Monday, October 11, 2021

Madcap recap of two madcap months





An October blooming sunflower is a precious gift and makes me smile. There are reasons.

As do these guys, who sent me this image on September 10.

Hello, kind readers. I'm still here. I've been spinning in a metaphorical whirlwind since last I posted. The conjunction of family, fitness, pain, ranch work, widget work, and moving house has been a madcap mashup.

My muse is ever present, but my writer has atrophied a bit. After working on this post in fits and starts for weeks, and after re-reading some of the dreck I've written, I realize I need to rein in the mea culpas. Too much of that is unhealthy. And oh by the way, why is mea culpa not in the blooger dictionary? Pretty sure I know. New world order and all that.

In this part of the world we've being blessed with a frightfully gorgeous early autumn. It's been sunny, warm, and calm. We still haven't had a freeze yet. The days are lovely with a bright, warming sun, and while air temps that approach "a bit too warm" in the afternoon the air cools gently as the sun begins to sink. The cool evening and overnight temperatures haven't been cold yet. So far the livin' is fat and wonderful.

For reasons I'll get into in a bit I've been able to write at home in my office as the sun comes up in the morning. Clever ape-lizards will realize that at this time of the year sunrise comes well after going to work time. It's very nice to enjoy the morning light streaming through the big east window. With the window cracked I get October morning sounds and smells and visits from Tommy the Rocket Dog.

Tommy is a dog who seems to enjoy livin', and in the crisp coolness of an early October morning he dashes all over the big back yard and lives it up.

##########

Strap in, this is gonna get stupid!

##########

The last several months have been rather tough physically and mentally. I continued to work hard at increasing my level of fitness and I continued to make good progress. As I worked on overall fitness my body continued to make what accommodations it could insofar as compressed nerves and radiculopathy were concerned.

It was a hard slog, and a painful one. I was making progress, but it hurt a lot. The hurt sucked, but there was nothing I could do to make it not hurt, and quitting or taking it easy was the wrong thing to do. If I wanted to put myself mentally and physically in a place where I could best survive going forward, I just had to embrace the suck and drive on. I couldn't allow myself to focus on the pain. The pain had to be okay, and it was. Particularly when I could wrap it in the concept of weakness leaving the body. As I learned in the savage sand and surf of Pensacola many years ago, I can always do much more than I think I can. So I did.

Somewhere in the future was the possibility of a surgical fix. In theory, cleaning arthritic bone spurs out of vertebral nerve canals and cutting bone away from bulging discs would relieve pressure on impinged nerves, thus relieving nerve pain or radiculopathy.

It was a tantalizing and terrifying prospect. Surgery might, and probably would, help. But I wouldn't know for sure unless and until, and there are a lot of people out there gimping around after failed back surgery. Enough that "Failed Back Surgery" is an actual medical diagnosis.

Couple the above with the fact that the surgical fix carrot has been repeatedly dangled in front of my eyes then snatched away via bureaucratic fiat. That's been a big component of the mental slog. It's hard not to hope too much, and when hopes are dashed it's hard not to get down and whiny. Hard, but not too hard.

Suck it up and drive on.

So as summer began to fade I was driving on, becoming more and more fit while my body continued to try to fix the unfixable. I could see that if I continued on my present path I would be able to survive and even thrive. The pain sucked but my body was doing good work in making it tolerable and I knew I could live with it.

I knew I could live with it because experience over time has consistently proven that God will do for me what I cannot do for myself and will give me the strength do do for myself what I can do for myself, regardless how hard and frightening it may be. I have only to ask. The humility of asking God for help leads directly to Grace.

In my world God employs an angelic assistant, one who isn't shy about bumping me in the proper direction. She orients me toward the path of Grace and wraps me in a warm blanket of love any acceptance. In that state of Grace I can truly love and be loved, and this gift has transformed me.
Dotted gayfeather

In retrospect my life has been very strange and very wonderful. I wandered in the desert from age 18 to age 40, having many adventures and getting my ass handed to me many times.
Life is shit and flowers, in approximately these proportions. Which is as it should be.
 
Because real appreciation for a lovely clotted sky comes from fighting through the shit. 

In my fourth decade I found the proper star to follow and got headed in the proper direction, but I was still deep in the desert and the journey was long. Which it was supposed to be. 
One of the late blooming asters. Breathtaking.

Beautiful weedy sunflower.

It was only in my sixth decade when I left the desert behind. Some, perhaps many or even most, might imagine that four decades in the desert were four decades squandered, but that's not the case at all. It was four decades of growth, livin' a life of hard knocks, trial and error over time. Exploration, building experience, and learning. A full and round and beautiful life. When I finally stepped out of the sand and onto fertile soil I was ready to embrace the important stuff.

