Day of the Jaeckel

It’s been years since I walked for a cause – the three day, 60 miles breast cancer walk. Today I joined my brother and his wife and a couple hundred other people from our small community to walk a 5k for ALS.

John Jaekel is a Haywardite, former coach and educator at the high school, and friend and neighbor to most everyone he meets. He is also one of the longest survivors of ALS and a spokesperson for the cause all around the state of Wisconsin. The walk was started by his family and other supporters around four years ago and has become a regular event in Hayward.

We met at the Lutheran Church in town where John is a member, and went inside to look at the silent auction items. There is no fee to join the walk, so the auction is the fund raising portion of the morning. There is an online auction as well as the one we saw, and many Hayward businesses and individuals were represented there. I bid on a small piece of furniture. Lumber from the lumber company, 2 months membership at the local gym, hair cuts and beauty supplies, art and specialty food items, and tickets to Packer games(!!!) as well as other creative and tempting offerings were up for bid.

The walk was leisurely, led by John Jaekel himself in his motorized chair. There were parents with small children in wagons and strollers, elderly people being pushed in wheelchairs, and all ages in between. The weather was cooperative, actually could not have been more perfect. I’m not kidding, there were cheerleaders and encouraging signs along the route.

One family walking close to me came from a city 80 miles away to join the walk. They had lost a brother to ALS the year before and knew John through the support network they had been in together. I didn’t get to talk to John but it was clear that he was a beloved member of the community and had been successful in stirring people to action. One of the signs along the route pointed out that the purpose of the walk was to make sure that someday there wouldn’t have to be any walks. Research toward a cure is the goal.

At the end of the walk, volunteers at the church had breakfast ready for all the walkers. Someone had upped the ante on my table bid, so I pushed it up a little higher. I didn’t get it but it went for a better price and that was good.

This was a day to walk and talk with others, over a common interest – that of helping people like John Jaekel and others who are battling als. I admire his enthusiasm and dedication, and wish him well. I thank him for bringing our community together around a good cause.

The Lake and the Swimmer

8-17-2019

The Lake and the Swimmer

I went through this day feeling like it would have been a perfect day to be at the lake. It was warm, sunny and the weekend. But for me, the most pressing reason was that “almost fall thing” that you can’t quite put your finger on, but you know it when you feel it. People are talking about school starting, goldenrod is blooming, there is a branch here and there with some color starting – scary stuff when summer is short, sweet, and you haven’t been out to the lake enough.

There were, however, other plans for the day. They were good ones and I enjoyed them right up until 7pm when company was gone, the kitchen cleaned up, and I was finally seated in my chair, still thinking about the lake. I felt kind of sad for a minute, and then it dawned on me that the day was not over yet for another hour. The lake was out there, and I could go. Sometimes I forget I’m a grown up and don’t have to wait for permission, just sayin’.

It’s only seven miles from town to Round Lake, which doesn’t sound like very far now, but seemed like a significant distance when I was a kid. I drove out to the Narrows, a public beach on Round Lake Peninsula at the place where the peninsula is so narrow that you can access water on either side of the road. One side is a boat landing and the other a swimming beach.

When I was young, I felt kind of like my family owned that beach because we went there so often. It was about a mile from our farm and almost every hot day we were there cooling off. Sometimes it was after a sweaty, dusty day helping put up hay. Sometimes it was after milking the cows. The neighbors would come by on their way to the beach and we would throw our inner tubes in the back of the truck and go with them. Sundays after church, we would picnic with other families and spend time water skiing, and swimming until we were “pruney” with wrinkles and blue around the lips from the cool water.

In later years, signs with rules were posted. A chain link fence was added to keep kids from running across the road in front of cars. More people frequented the beach, from town and the nearby reservation and it began to seem more crowded. I swam there less often. When I would walk or drive past it, it seemed smaller than I remembered. The buoy wasn’t out as far, maybe, and there wasn’t as much sand to spread a blanket on. It’s been thirty years away and time will do that to a person’s perspective. I know that.

