Alysa Cummings: Spirit of Spring

Alysa Cummings, Group Facilitator for LBBC’s writing workshop series Writing the Journey, shares a seasonal excerpt from her recently published cancer memoir, Greetings from CancerLand,  in February’s first submission to Living Beyond Breast Cancer‘s Writer’s Corner.

LBBC_WritersCorner

Spirit of Spring

Excerpt from Greetings from CancerLand: Writing the Journey to Recovery

Six brown paper bags, stuffed almost to bursting, sit at the bottom of my basement steps. Long empty of groceries, each bag is filled with another sweet necessity entirely. I inspect these bags every time I pass by – even as I struggle with armloads of laundry on my way to the washing machine. I confess I just can’t help myself.

I think about what’s inside these bags and it always makes me smile.

These six brown bags have been hiding in my dark unfinished basement since early November. I remember packing them the night of the first fall frost, using sections of the Sunday Inquirer as insulation from the basement dampness. I look at the bags in my basement day after day, week after week, through the cold winter months and think the same thought over and over again: spring is coming.

It’s all about time, actually. Time passing. Looking forward in time. It’s quite intentional on my part. Ritualistic, even. You see, I look at the six brown paper bags and mentally project myself to springtime.

Maybe it’s just that time of year right now. All these months of cold, grayness and snow; oh yes, I’m more than a little winter weary. Somehow this brown bag ritual serves me, gets me through. Keeps me upbeat and hopeful, believing that spring will arrive and that I will be here to celebrate the season again.

Cummings-Alysa_mediumDuring the third week of March, these six bags will make the trip up the stairs, out of the dark, into the light, through the house and outside to the turned over and weeded perennial beds in the backyard. For the occasion, I plan to eagerly break out a fresh pair of gloves, slip into my most comfortable stained and well-worn gardening sneakers and (drum roll, please) break open the bags.

By mid-March it’s high time to check on the health of my collection of canna bulbs. Some will have rotted, unfortunately, but the majority will be pushing out pale green shoots; ready for planting in my garden. Early spring is the time to get these bulbs back in the ground so that, come July, there will be an amazing field of five foot plus high plants with wide tropical fronds and enough brilliant tomato red colored flowers to stop traffic.

I started this cycle of planting and digging up canna bulbs the summer after my cancer diagnosis. Now (happily) heading into year fifteen of my cancer journey, this bulb-in-the-basement routine is a conscious part of my survivorship strategy. I recommend it highly to my fellow green-thumbed survivors!

Until the buds start peeking out on the trees, until temperatures creep above 32 degrees, keep your heart and spirit as warm as you can. And as we all wait for the official arrival of spring on March 21st, please keep in mind the wise, often quoted words of Hal Borland, “No winter lasts forever, no spring skips its turn. April is a promise that May is bound to keep.”

Living Beyond Breast Cancer will host another Writing the Journey Series this Spring, hosted by Alysa Cummings. And the good news is that there will be two different Writing the Journey groups in Spring 2013 – one in Cherry Hill, NJ and one in Haverford, PA.  Check back to the LBBC Blog for more insights from Alysa Cummings and future Writing the Journey creations.  You can purchase your own copy of Greetings from Cancerland, on Amazon.com!

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4 Responses to “Alysa Cummings: Spirit of Spring”

  1. Susan Says:

    Reading your story early this morning, I’m deeply moved. I am also a nine year survivor of breast cancer, although metastatic immediately. I plant canna lilly bulbs every year, and I bought mine the day after my first chemo at a swap meet in my community in Montreal. I had totally forgotten this coincidence. The tears rolling down my cheeks this morning, were tears of joy, that I am still here enjoying every spring, planting those canna lilly bulbs. Thanks for the reminder.

  2. Debra Mathias Says:

    That is a great story. A lady near my home gave me many one year, 6 years after my diagnosis and treatment. Love Canna Lillies. Unfortunately only 3 survived and I planted those. However after reading your story I am going to buy some this spring and start the ritual myself. Thank you for sharing. I am a 9 year survivor of breast cancer and I try to live each day to it’s fullest. Again, thanks.
    Debra Mathias.

  3. johngarnand Says:

    I was directed to your post by way of Facebook – and I am glad to have found it.

    Your words are inspiring and they really hit home. I am a Cancer Caregiver, and was my loved one’s primary caregiver during her 9-year battle with Breast Cancer.

    A huge part of caregiver (in my opinion) is learning how to spend time together, and not focus on the disease. Focusing on the joy and simple beauty can sometimes be forgotten.

    This is definitely something caregivers and their loved ones could do together – I plan on recommending this to others.

    Thank you.

  4. Jarred Wead Says:

    I am not sure where you are getting your information, but great topic. I needs to spend some time learning much more or understanding more. Thanks for great info I was looking for this information for my mission.

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