Coming Out

Do you see how far away that rim looks? How do I keep from thinking about that?

I kept looking up at what is called the Redwall, a formidable layer of red stained limestone above me. I could see no path taking me up beyond it and it was towering. After five hours of upward travel, the Redwall seemed like a dead end. The only thing I could think was that if I didn’t stop, if I just kept going, I would eventually get to the top. The mental challenge was every bit as big as the physical. I found myself praying frequently that God would strengthen me to keep moving and I warned him that I would someday ask him to explain this canyon to me. This beautiful, challenging, and mystifying place…

When I looked back over the distance I had already traveled I was aware that I had already come far. But most of my attention was focused on the ground where my next footfall would land. The second half of the Bright Angel Trail, right before the South Rim was a real struggle.

We had started that morning around 6, with cool weather and a possibility of rain. The Silver Bridge took us from the campground to the south side of the river. The trail stayed along the river for a while before heading out of the inner gorge on what the guides called “Devil’s Corkscrew”. It wasn’t as steep or difficult as I had expected and all of our crew made really good time. Again the scenery was powerful with frequent views of the trail below and above us, so three dimensional. Voices carry in the canyon and we could hear other hikers even when they were far away, like in an echo chamber.

Indian Gardens – trees, water, resting places

We reached Indian Gardens around 10 am a little ahead of schedule, and rested. What a beautiful place! Large cottonwood trees thrive around the creek, and green plants were plentiful. I can see why the Indian tribes chose to spend time there in the past. I could have spent more time there but we were urged on – the guides knew there were still 4.5 miles to go, some of it would be in the sun, and some of our group had expended most of their energy and strength.

Our group had spread out by this time and I lost track of my brother and his wife. I had seen them ahead of me and I didn’t want to fall too far behind them. I passed up the next stop at Three Mile because I would have had to come down a hill from the restroom and downhill was still too painful to choose unnecessarily. I skipped the stop at Mile and a Half because of the vicious acting squirrels trying to get people to share their snacks. I had heard squirrels were the most dangerous animals in the canyon and I found that believable. I wasn’t going fast at all – I felt like the only way to go slower would have been to stop. It’s possible I looked pretty wasted because lots of people asked me how far I’d come and tried to cheer me up.

I walked out of the canyon at 12:50 pm. I never did catch up with my family, and I found out it was because they were behind me, not ahead. Hmmm….

The member of our group who had trouble and the guide who stayed with him made it out two hours later. As we collected and went to find food we compared our experiences. My sister-in-law and I both were avoiding painful downward grades and well, we walked funny. We were sore. Both my knees hurt – I had actually taken the brace off the right one and put it on the left. I found out that if I kept walking even though I hurt, pretty soon that hurt would diminish and something else would hurt more. That was one of my more interesting observations about pain.

It was wonderful to know that I could stop walking, and that most of the places I would want to walk were relatively flat. I felt relieved of responsibility that had been impressed upon me numerous times, in books, in words, and on signs – the warning “to go into the canyon is an option, to come out is not”. I had gotten myself in, and with God’s help I was now out.

It’s Happening!

The Adventure Starts

Now the rest of the events will unfold, sort of like the domino that falls and starts the whole line up toppling, one after the other.

Suitcase (and daughter) finally made it.

I consider the adventure to have started yesterday when I left for the Minneapolis airport to fetch youngest daughter to us. It was a successful trip with the usual number of unexpected turns. Her route from Seattle was through Dallas (everyone’s intuitive path…) so the storms there delayed the flight 90 minutes. Then her luggage got put on another plane and we waited another hour for that to arrive. But she made it! We were home by 11 pm.

We have Mother’s Day to celebrate with a family brunch after church today. I have packing to finish and hopefully a relaxing walk somewhere – it is warm and sunny and spring is springing. This evening I will drive back to Minneapolis and hopefully get some sleep before my early flight out to Flagstaff. It seems quite unreal that one week from this moment I will be back here, sitting in this chair probably, having gone through it all.  One week of unknown adventure and unique Grand Canyon views (and possibly physical torture…). It will be over. How does time do that to us?