Tonight, there were some cars in the parking lot with boat trailers but no one was at the swimming beach. I was so glad. It was almost seeming like a spiritual experience to me, one that I didn’t really want to share. I swam and it was still cold. I took pictures because it was still beautiful, the water my favorite shade of blue, the sand my favorite brown, the woods my favorite shade of green. Swimming out to the buoy and looking back to shore, the distance seemed greater, more like I remembered.

I was out, drying off and about to say farewell to the water when I noticed a swimmer far out on the bay. The person came closer until it was obvious he was headed to the beach where I was standing. From watching him swim I knew he appreciated the lake, maybe even loved it like I did. I even knew that it would be easy to talk to him about it. We talked for half an hour like we had been friends for years.

Paul was his name. His dad had died a few weeks earlier. He was having trouble getting settled down, meeting the right girl. We talked about online dating sites, social/cultural changes, jobs, families. We were both upset about the demographic changes around the lake, and the county. I don’t know why it was so easy to talk to him. I think it might have been just the magic of the lake, and the readiness for serendipity. A small gift of friendship from the God who knows I need moments like this.

With smiles, we said goodbye and headed to our vehicles.

I went to the lake today. I cooled off in that clear, clean water. I met a swimmer. And strangely, it feels like it might have been a spiritual experience.

Take Me Out (to the ball game)

7-27-2019

It’s a beautiful morning in North Carolina.

I’m thinking about the fun time I had last night at the baseball game. Normally, baseball is not one of my passions. As far as watching the game, I put it a notch above golf on the excitement scale, which is why I have only gone maybe three times in my life. However, the whole ambience is interesting and attractive – the crowd, the camaraderie, the food, all that.

I really did not know much about the nuances of play and the organization of the teams and leagues but luckily, daughter Julia’s special friend Kevin, was a baseball player in a semi-pro league. He was the host for this night, and through family connections he had tickets to a box suite. It is a whole different experience to have a choice of air-conditioning, or outside balcony. Add in free popcorn and peanuts and it becomes a place I could take for several hours whether there was a game to watch or not. It was also informative and entertaining because Kevin’s three children were along, getting tutorials from dad on the plays.

I once did a stint working refreshments at several baseball games in Florida. I didn’t get to watch those games but I did learn that people spend way more on refreshments than they do to get into the game, in most cases. I didn’t need a hot dog or other food but I was thirsty enough to order a souvenir cup of Dr. Pepper for $ 6.50. This will help me remember the experience.

Greensboro Grasshoppers souvenir cup

Another reminder will be the picture that the kids and I had taken with the team mascot. You wouldn’t be able to tell, so I will inform you – he’s supposed to be a grasshopper. He wanders about, with an escort to help him see where he’s going, getting pictures taken with youngsters. I kind of snuck in there. It’s not every day I get photographed with an insect.

The Grasshoppers are the local team in Greensboro and, fortunately, they won by a healthy margin. The league is entry level professional and most of the players were right out of college, or even high school. All those long breaks waiting for the pitcher to decide to throw the ball were filled with chants, cheers and commercials over the loud speaker and on the giant screen at the back of the outfield. There was also pure silliness going on from time to time promoting the game sponsors. These cows came out and danced the chicken dance – thank you Chick Fillet.

In this league, occasional heckling and teasing was allowed but kept nicely in line by an announcer who led everything with sound effects and cheers at every opportunity. Nice idea and it worked.

And there were fireworks. Impressive ones.

Great night, beautiful stadium, family friendly atmosphere (including a real live rendition of “Take Me Out to the Ball Game” by the announcer and some kids) – all the things baseball has been and should probably be. The one sobering moment was at the gate where, as times require, my purse was searched and we had to go through metal detection. I had to take my jacknife back to the car. Oh well, …

Random Paragraphs on Summer

This is my first full summer in Wisconsin in 30 some years. It is turning out as I remembered it, short and sweet, full of vividly colored flowers and nesting birds of all sizes. Family dinners outdoors are weekly events. There are gray, rainy days but that only makes it more amazing when the sun comes out and everything is watered and cool and green. Summer is my favorite season (as is spring, fall and winter).