In livin' this life I believe my path has been the proper one. I can't be sure of course, but I feel if my journey had been more conventional and mundane I'd be unable to live and love and embrace life upon this very high plane where I now exist. I did the work. I continue to do the work. My pay is infinitely more precious than money could ever be. Something about this song resonates with me. Of course any ape-lizard who seriously considers life as a livin' thing will find resonance with similar well crafted songs. Still, I enjoy the song. The smile it puts on my face reflects the smile in my heart.

 
I guess most ape-lizards can twist song lyrics to match up with their personal experience. Was that young sailorman lost for decades? I think so. Have I wakened? Perhaps a bit. Am I waking when it's all over? No. I'm waking but it's not nearly over.

Sorry 'bout the strangeness of this passage. I'm expositing the inner self as best I can while bangin' on the keyboard like a chimpanzee. The inner self is far too complex to nail down in mere language. As I reread this it looks like a blurred, two dimensional representation of a sharply rich four dimensional life. As I said, strange. Perhaps it works. Perhaps not. Perhaps I'll leave it as it is and press publish. Perhaps not. 

##########

Once again, where was I?

Oh yeah.

It all came together in a rush. It was a bit of a surprise. Approval for surgery arrived in late August and the knife was scheduled to drop on September 10.

I had a few pre-surgery hoops to jump through which were kind of interesting. I had to fill out the usual questionnaire and be quizzed on my responses. Blood work was done as well as an EKG. My EKG was Abby Normal because with a resting heart rate of 50 I was, by definition suffering from Sinus Bradycardia. This caused a slight flurry of activity and a quick check by the house cardiologist, who took one look at me and said to the nurse, "Look at him. Look at those legs." Turning to me he asked, "Runner?"

"¡Sí doctor, muchísimo! "

So much for that.

I was required to have a magic influenza (koronabologna) test as well as a MRSA (methicillin resistant staph aureus) test. The last was easy, a simple nasal swab. The first was more than a bit psychotic, in keeping with the ongoing worldwide psychosis. The power-crazy bureaucrats in the public health district had been assigned official license to run the testing program and their setup placed testing stations in tiny, isolated villages on a limited, floating, ever-changing schedule. I was supposed to be tested in the microscopic town of Harrisburg in Banner County, thirty miles from Kimball, and I was to call ahead on the scheduled day to make sure the schedule hadn't changed. Which of course it did, twice. Bureaucrats have many important shopping conference trips on their calendars! As it turned out I never did get the official testing station test for magic influenza. But the test was (at least allegedly) a federally mandated requirement for any surgery. No test, no surgery. What was I to do?

Fortunately there was a loophole. The surgical team were careful to phrase their instructions in such a way as to let me know that the hospital could actually do the test if the public health parasites couldn't make it happen. So on the morning of surgery I simply had to arrive an hour early. They could do the test during surgical prep, and even if it was positive they could still do the surgery so long as I wasn't symptomatic.

Also interestingly, the MRSA test came back positive. I'm a bit skeptical for various reasons, but the positive result didn't prevent the surgery, it just modified the prep slightly and guaranteed a private room as I was technically placed in MRSA isolation. Technically because to my trained eye, my "isolation" was paperwork isolation with no actual isolation practiced. Which was quite nice for me. But I'm getting ahead of myself...

As for me and my personal MRSA Positive preparations, I had only to swab antibiotic ointment into my nose thrice daily for the five days prior to surgery.

The current catechism, you see, holds that "MRSA lives in the nose!" Which is a misapprehension of reality, as are masks and social distancing and media/government directed fear are when it comes to the magic influenza. The most educated human populace in the history of the planet has produced the stupidest ape-lizards of all time. Stupid in the ape-lizard realm is, after all, a choice. But I digress once again, as usual... 

As I mentioned above, surgery was scheduled For September 10. That was an interesting day for me because it was the thirteenth-month mark of Alexzandra's death. Funny how the mind works when it comes to marking such days. As I thought about it the conjunction of death date and the number 13 came to mind. Could the combination of potential bad luck signs have any impact or even meaning in the real world? My concerned thinking was quickly displaced by a warm glow and bubbling mirth. My angel made it clear that we were going to be okay, and the thirteenth-month mark was the perfect time to fix my spine.

Showtime on the 10th was 0530, so we wanted to be wheels in the well at zero-four to provide a time cushion for the hour drive. Early is much better than late when it comes to surgery following a two-and-a-half year wait!

My driver was Uncle D, my brother-in-law and husband to Alex's sister Auntie S. Now Uncle D and Auntie S are busy, busy people. They are also my family. I'll not go into detail because there are a few rancid trolls monitoring this place who love to cause problems and leave turds scattered around. I'll leave them scant information to throw poop at. They are a bother, but no more than that. Enough said.

The drive went fine and we arrived early enough that there was no magic flu hysteria going on at the entrances. No one was masked, and no one was practicing social distancing. It was before official opening time, you see.