Birthday to Remember

April 8th, My Birthday 2019

Do you remember any of your birthdays? How you celebrated? A special gift you received? Someone who surprised you with a visit or a greeting of some kind?

I try to have something memorable happen on my birthday most every year, and I’m willing to come up with it and do it alone if no one is available.  This year I didn’t have to do it alone. My mom and I did something together. We got sick.

Food poisoning, but we can’t figure out what it was for sure. I spent the day barely able to move without passing out.  In spite of being very dehydrated, neither of us wanted to risk putting food or drink into our unstable stomachs.  I spent the day crawling from the bed to the recliner and back again. I cancelled the one appointment for the day – the gym – since there was no energy available for training.  In short, it was not the memorable event I had in mind.  I get a rain check, right?

Today is better. We are both on our feet a little more, but still glad not to have a lot to do today. It is amazing how dependent we are on vital elements, like water. Take away ten pounds of water weight, and I’m barely able to function.  It definitely reminds me of my episode of dehydration on the Appalachian Trail and the recent D post I wrote on dehydration. 

It all makes me think of how we are designed, with enough flexibility to cover the usual ups and downs of life. Most of the time we don’t have to think about how much we’ve eaten or not eaten, or whether we’ve had enough to drink. Food and beverage are available to us on a pretty regular basis, leaving us free to worry about lesser things.

But there are places in this world where it is not so.  What must it feel like to live in a body that is little more than skin and bones, where there is no food or water to be had?  It happens in our own country, where being homeless or in poverty can make it so difficult to be fed with something nutritious.  I was overcome with weakness, loss of motivation, pain and the need to rest somewhere safe.  I can’t imagine being out on the street in a city, or out in a desert village in Africa and trying to survive under those conditions.

I am grateful that I was at home yesterday, recovering slowly as I watched birthday greetings come in on Facebook. I got a delivery of flowers, several cards and a book I had ordered in the mail, a visit from my brother and his kind delivery of some Pedialyte.  I have reasons to remember this birthday, just sayin’…

The Grocery Walk

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One of the nicest things about living in a small town is how close I am to almost any kind of service I need or want. In the few months I have lived here I have thought on this many times. Take today, for instance. And honestly, you could take today, because it was almost a waste for me, due to a headache that hijacked my afternoon. If it had not been for my evening grocery walk, I wouldn’t have much good to say about this Monday.

I emerged from “headache fog” late in the day to be reminded by the husband that we had no milk. I thought of a few other things that should be on the list and decided to go shopping after supper. Walmart is literally in our backyard, and a second grocery store is about a half mile away, so I took my back pack and walked in search of food.

The store farthest away had one of the items I most wanted to get, so I went there first. The cool air and the act of moving myself rhythmically felt very restoring. It reminded me of the “contemplative walking” I had heard about in doing research for my upcoming Grand Canyon hike. Walking does give me time to think, and thinking makes the distance go so fast. There is also the benefit that I see things with time to look at them, unlike when I’m driving past.

I walked past Lake Hayward where a pair of Canadian geese were already looking for a nesting spot on the small area of open water.  The sidewalks and roadsides were covered with dirt left by the melting snowbanks. I passed numerous office buildings, my favorite clothing store, and Dairy Queen.  I wondered if an ice cream would be good for someone who had just had a headache for hours…

It didn’t take long to make my purchases at Marketplace and load up the coleslaw dressing, the organic bananas and the oatmeal in the backpack. It is a good thing that I’m carrying some weight on my walks because I’m supposed to be training that way – again for the Grand Canyon hike.  (Can you tell that I’m getting a little obsessed with this hike? It’s a bucket list item and I want to do it right.)

