Precancerousness, Eno hiking, Dolci paintings, some Debussy and Liszt, and support for a plant-based diet
by Rob Tiller
This week I got a one page report that said the polyp removed during my recent colonoscopy was precancerous. I’m not exactly sure what that means. It sounds better than cancerous, but definitely not as good as non-cancerous. Do they really know when something will become cancerous, or is it more like, we aren’t exactly sure, and don’t want to say there’s nothing to worry about? The net seemed to be, it’s good they removed it, because it might not have been harmless. In any case, it’s gone. But instead of the usual ten-year interval for the next colonoscopy, they want me to come back in five. So I’m twice as valuable as the usual patient.
On Saturday morning I drove over to Eno River State Park and hiked in the Fews Ford area. There was frost on the grass, and some ice on the river, but it was sunny and calm. A flock of robins was hunting for breakfast. I stepped carefully on the rocks and didn’t get wet or twist an ankle, and got these pictures.
Afterwards I stopped in Durham at the Nasher Museum to see the Carlo Dolci exhibit. Dolci was a favored court painter for the Medicis in Florence in the 1600s. Apparently he fell out of favor among art critics in the 19th century, and this is the first major exhibit of his work. Dolci apparently was a pious Catholic, and in his work mostly focused on the popular religious subjects of the time, usually with close attention to two or three figures. He had a great color sense, and fanatical attention to detail. And amazing commitment and endurance: some of these paintings took several years to paint.
The Nasher also had a fascinating exhibit of the large bird’s eye view of Venice made in 1500 by Jacopo de’ Barbari. The general accuracy of the aerial view has been confirmed by satellite imagery, so we know this work as a stunning feat of imagination and technical wizardry. The Nasher did a state-of-the-art presentation using several large touch screens that allowed further exploration and play.
That afternoon I had a piano lesson with Olga. At her suggestion, I’ve been working on Debussy’s L’Isle Joyeuse, and contrary to her suggestion, I’ve continued working on Liszt’s Benediction de Dieu dans la Solitude. The Debussy work is about atmospheres, and has some unusual technical challenges, but I can already see that with practice it can be played. The Liszt piece is a labor of love — lots of labor that could only be justified by love. The harmonies are deliciously rich and full of surprises, but it requires a big investment of practice time.
It being the holiday season, we’ve been eating more with friends recently, and the subject of why we’re eating a plant-based diet comes up regularly. It’s always a bit awkward to discuss this at meal time, since the background facts are likely to produce a less cheery vibe for the animal eaters in the group.
But I continue to think a lot about the relation between our food, our ethics, and our health, and I’m always glad to find others willing to discuss those issues. There seems to be growing awareness of the extreme cruelty of industrial animal farming, of the enormous environmental damage this system causes, and of the damage that eating animals and animal products does to human bodies. We recently saw two documentaries on these issues on Netflix, and found them well worth watching. Live and Let Live is a pithy overview of the ethical and health issues involved in eating animals. What the Health focuses on the health benefits of a plant-based diet, and the seemingly willful silence of mainstream health organizations regarding the health problems associated with animal products.