The Zen of Whitewater and Black Holes

Behind the fabulous raft trip in my previous post was my knee injury I had sustained last spring on a hike by twisting my ankle on a rock. The “no big deal” turned into months of pain.

My orthopedic surgeon told me not to go.”I’m going “ I told him.  He looked at me sternly and said “be sure you have  someone help you in and out of the raft.”  No worries.  In my mind, my knee was already shot.  Why stay home and be depressed while missing a trip of a lifetime.  Plus, it’s hard to injure yourself by watching the scenery go by in a raft.  Yes, there was that white water kayaking but I am experienced and the guides took care of all the camp chores.  No regrets. ( I did purchase that Life Flight insurance beforehand, though.)

The MRI results came in after the trip- worse than I thought.  I had a stress fracture in the head of my femur and a fully torn medial meniscus in my left knee.  My doctor said he didn’t think he could do anything for me.  WHAT?  “Stay off of it for four months and see me after the first of the year.”  Now I had already been severely impacted for months and this news was devastating.  I thought I’d have laparoscopic surgery and then presto!-be good as new.

Having a serious injury or illness is a humbling experience.  One day you’re fine and the next your life is turned upside down and full of pain. Walks are a thing of the past.  Daily chores seem monumental. Currently, I’m hobbling around on crutches hoping that the new doctor I will see soon is more creative and compassionate than my former one.

I’ve had numerous traumas in my life –  “black holes” I call them, fraught with frightening unknowns. This qualifies as one. Will I get my life back anytime soon? To get out of black holes it helps me to use a whitewater kayaking analogy.  It’s the same skillset I use in a big rapid but it also works to keep me from psychologically tipping over.

  • Gather my confidence.
  • Have on all my safety gear but rather than a helmet, floatation vest, first-aid kit, and a rope bring along friends and family, a journal, meditation, and spirituality.
  • Research the river ahead of time – research the condition.  Don’t rely on the medical profession to explain everything..
  • Keep up my momentum – my boat is more stable than I think.
  • Go with the flow.
  • If I tip over, hang onto my boat and paddle, find an eddy, and rest before getting back in.  It’s hard to be up all the time.
  • Get back in and keep on paddling – hard.

Aging, injury, trauma –  it’s all a wild ride.

Class 3

The sound of big water

I sit upright

pulse quickening

paying full attention with my body

the rapid comes into view

I spot my line

scouting for boulders, whirlpools

obstacles

that could flip my boat

The current grasps me firmly

taking me up, down, up, down

waves splashing over the bow

drenching me with exhilaration

as I paddle with intention

through a chaos of whitewater

knowing if I keep my balance & focus

my kayak will find its way to calm waters

where I turn

look upstream

raise my paddle with both hands

and laugh

On the Lower Salmon River, Idaho

Artwork by the author

Visit my other blog about living sustainably at onesweetearth.blog

Gray

It was as unexpected as the pandemic- going gray I mean.  I hadn’t planned on it.  For 15 years I doused my hair with Clairol Natural Instincts # 4 dark brown.  Just like not planning on going gray, I had not planned on ever coloring my hair in the first place.  Then one day when I was 50 the lady at the pool counter asked if I wanted a senior pass.

I let my hair grow out, again unexpected, and unplanned.  Closed salons meant getting a haircut was not possible.  So after years of stylishly short hair, I now sport a mid-length gray mop.

I hardly recognize myself anymore but I barely recognize the world I live in of face masks, lockdowns, and a sobering death toll.  I barely recognize this country after four years of political and social turmoil. 

Gray is a color that is neither black nor white but something in between.  It’s all gray now, a state of waiting, everything shrouded in a fog of uncertainty. When will I be vaccinated?  When will this isolation end?  When can I have my old life back?

In the matter of hair, gray signals more the end than the beginning.  My graying head has become a personal symbol of my mortality but I’m not afraid of it.  I’m going wild and just letting me be who I am without a care.  Write, draw, scribble, sing loud- it’s all good.