We are no longer out in the trailer in the meadow. It was a tough time in some ways, but I’m going to remember all the amazing moments looking out the window at the real world. As we stayed on, the deer got used to our presence there and got back to their routines of grazing and play. I started recognizing the call of the red tail hawk and knew just where to look for him. The evening fog drifting in, the fireflies, the stillness as the birds stopped singing. Beautiful memories, all.

Play time
Leaving the meadow
Eventide

The garden. I had forgotten the satisfaction of seeing a plot of ground with nothing but stakes and strings turn into row after row of fresh green plants. All the lessons that come with a garden are coming back to mind, how everything has its time to mature and be ready for harvest, how neat edges and straight rows not only create order but are beautiful and functional, how good gardens take regular tending and lots of hours of work. A garden can be a metaphor for life itself – I always find myself thinking of that when I’m pulling weeds.

My least favorite part is “thinning”. I always end up planting small seeds, ones that are hard to see and handle, much too close together. If they germinate well and grow, I know they will have to be thinned out as they get bigger or they will not develop as they should. It’s painful to pull out perfectly good plants. It’s hard to decide which ones to leave and which to pluck. Again, I think of the many applications to life in general. There is wisdom to be learned in a garden.

Too many beet plants leave no room to grow. Which must go?

Two Lives

6-28-2019

Tonight we fall asleep with the scent of newly mown hay. The meadow and the field outside by the road were cut today by a nearby farmer who rents the field. The waist high grass and clover are down and hopefully have a dry day tomorrow to prepare for baling.

I have two separate and very different lives.

In one of them, I am single and living in a nice condo with my cat Shadow. I live next to my mom and close to my brother and sister-in-law. I work in the garden pulling weeds and planting vegetables. I walk the surrounding wetlands and take pictures of geese. I work twice a week at my brother’s business where I edit and sometimes write in his business blog and clean and empty trash. I grocery shop, wash clothes and all those ordinary things.

Today, in my single life, I laid out a jigsaw puzzle, turning all 1,000 pieces right side up and putting together the edges. I watered the petunias and talked with my Mom

In my other life I am married to Dennis (the husband) and I live in Smith Meadow in a travel trailer. I light candles and use flashlights to see at night since there is no electricity. I carry water from town in plastic jugs since there is no well. There isn’t an outhouse either so it’s a good thing I know how to dig holes and bury. I have a propane heater borrowed from my brother that I can fire up if it gets too cold at night. And (very important) I have another small camp stove to heat water for my morning coffee.

Our perishable food is in a cooler and I replenish the ice almost daily. I take a couple trips into town every day. I shop for things we need. I bring my husband liver and onions from the local restaurant. He isn’t well and this place is where he feels safe for the time being. Today I brought a trimmer out, cut tall grass around the trailer and tried to trim branches that were rubbing on the roof. I took a walk in the woods. And tonight I’m smelling new mown hay.

Is Moving an Adventure?

I don’t know. Sometimes it feels like an adventure, but it’s also a lot of work. Work and adventure.

All winter my aunt and uncle have been living in town, very close to us, in a condo that my family owns. Because they have been here I’ve been able to help them drive to doctor appointments, and other things they’ve needed. This week they moved back to their own house, farther out in the country. That was my first moving adventure of the week.

As soon as they were situated at home, the husband and I moved into the place they vacated. Although I have been in this house a lot when my mom and dad lived here, and when one of my brothers and his family used it frequently, I’ve never considered it my home.  It’s a strange feeling.  As I look through cupboards, drawers and closets and find things that my family has left behind, I’m constantly having to decide – keep or not to keep? How do I begin to feel at home?

So, I bought flowers and started to “pretty up” the outside. We now have the husband’s lounge chair set up on the patio where we can listen to the waterfall fountain and sit in the sun.

Our own private waterfall.