Passing Dairy Queen again, I decided to check the DQ app on my phone and, sure enough, I had a coupon for a $.50 cone.  I was feeling kind of guilty for not having change with me and having to use a credit card for that small amount, when I checked in my pocket and realized the credit card was no longer there.  By now I should realize that when I pull one thing out of my pocket, the phone, more than one thing sometimes comes out – it’s not the first time this has happened to me.  I knew it had to be a few yards back, on the sidewalk, but even so I was surprised to find it.  It’s a strange feeling to see something you normally guard with your life, glinting in the sun in the distance on the dirty sidewalk.

I thank God, I did get my $.50 ice cream cone and it was good.

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The last stop, Walmart, added milk, celery, and raspberries to my pack. A short distance later I was home again.

Why am I writing about this? Because it amazes me and makes me feel noticed when God allows a simple thing to come along and brighten my attitude.  Often, he uses a change of scenery, getting outdoors and doing something active to restore and help me feel better when I’ve felt miserable.  There will always be times in my average life that are not so great, but God balances them and somehow leaves me feeling blessed and aware of his kindness towards me. It doesn’t take much.

Inner Child

I am very much in touch with my inner child.  The “kid” inside loves mystery, loves playing outside, loves activity, adventure and all that stuff I used to be a part of when I was ten.  I think that’s why I love playing with kids when I get a chance.  I love it when I see them really having fun, being inventive and using their imagination. I especially enjoy when they are old enough to talk about what’s on their mind.

This last week children were visiting next door and I got to play. They were trying their hardest to enjoy the snow but they needed a sled and I had noticed one in the attic. I knew they liked animals so I introduced them to Scruffy the dog and had them join us on a walk. And on their last day to play we walked through the deep snow to see the hidden fort in the brush pile out in the wetlands. We sat inside on the carpet of dried grass and rushes and marveled at the construction, how “cool” it was. Kids love forts.

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Except for this entrance, it’s just looking like a big brush pile.

However, most kids also love playing with fire at some point in their growing up years. And it was this thought that had been bothering my brother since last fall. Knowing that quite a few people, many still school age children, were aware of the fort and its “coolness” he was always imagining the horror it would be to have the fort go up in flames with someone in it. The wood was tinder dry and the winter air had made it even more ready to burn quickly. He decided it was time to return to his original plan of burning the brush pile.

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The inner sanctum with its bed of dried grasses.

Around suppertime, I went out to say goodbye. I took pictures, crawled inside the fort and sat for a while. I took the small tin that had been left there as a souvenir. There was a little war going on in me – the inner child was having a small tantrum.

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The first match…

Later, with my brother and his wife, I watched the flames eat the brush pile nearly flat. It was a glorious fire, hot and fast. One match to the inside of the fort made quick work of the bed of dried grass and I could understand the wisdom of getting rid of a fire hazard.  It was a pretty sweet fort and it was fun just knowing it was there, while it lasted. But it was time. My adult self was glad that potential danger was going to be averted.  As an adult I’ve learned to ignore tantrums, even my own.

 

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My souvenir, all that’s left to remind me of an excellent fort.

I’m saving this little tin as inspiration. This is a rather large property with a lot of interesting wooded areas and I’m already getting ideas on where the next fort should be. Long live the inner child. Just sayin’…

Winter is so great…

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Today I found out who (not a bird) had discovered the bird feeder. He comes from somewhere via an under-the-snow tunnel to the area beneath the feeder where the birds have tossed out a lot of sunflower seeds. I think he got tired of hunting in the snow and decided to go for the source. It was fun to watch him hang upside down by his back feet while chewing. He looked skinny.

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Following the drifted trail, which at this point I can still see.

The snow is really deep out there in the untrodden places. I decided to take a snowshoe walk today because it was relatively warm, with a clear blue sky and sunshine. It was odd at five o’clock to still have plenty of daylight, thanks to Daylight Savings Time, and thanks to spring which is just around the corner, I’m sure.

I so, so, so wish I could have had a video of this excursion to cheer me someday when I’m living in the nursing home.

I set out following a drifted trail that had been packed down by several previous walks, but it disappeared rather quickly. The last snow and the accompanying wind had drifted it over and there was nothing except innocent looking whiteness to indicate where I should walk. The field was wide, the trail was narrow. I lost it completely.

