Thursday, August 29, 2013

Grey, grey, go away!

It's hot.
And humid.

Deadlines are loomin'
Reports and grants...
Miley Cyrus and her lack of pants.

I did not actually watch the VMA's. Just can't miss the headlines and thumbnail shots of Miley's butt. Or tongue. 

My teeter has tottered.

I'll right myself this weekend perhaps.  
Too much work and no play
makes Judy not okay.

Climate change. I don't know about your neck of the woods or corner of the world, but here in my temperate rainforest corner things are changing. And I don't care for it.  

Time to unpack the "Happy Light" for the season that arrived yesterday. 
Grey. Grey.
Not okay.  
Maybe I say this every year?

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Almost Paradise

Last Sunday, when I should have been home writing my blog and cleaning my house, I went on an adventure instead. Ever since my family and I paid a visit to Mt. Rainier earlier this summer, I have wanted to go back and see the wildflowers that were still buried under snow on July 2nd. Paradise Visitor Center is famous for the stunning variety of wildflowers that last only a short 6-8 weeks.
Blazing a trail in the snow at Paradise

I am not a fan of large crowds and I often forget that our mountain is a massive tourist destination. I find myself taking personal offense at the masses of tourists, as though I woke up to find hundreds of families speaking dozens of languages and wandering my backyard with giant telephoto lenses and hiking poles. As Mark and I approached Paradise with my blood sugar dangerously low and my picnic lunch waiting in the cooler, we obeyed the "Lot full" signs and continued on around a loop. And on. And on. Until we had quite obviously gone too far on the one-way loop for me to be able to walk back up the road to Paradise. Back down the mountain we drove for 15 minutes, 
until we found a picnic spot. Lesson? Do not obey signs.

This is the same trail that you see my sister and
niece on in the previous picture!
I insisted on cleaning up bread crumbs that a previous diner had left, much to the dismay of an angry crow and a chipmunk with borderline personality disorder. The picnic area was filled with calls of wild animals. Of the homo-sapien variety, both large and small. Cucumber and hummus sandwiches consumed, we headed back up to Paradise.  This time we drove in the exit, around a barricade and into a parking spot two spaces from the bathrooms. Score one for the rebels!

My intent was to be slow and careful, to not ‘over-do’ it. My leg is still hovering around 70% and can quickly drop to less if I try to do too much. There were maps and signs taunting me with greater destinations, but we chose to stroll without a specific goal, often stepping to the side to allow the hiking poles and telephoto lenses to pass.

We would play games when we stopped. The sort of thing I used to do to distract my children. Instead I wanted to distract the ‘other’ me…the one that wanted to head 3 miles up to Panorama Point. We played “In 30 seconds how many different plants can you see from right here?” Mark spent a lot of time setting up his camera shots and playing “What would Kevin do?” Kevin is my sister’s boyfriend who takes amazing and artistic photos. We spent a long time watching a marmot. Which Mark called a beaver and I called a groundhog, much to the horror of proper hikers with packs and poles. And much to the annoyance of teenagers who said, “How many giant rats do you need to see?” 

Can you spot the marmot?
I did my best to block out the crowd and my thought that if we hiked a little further, we might leave them behind. The flowers were lovely and magical, the waterfall soothing. The changes from just 6 weeks ago are nothing short of miraculous. I love our mountain. But next time I shall find a path less traveled. This slow pace, this business of looking at the details, seeing beauty and magic in the smallest things, is my attempt at accommodation. It gives me some peace; some sense of  awe…but it is different than the awe of High Rock or Emmons Glacier.

To be honest, the flowers frighten me just a little. For they have such a short time and are so easily damaged. Fragile. Unlike the giant rock outcroppings, massive blue glaciers and monstrous waterfalls. Vulnerability frightens me. Yet I remind myself, they begin to grow under the snow and survive as seeds through the bleakest of conditions. They are steadfast in their return, if we take care not to damage them. They are bright and bold. Some are even funny, like something out of Dr. Suess. 

With the help of birds and bees, they accomplish so much in their short time on Paradise. Not a drop of rain, ray of sunshine or gust of wind is wasted on these beauties. It’s not a bad model to emulate. 
Be bright and bold, make the most of each moment and every season, rest when it is time to rest. Be steadfast.  

Just Only Judy

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Back on the trail?

You may be able to tell by my time between posts that my rest and regroup took a little longer than anticipated. It’s my own fault. I rushed it a bit. I don’t stop easily. As poetic as I can try to make it sound, I am terrible at the 'stop, rest and regroup'. A fellow writer living with MS commented on one of my earlier posts. She said, “I hate to spoil the surprise, but chances are you saw the sky getting darker, and even though there were a zillion rational reasons why you should have stopped...there was that one single voice that was louder than the others that said, ‘Keep going. You can do it.’ Basically you were probably hardheaded.”

