The Slow-Cooked Sentence

On my knees

Rachael Conlin Levy

My dad’s battled lung cancer and won, at least for the past six weeks. He’s survived surgery, chemotherapy and radiation, and his lungs are strong and carry no signs of malignant cells. It makes me want to laugh, to sigh, to sob.

Lungs are two vineyards separated by a heart. Inside their lobes, hanging like clusters of grapes from the ends of delicately branching airways, are the lungs alveoli. Here is where the Earth’s gaseous layer and the inside of our body meet.

It is not a small space. (The combined surface area of all 300 million air-filled alveoli — the estimated average for a pair of  healthy adult lungs — exceeds the total area of our skin by a factor of 25. That’s about the size of a tennis court.) But it is an intimate space. The diameter of a human hair is about 70 microns. The width of the alveolar membrane is … one micron. On one side of the micron, atmosphere. On the other, blood. The vanishing thinness of the alveolar boundary is what makes breathing our most ecological act.

— Excerpted from “Saving Elijah” by Sandra Steingraber

Today I tasted the sour-sweet grapes growing on the fence and felt the cool, damp hands of the wind brush my face. A breeze lifted the trees’ branches and I heard the soft exhalation of the world’s breath. Maybe I will use the grapes to make a sourdough, which needs a wild yeast like that found on the dusty skins to get the spongy starter bubbling, or maybe I’ll give them to the crows, an offering for a life so full.

13 responses to “On my knees”

  1. kyndale says:

    He’s a strong man who obviously has more living to do! Love to you and your parents!

  2. Rachael says:

    I agree! Thanks Kyndale.

  3. anno says:

    Wonderful news! Yes, bake the bread. Breathe. Do everything — I can’t imagine a greater blessing. Thanks for letting us know.

  4. Rachael says:

    Thank you, Anno, for your support as I’ve struggled with my response to my dad’s cancer.

  5. Karen says:


    What lovely heart-warming news for you and your family about your Dad!

    Sourdough from grapes. Sounds delicious. I haven’t ever made my own bread but it’s something I must try.

    This is the first time I’ve come to your site so I have a lot to catch up on. I’m looking forward to doing that.

    Thank you for coming to my page and leaving thoughtful comments.

  6. Rachael says:

    Karen, make yourself at home!

  7. Bridget says:

    Wonderful news, Rachael!! I’m so happy to hear this and so happy for your family.

  8. Rachael says:

    Britt, thank you.

  9. gracia says:

    “It makes me want to laugh, to sigh, to sob.”

    Yes! I can imagine it would be all of these things and more to receive such news. Wonderful news for all your family.


  10. Rachael says:

    Gracia, thank you.

  11. Beth says:

    I’m so happy for you and your family! Thank you for sharing the news in such a beautiful way.


  12. Andrea says:

    That is good news! I’m so happy for you and your family.

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