At the point in my walk where I was as far from the house as I was going to go, it started getting frustrating. Every step was putting me in snow up to my knees, in spite of having snowshoes on. I had to pick my feet up high and with the weight of the shoes and the snow clinging to them – kind of like working out with weights on your ankles. I started looking for the beeline back to a plowed area, but it looked equally far in all directions.

Then I started experiencing unsteadiness. The snow was giving way unevenly and my shoe would tip to one side or the other, or go toe-down so steeply that it would throw me off balance. This is how I ended up in a rather deep, soft hole with my face in the snow and my feet up higher than my body. Pushing one’s self up does not work well when you can’t find a “bottom” to push against. My arms sank in even deeper than my legs. Did I mention that the snow is really deep now?

Luckily, there were no hungry carnivores chasing me. Actually, I saw no animal tracks at all today proving that the other animals were smarter than I was and either found a path or stayed put. If you’ve never had to get yourself up from this kind of position, you have no idea of how difficult the logistics are. I tried several different tactics before finding one that worked, and once up, I made sure not to fall again. I did a lot of stopping and measuring the distance with my eyes… closer that way? No? Maybe this way? Maybe it’s time to call my brother for that snowmobile ride he’s been promising me? No, too embarrassing.

It felt ridiculous to be talking myself down from pseudo-panic when I was within sight of a dozen houses. I knew it was just a matter of trudging on until I could climb the last snowbank and get on a road, which I finally did.

I would have paid someone to give me a workout like that, and it was free! This is me, convincing myself that winter is so great. Yeah, so great, I love winter. No more walks like that, just sayin’…

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Isn’t it pretty out here? And this is not even where the snow was REALLY deep.

Thoughts on Extended Winter

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I am thumbing through the photos on my phone – the ones taken out the living room window.  They are mostly black and white because those are the only hues out there most days, snow and not-snow.  The “Charley Brown” pine tree, sorry little thing, is my yardstick on which the snow level creeps up and up, storm after storm.  We have lost all sight of the shrubs planted around the condos. Everyone’s attention is being drawn to the heavy snow loads on their buildings, and guessing how many warm days it will take to melt the huge snowbanks. It is snowing again today.

And so goes the winter in Wisconsin. It is much as I imagined it would be. I am amazed that people lived here for ages without modern heat and shelter, and I suppose some still do. I have my own childhood memories of our family around the oil stove in the living room, and ice building up on the insides of the windows. How different it is now. Our two-bedroom condo is often too warm. We walk around inside in our bare feet, and even our car is warm and ready to go in the attached, heated garage.

It’s been a winter of doctor’s appointments. I think that’s what we did in January, although my memory doesn’t serve me well when the days and weeks are all so similar. February was marked by the big international ski race held in our area, followed by my aunt’s health crisis and several days in the hospital with her, followed by my own winter cold/flu and ensuing isolation. March has brought a return to the time change – we “sprang ahead” an hour this morning. When it stops snowing we will have a couple hours of playing in the snow, plowing out and shoveling.

While we are experiencing winter, the larger experience has been learning to live with “our” changing health status.  Because of this diagnosis the husband has received, Lewy body dementia, we are constantly surrounded by the fight to understand and reverse the disease. No detail of his bodily condition has gone unexamined, and since his way of processing his thoughts is to talk about them, we are all kept aware of each day’s change or lack thereof. He is very aggressive, or proactive about his condition and spends much of his time looking up research papers and discussing them with his brother. We discuss how it wears on us and colors our days, but there is very little else for him to put his thoughts on. I have some understanding of his preoccupation and can’t say that I wouldn’t be searching the same way if I were the one with LBD.

I am trying hard to save some attention for the many blessings that come along with winter isolation. There have been good conversations with Mom and my Uncle Wendell and Aunt Lois. They are my elders who hold much of the family history in their memories and are happy to discuss it.  I’m also very thankful for the many faceted relationship with my youngest brother and his family. They are my closest friends who share activities and meals, joys and sorrows, concerns and silly moments. I am often comforted with their words and aware of us having thrown our “soul anchors” in the same deep waters.