By the time I read that comment I had stopped. So I said, “No, no…I am resting…but I will carry on soon!” But the truth is she was right!  The sky started to get a little dark back in early April. The weather in my nervous system was getting wild; periodic thunderstorms, random freakishly cold days that I was unprepared for and as she said a “zillion rational reasons” why I should have stopped. At least by the end of May, when my neurological weather system was regularly sending little bolts of lightening and stinging hail to visit my right leg. I did ‘pause’ every now and then. Paid a visit to physical therapy and my doctor. Emailed the neurologist. Added a little of this and a little of that to my metaphorical hiking gear and quickly got back on the trail. Life is short and there are adventures waiting!
Apparently, for me, adventures and success require that I stay in a forward momentum, hiking my mountain. And when I hit a cliff I cannot go over, I tend to look for a way around or better gear. Or a helicopter to rent.  

The doctors will say that there is no proven connection between stress and an MS exacerbation. I will tell you that there is, for me.  My diagnosis came as I started graduate school and experienced many stressors in my life.  This most recent exacerbation came at a time of craziness at work, studying every weekend for a major exam and a variety of other small stresses. Together the sum was too great. I choose to blame studying! I shall endeavor to never again put my brain through such stress!

I spent the spring hiking through many beautiful adventures, with family and friends by my side. Some days the sun would come out, the neurological storms would pause, and I could really enjoy things. But far too many of the days my head was down, eyes firmly fixed on the trail ahead. “One more step, one more step”, I would tell myself. I was not able to be fully present for much of it. One cannot enjoy the view or stop and smell the flowers when one is concentrating on staying upright. It would have been far better to have stopped and enjoyed whatever view was around me at the moment. Or to have crawled into a tent and a cozy sleeping bag to wait things out. I could have told family and friends to take some of those side trails without me.

By mid-July I was well aware that there had been significantly more bad weather than good over the past three months. I was hunkered down again, trying to decide which trail looked easier, who could carry some of my stuff, which shoes would be best and did I need a better raincoat? My hike, my life, became a series of stops and starts, awkward and jerky movements. Then the lightening struck. My leg was on fire. Electric jolts alternated with burning sensations; my leg moved of its own volition and I had no control. Enough. I called for help. But still I would not leave the hike.  "Just hook up the Solumedrol and then I’ll carry on".  Hike for three hours, sleep for three hours…and so it went for three days. While the Solumedrol IV soothed the storm inside my leg, it began to create its own weather system in the rest of my body. Flooding that pooled up in my feet, ankles and hands. Mudslides in my brain that blocked the paths to my thoughts and words. Five-minute heat waves that left me sweating in a cold chill until the next one.

After three days of this, I finally stopped. But I did not enjoy the rest. I do not like sitting. Resting. Regrouping. I do not like it. I am rest-less. I get grumpy and angry. The trail is waiting, damnit. I will NOT let this mountain beat me.  My anger and irritation built over four days (Solumedrol likes to stir the angry pot). I eased back onto the trail on day four and then I saw it. A beautiful hike with a stunning vista that my best friend and I had done many, many years ago (we are still working a metaphor here). So I bought some new boots. Literally. Some very cute new boots, and a skirt, and off we went to The Cult concert in Seattle. And I made it there and I had fun and felt good and celebrated as though I had climbed Mt. Everest! Fire Woman! I sang and danced. Ian Astbury warned me with his lyrics, “Here Comes the Rain”…but he makes the rain sound so good!
Guess what? The next day my body felt as though I had truly climbed Mt. Everest through all manner of storm. And so I found myself stopped again. Resting. Today I’m moving into the regrouping phase.  But this time I will give it the attention and time that it takes, I promise. I will look around and see what sort of scenery and view I have from this very spot. Enjoy the memories of where I have been and some of the adventures that I have been present for these last few months, because indeed there have been some, despite it all. I am reminded of a particularly steep uphill hike a couple of years ago that required me to pause and rest on a fallen log. As I caught my breath and slowed my heart, I looked around me. On this log were tiny translucent orange mushrooms, intricate and lacy moss, white and blue flowers no bigger than the tip of a pencil. It was a miniature forest. These are the things I need to get better at seeing. When I do stop and rest, I must look around for the amazing surprises that are likely right next to me and that I would have missed completely had I decided to ‘carry on’.

 It will be a couple of weeks before I feel confident heading back out on my trail in any serious way. These rest stops are also part of my journey, as important and potentially beautiful as any stunning vista. If I cannot learn to treat them as such, I will spend too much of my time on the trail focused on the stormy weather and too much energy fighting it. Then when the sun does come out I will close my eyes from exhaustion and …what? Rest?  I am working on that hardheaded voice that says, “Just keep going”! I am working on saying, “Rest. For as long as you need.”