When we can all talk about this era in the past tense and even laugh a little, I will remain gray.  There’s no way I can go back.  There’s no way we can go back.  From inequity to racism too much has been exposed.  There can be no more cover-ups.

Bandit’s Last Ride

It was no surprise.  Bandit, our little red cattle dog, age 17 had been declining for months.  Like any elderly soul, we dealt with his incontinence and difficulty walking.  We put a doggy ramp on the porch stairs but on his last days put a sling under him to help him outside.

I’ve written about Bandit before in other posts- Stroller Dog and In the Company of Another Old Dog. I’ve loved all my dogs but he was exceptional in so many ways.  When his arthritis got too bad I  had altered a jogging stroller and a bike trailer so he would not miss out on our outdoor excursions.

The day before Bandit took his last breath, we carried him out to his beloved stroller.  I took him for one last ride down our favorite country road to the rushing creek swollen by the recent rains.  Even in his declining state, I could see the pure delight in his face as he took it all in.

We buried him out in a quiet corner of the yard under a big pine tree.  I fashioned a cairn in his honor to mark his grave and hung his collar on top. Bandit basically died of old age, wearing himself out by living well.  If we can only be so lucky.

We borrow the souls of our four-legged friends.  At some point, we have to let them go.  Their passing leaves holes in our hearts but in return, they give us such love and fond memories.

Goodbye Bandit

Rest In Peace

Jan. 16, 2021

Bandit’s final resting place
Continue reading “Bandit’s Last Ride”

In the Company of Another Old Dog

img_2131(The other old dog was Dougan, who passed away at age 14 earlier this year)

Bandit was found abandoned in a horse ring in Texas tied to a wood rail.  Witnesses said he was badly abused.  A menacing four-inch scar on the base of his spine was evidence enough. A dear friend’s daughter was at an event at that very horse ring, took him into her care and drove him back to Oregon.  She named him Bandit because of the mask covering the top part of his face.

Bandit is a cattle dog – a breed also known as an Australian Red Heeler (there are also Blue Heelers).  They are a plucky breed, stout medium size dogs with a mixture of dingo, kelpie, highland collie, and Dalmatian, bred to withstand the rigors of herding cattle across grazing lands in Australia.  They are also extremely intelligent, active, loyal, and protective of their owners and property.

Bandit was maybe a 1 ½ years old when we were introduced.  He was about 40 pounds with a gorgeous rust-colored coat tipped with white fur.  With his pointy ears and mask, he was as cute as a red panda.  Beyond the cute factor, we had some kind of connection.  It was like his little spirit said: “pick me!” If there is some kind of commandment that said, “Thou shall not covet thy neighbor’s dog,” I had definitely broken it.  Regardless, I had to have that dog.

It took about 4 years.  His owner, in college and then off to the world, was in a nomadic phase as most young adults are.  I was always there, raising my hand volunteering to take him in when she couldn’t accommodate him well.  After being put in less than optimal situations, she conceded.  Bandit was dropped off at my home, a fenced acre in the country nine years ago. My gregarious golden retriever, Dougie, had been aching for a canine companion and was thrilled.

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Bandit seemed to sense that he was in his forever home.  He slipped into our family life seamlessly, enjoying all the attention along the way (I’m a dog spoiler). The two dogs took to each other like long lost friends. By far Bandit has enjoyed trips to the beach the most, long walks with me and Dougie, and patrolling the fence line protecting us from loud trucks and farm equipment that drove past the property. Bandit’s sparky personality gave us many a laugh especially when he was excited and acted like a wind-up toy.

dougie-bandit-on-porch-vegies

Unfortunately, dogs don’t live long enough.  Our walks grew shorter and shorter as the dogs aged. Sweet Dougie passed away at 14 last spring. Bandit, now also 14 could only manage maybe 15 minutes of sustained walking.  We bought a ramp so he could make it up the two stairs to the porch. Then finally late this summer, his old injuries caught up to him.  He went through several bouts of crippling back pain and could barely walk.  We thought for sure we were going to lose him.  With the aid of a img_3051dog sling with handles (that he wears around his midriff all the time now) we had help him do his business and walk around. Sometimes he messed in the house. Luckily with several trips to the vet, figuring out the appropriate medications, and a little acupuncture, Bandit is now ambulatory and can take care of his personal needs on his own again.  Although he has physical limitations and is in the house the majority of the time, he is back to being his happy self.