It helps me to write about my new life, and although the words don’t often appear here in my blog, they are being written. There will be a time and a place for them.  I have much encouragement in my writing life, having joined a group of writers whose theme is hope, always hope. The snowbanks are high and it may be June before they are completely gone, but spring is coming. Change is the unchangeable characteristic of the future and keeps me curious and ready to experience more. Bring it on, just sayin’…

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Up North: Polar Vortex

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My super warm (super crazy) hat, drying out by the door.

Wanting to get my definitions down “cold”, I looked up the word vortex. It’s a whirling mass of water or air that sucks everything into it’s center.  I’m guessing that the word polar means the air is circling around the pole, North pole in this case. We’ve all seen the maps on the weather reports about the circle dipping down into regions it doesn’t usually affect. That’s what happened this last week.

I don’t want to make light of a weather event that resulted in loss of life. Those things that come unexpectedly like storms, tornadoes, tsunamis, forest fires, etc… and catch people off guard are always going to be a problem for the unprepared. But frankly, we hardly noticed the vortex here in Hayward.

It’s winter and everyone expects it to be cold. When it’s more dangerous than usual, a few things get cancelled and we stay inside a little more. The one outstanding consequence for us, particularly the husband, was that even the mail delivery was cancelled one day. Obviously, whoever made up that postal creed about “neither snow, nor rain, nor heat, nor gloom of night can keep these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds” did not live in northern Wisconsin. Nope.

The polar vortex was here for about three days. On one of them we had an appointment with a nurse at the court house. She was there as usual. We got in our vehicle, which is kept in a heated garage, and drove there and kept our appointment with no difficulty.  On the way out of the building I noticed that someone had ridden their bike there and parked it in the bike rack. Personally, I wouldn’t have done that in below zero temps, but that just shows you what people do up north when they have to.

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The weather station. 74 – 32 is 42, right? I don’t know why they make us do the math.

My biggest decision these days is whether I want to be too warm when I’m in the house or too cold on my frequent, but brief, trips outside.  Almost all days I wear two layers on my legs, wool socks and shoes with a good thick sole. I do layers on the top too, but count on shedding them inside. Sweatshirts, down shirts, fleece jackets are hanging in the closet, handy, and on the backs of chairs, on the beds – wherever I happen to be when I get too hot.  Sometimes when I get an irritating flash of heat, I look at our indoor/outdoor weather station and it will be 78 degrees or higher inside.  What a problem to have…

People like the husband, who are pretty much limited to walking as their form of exercise, have it rough in this weather.  We don’t have an exercise bike or treadmill that he’s comfortable with, so I have to take him somewhere to walk. We go to the local hospital where the hallways are wide, with handrails and frequent places to sit, eat or use the rest room. We can walk for nearly a mile if we visit all the connected clinics and facilities. They are getting accustomed to seeing us at the assisted living Bistro where we often stop and have lunch. They serve the best $3 soup and sandwich in Hayward.

One of our oft-used mottos up here is “if you don’t like the weather you’re having, wait a few minutes for it to change”. This weekend it’s supposed to be 41 degrees and raining. It will probably get icy and melt some of this nice, dry snow. I’m actually hoping they’re wrong and it will stay below freezing.

I know I looked forward to our first winter back in Hayward – the afternoons reading, the evenings sitting by the fire with my knitting, the quiet snowfalls, the dazzling white, bright and sunny days. I’m trying to think of those things instead of wondering when the lilacs will bloom, or when the garden can be started. It’s best to stay “in the moment”. Just sayin’…

Happy January 14th

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I have an orange envelope with pics of me and the husband, including these that are seen very seldom. Hmm… even then I was driving.

Anniversary Eve (January 13th)

Tomorrow afternoon, we will have been married 46 years.  This has been an eventful year, with retirement for the husband, an interstate move and our house going up for sale, and then a diagnosis of Lewy Body Dementia that the husband was not expecting.

