constantly, but most especially when I am enjoying the consummate pleasure of listening to great music. Peace continue to be with you. Sending a steady stream of love your way always.

  7. Carlotta says:

    Mark, sending loving, peaceful thoughts your way as I sit in the calm and serenity of early morning, birds twittering, sun coming through the mist, family still asleep.. You’re a powerful force of nature yourself, and I admire your energy and your ability to find peace. xo Carlotta

  8. Eric Aho says:


    Message sent from a mobile device.

  9. Sue Bingaman says:

    We didn’t know each other well but I have always felt that we are kindred spirits.
    Although we have moved to California to be near our “kids”…(.45 and 46 years old) and their kids I continue to read your blog and to think about you as you write your blog. I identify with your finding peace and completeness in nature and I see how the music you employ on your blog expresses your thoughts and feelings. I say go with it!
    Life is moments and it seems that you have discovered that doing all you can and being in relationships with people who enrich your life.
    Keep up the thinking and writing!
    Peace be with you always,

  10. Mark Drexelius says:

    Moose – I am having dinner with another Moose later in August. He is a dear friend of my father in law’s, and is bringing over a capon (apparently a castrated gamecock) to cook in my kitchen. I have never had a capon. Looking forward to trying it out. Aug 2 is always a hard day for me. It is the day my second eldest brother was born back in 1955. He died before he reached 20 after a very short and very aggressive bought of cancer when I was only 6. The thing is, my brother Joe may have physically left me when I was six, but he was with me while I figured my way through grade school. He was with me when I graduated high school, and he was most certainly with me as I made my way through my adventures at Ham Tech. He watched over me while I flew half way around the world and spent two strange years in the land of the rising sun, and he was there for everything I have ever done. You will likely outlive all of us, and rest assured, you will always be with those who hold you most dear. If you can find it, find a copy of the Flower Does Not Talk. I read it for Prof Williams class for Advanced Asian Religions. I think you will find it a beautiful and peaceful read. All the best. Drex

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