During his convalescence, I was so mournful of not having a dog to walk with that I purchased a jogging stroller off Craig’s list for $50 that I converted to be dog-friendly.  We were a team again!  The stroller was so successful that we found a bike trailer for $40 that I also converted so he could join us on bike rides.  Bandit loves his wheels and sets up a barking fit when he sees his rides come out of the shop.

Some might think we have gone to ridiculous lengths and should have just put Bandit down sooner.  The deal is- this dog was given up on once and I was not going to give up on him again, especially knowing he was not ready to leave our company.  Yes, it’s been expensive, a big commitment and at times upsetting, but he’s back with a smile on his face. I know he’s grateful.  This us what you do for the ones you love

Four legs, fur, friend and family- Bandit is all that.

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When Scrolling Was Not a Verb

smartphone-2454611_1920“The world as we have created it is a process of our thinking. It cannot be changed without changing our thinking.”
― Albert Einstein

 

I wake up every day still wondering about the changes in this world since I came of age…..

SCROLLING

Name, address, telephone number

Birthdate

Index finger poised I scroll down the years

Down

Down

Down

 

Down past generations xyz

Down before we were gray

And our faces etched with lines

Down when our backs were supple

And our knees strong

Continue reading “When Scrolling Was Not a Verb”

Visiting My Mother

MY MOTHER 

doesn’t want to eat much

take her pills

shower

exercise

or remember I lived in this house

for half my childhood

My mother

is almost 90

sleeps a lot

has accidents

I am scared I will someday be like

My mother

pocket-watch-3156771_1920

In the Company of an Old Dog

Dougie & A on porchDougan was adopted into our household when he was 8 months old.  He was a hyper golden retriever – too much dog for a professional woman and her 10-year-old daughter that owned him before.  There was no fenced yard at their house so he spent his days in a travel kennel waiting for his people to return from work and school.

Dogs raised like this are typically neurotic as adults dougie young and new kittieand can never get enough attention and affection.  I know because I have had them before. They live good lives out in my fenced yard in the country with plenty of attention.  He has been kept company by Bandit, an adorable 9 year old Red Heeler that also has had a questionable past.  We are kindred spirits as I too had some rough years in my youth.

Dougie & Bandit on porch VegiesDougie is now over 12, old for a golden retriever.  A few weeks ago I thought he was failing as he was refusing food and limping badly.  I thought it was the  end.  Luckily the vet just pulled a few bad teeth and gave him meds his joints and for an injured ligament.   We are happy he is back being his silly self.  I see myself mirrored in him as I age.

 

OLD DOG

Twelve years of observation

and you know my moods and intentions

without a word being spoken

 

It’s the landscape of the body

And of the eyes

And maybe a bit of telepathy

You and I intertwined in a cross species dance

 

You are bound to me like the moon to the earth

And I to you like a tree to a limb

Four legs to two legs

Fur to furless

 

As your face whitens with age

And your eyes hollow

I know we have measured time

But for now

 

Walk with me on these country roads

Let me feel your warm presence

By my side

My steady companion

In this tenuous world
Dougie at Beach

 

 

 

 

 

When I’m 64

the-beatles-509069_1920It was 1967.  I was 14 years old and a  freshman in high school.  The Beatles had come out with their latest album “Yellow Submarine.”  Mixed in amongst other memorable songs was this one…

“When I’m Sixty Four”

When I get older losing my hair
Many years from now
Will you still be sending me a valentine
Birthday greetings, bottle of wine?
If I’d been out till quarter to three
Would you lock the door?
Will you still need me, will you still feed me
When I’m sixty-four?

Continue reading “When I’m 64”