We may have many more anniversaries. But however many there are, we have this one to look forward to. We have an appointment with a lawyer in a nearby city, to discuss estate planning. As long as we are there, it will be nice to stay in a hotel and not to have to make the two-hour drive home.  As long as we are staying for the night, we are going to dinner at a nice steakhouse as a celebration. It is all planned and will be more of a “night away” than we have had for a long time.  It’s just hasn’t been something that we find ourselves doing.

It will be a celebration of another sort as well. Today we got the first real paper offer on our home in Florida.  It’s been over six months on the market and this is the first offer we have had, although there have been lookers. It is the kind of family we had been hoping for, and although we feel we must make a counteroffer, we are hoping to come to an agreement with them. In a little over a month we could possibly be closing the sale. I have been looking forward to this for so long! (at least it seems like a long time).  It would solve several other problems as well if this could come to closing. Prayers appreciated.

The husband has not been feeling well, but he is pretty certain he will feel better tomorrow. Don’t ask me how he knows.  It’s as much a spiritual/emotional matter as it is physical, although it involves physical discipline to keep to the diet that he wants to be on.  I am hoping the restaurant will have at least one good keto meal to choose from so he can enjoy the evening.  I chose a hotel that has no stairs to climb and a nice hot tub to soak in. That should also be a treat, if he has the energy for it.

Things do fall in place at some point. I am glad it is now, or at least seems to be now. I know we could yet be disappointed, but I’m taking care not to find out until after our anniversary. Congratulations to us. We are in it for the long haul.

 

 

 

 

My Uncomfortable Life (and how God uses it)

I love to play the piano.

I am not a virtuoso, but I have played enough over the years, that I can relax and enjoy expressing myself through music.  I’ve played hymns in churches most of my life, and always offer to do so when I move to someplace new.

And so it happened that I offered to play for the church that I am attending here, “up north”. and am collecting quite a collection of piano stories with a common theme. Embarrassment.  It’s got me thinking.  But, as always, what I let myself think is important. Humility and embarrassment are related, but not quite the same and that is where the importance starts.

This morning I arrived early enough for church that I could make sure the electronic instrument, a clavinova, was plugged in, turned on and sounded appropriate for the small early service. I only had to play for the communion portion of the service – one hymn.  All was set.  The service went well, the message was moving and the invitation was given for communion. To my surprise, when I started to play there was a pop drum beat and a very weird bass thing going on with my reverent, calm hymn.

I hunted for any button on the control board that had STOP written on it, and tried several times to make the hymn sound like a hymn, but no. What finally came out of the machine was barely recognizable and was probably more distracting than having no music at all.  Stuff like this is a musician’s nightmare.

This particular service is early, 8 am, and has small attendance, so the music crew does not do a lot of practice for it.  Other times when I’ve participated, I have played the wrong song at the right time, played the right song at the wrong time, and played when I was not supposed to play at all.  I suppose the regular attendees are getting kind of used to me and my uncomfortable adventures.

I am filled with mixed emotions. Why do these things keep happening? It always takes a bit of courage to put myself in a place of service to others where what I do is noticeable if I do it poorly. I am aware that music sets the mood and can influence people. I desperately (yes, desperately!) want to not distract people from their worship, or make them uncomfortable because they are worried about me.

On the other hand, I realize that music is not what it’s all about.  Worship is not about me at all and how I respond when things go poorly is what God is probably watching. What does my embarrassment lead to? What discouraging messages am I giving myself about my performance, my usefulness? Will I be intimidated and unwilling to serve again? Those would not be good choices. However, I have to consider that God might be telling me that my time playing for church is finished.  Maybe I am to move on to something else, and it would be okay.  It has to be okay. Kind of makes me look at my pride issues and wonder what God wants to teach me next.  That is always a good thing.

This morning, the pastor asked me what I was going to write about next.  I had no idea then, but God inspires in strange ways and look what happens. Just sayin’…

 

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Bottom line – I can always make music in my heart, and maybe that’s the best place for it…