Now that this second move of the week is over, I don’t have to keep my clothes in mom’s garage anymore and we have a dresser with drawers in the bedroom, big change. (Although I have to admit that the filing cabinets I was using before do make excellent storage for socks and underwear.) I have a kitchen all to myself.  More importantly, mom has her kitchen back, as well as her living room, guest room, her TV, her garage, and her sanity.

It’s all good.  We did well living together, while we had to, and time demonstrated that it was best for all of us to spread out a bit more. We are very blessed to have the space that allows us to do that.  And since it is summer here, we have even more space – the whole outdoors. Unlike Florida, where we were most comfortable going from one air-conditioned space to another, Wisconsin is remarkably cool, clean and refreshing. The woods are full of spring flowers, the brooks and ponds are full of all kinds of ducks, geese and their little broods.  We took a walk this week and came within five feet of the smallest fawn I have ever seen in the wild. The little guy/gal froze as we walked past.

newborn fawn hiding in birch forest
Can you see him?

Spring is magical here in so many ways. Spring is a recurring adventure and a gift to us from an adventurous God.

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.

A 30,806 Step Day

And all of them were down…

Hiking the Grand Canyon, particularly the hike to the Colorado River and the inner gorge, requires that a person have a compelling desire to go down there. Without a strong motivation, the pain may not be worth the trip.

The trouble is that it is easy to go downhill quite a ways before the realization sets in that you will have to go back up. All the literature tells you that you should allow twice as much time going up as you took to go down. This surprises many people.

On this hike I was highly motivated, even in the face of probable pain. I knew that I was committed to going all the way down to Phantom Ranch, no matter how I felt. However, before we reached the halfway point descending the South Kaibab Trail, I was feeling pain in my right knee and trying to step in a certain manner to avoid aggravating it. Stepping that way began to cause a clicking in my left hip that didn’t feel right either. At each step I had to decide whether to feel the pain in my knee or start a new problem in my hip, so I alternated, hoping to keep them both happy.

As the descent continued I also noticed my toes would occasionally hit the end of the toe box of my boot. They started getting sore too. Knee jarring, toe jamming, never ending, downward stepping trail (but the views were awesome).

Several of our hiking group “the centenarians” ( not because we were old but because the park was having its centennial).

Lest you think that I was the weak link in our little group of ten hikers, I need to mention that we had three men who were in their seventies. One, Bob was his name, was 78! Bob actually fell and twisted his knee, making it necessary for him to put on a brace. He was getting weak and wobbly as well. We were sometimes hiking in the sun now, and the temperature was going up a few degrees for every thousand feet we descended. Every time I looked at Bob I was afraid he was going to fall off the edge. He was going very slowly and one of the guides stayed with him while the rest of us forged on.

This rest stop was about 2/3 of the way down, just before going into the inner gorge.

The trip down started at 7:30 a.m. and we didn’t reach the Bright Angel Campground until 3:30 p.m. This was nearly twice the estimated time! We were all ready to stop walking. Unfortunately, we still had to go up to the canteen at the Ranch, another quarter mile away, and get our duffels that had come down by mule. Fortunately we had just enough time to get there before the canteen closed to prepare for the dinner hour. The canteen is famous for reviving tired hikers with their lemonade. I had two large glasses.

We had a group campsite. I (orange tent) and Robert & Elizabeth stayed here two nights.

Even in my debilitated state, I managed to set up my tent, eat dinner and go to a “ranger talk” that night. One of my big toes was turning dark, my legs ached, but I crawled into my sleeping bag grateful for the chance to be horizontal, for a change. I had been told to bring ear plugs so the snoring of other campers wouldn’t keep me awake. That turned out to not be a problem – the creek was swollen, running fast and full and so loud that it made a superb, natural, white noise machine. I slept.

To be continued…

Going Off Grid

For the next few days I want to forget my devices and concentrate on the Grand Canyon (and staying alive). Even in the lodge on the rim internet is slow and frustrating. On the canyon floor it is pretty much non-existent. Join me again on Saturday when I will post each day’s fun, as recorded with pen and paper. I will have plenty of airport time to do it. See you then!