The surgery reception area was just being opened for business. Check in was a breeze and I was soon whisked back to the pre-surgery prep area. Uncle D was allowed to come back with me.

In the prep area I had to change into the ass-revealing gown with nothing on underneath. The nurse quickly swabbed my nose for the phantom menace test and sent it off to the hospital lab to see if I was infected or not.

At this point I quietly wondered if I had any wuhandromeda viruses hanging around in my nasal passages. I had no symptoms of viral illness, but I had had a two-week bout of serious influenza several months previously. Was that illness caused by influenza A or B, or was it in fact the dreaded macarona? I'd certainly been exposed to and worked side by side with people who had been diagnosed with the phantom menace. Was I a modern day typhoid Larry, as described relentlessly by the hysteria-selling media?

As I waited for the nurse to gather supplies for starting an IV I reflected on the worldwide state of wuhandromeda. Given my medical background and formal medical education I knew the truth; disease, including viral illness, just doesn't work the way it's presently being marketed. It would be interesting to see what my test results were, but I knew that any result would be objectively meaningless in reality. Being observant and possessed of a working mind I also noted that despite the masks, the medical staff were well aware of the non-secret truth as well. They were being forced to play a silly game, but they knew it was a silly game and treated it as such. This was comforting to me, because it proved that in this place at least, actual medical science would be practiced, and no one would go out of their way to make me a mortal casualty of the fight against the phantom menace.

The hospital commissars were a different story, of course, relentlessly running mandatory party meetings and orating memorized passages from their little red wuhandromeda books. But no commissar is going to be out of bed at 0530, and none but the most junior are out and about before 10 a.m. So these early morning hours were a lovely time of near-normalcy in the hospital. I felt very comfortable as very competent and professional medical personnel prepared me for surgery. The meaningless test came back negative. Which meant, well, nothing.

The nurse was quite an attractive woman. I noticed this because I'm a dude, I'm a sailor, and I'm not dead. She was quite engaging and fun to talk to. She took my vitals and asked me if I was taking any beta blockers, having noticed that my resting heart rate was 50. "no beta blockers," I said, "and that's normal for me. I'm a runner."

"I am too," she replied, and we chatted about running while she deftly started my IV. As she scurried in and out of the little prep cubical she must have shared the novelty of having an old dude patient who was a runner and very fit.

"So you're a runner," said the OR nurse who came in to explain his part of the coming procedure. "I'm running a half-marathon tomorrow."

"I'm not that much of a runner," I said. "I'm more of a plodder. I just try to keep my legs strong and challenge my heart. I do a lot of HIIT (high intensity interval training) and step running." This generated a lot of pleasant back and forth as three, four, and then five of us gabbed about exercise and fitness.

"My god," exclaimed the fetching nurse as she attempted to place the TED hose (to prevent blood clots during/after surgery) on my legs, "your calves are enormous! I need to get the extra-extra large."

While the TED hose fitting and jock talk was in full session the gas-passer (anesthesiologist) came in to brief me on anesthesia. My medical background came up when I told him I was a former SAR Paramedic/Swimmer. It turned out he was a former navy helo driver who flew SH-60's from small boys (Destroyers/Frigates) during the late 1980's and into the 1990's. So we chased down a sea story rabbit hole. It was fun and interesting after a fashion; two old sailors wowing the pretty young nurses with tales of our heroic and adventurous exploits upon the briny. Great fun! While we were gabbing the Seahawk Anesthesiologist injected several syringes of colorful medicines into my IV and I felt a wave of relaxation wash over me.

The fetching nurse (Alicia) packed my few belongings in a belonging bag and promised to have the bag delivered to my room. Then they wheeled me out of the prep bay.

In the OR I felt warm and relaxed. There was a bit of conversation but I don't recall the details. The Seahawk Anesthesiologist placed a mask over my face. "Just breathe normally," he said, so I did. I detected the faint odor of anesthesia gas.

Then I woke up in the recovery room.

##########

I hadn't planned to do this but at the moment it seems to be a good idea to break off, publish this part, and come back with a part two later. Hopefully in a reasonably timely manner.

In the meanwhile,

Be well and embrace the blessings of liberty.




Saturday, August 14, 2021

Whither dicipline?





Strap in. This is gonna be goofy.

I began this post a while back. It's been a busy time. Cattle stuff, moving into my new house, family stuff. Busy. Crazy busy. Which is fantastic.

As I write this on the morning of August 14 I'm emerging from a whirlwind of viral illness. It began on Monday and worsened steadily. Cough, sore throat, congestion, fever and chills, myalgia and arthralgia, the works. By Thursday I was very ill and had to take the day completely off. Yesterday I was improving but still quite ill. I also had more back imaging scheduled in Scottsbluff and I didn't want to have to reschedule. So I power slammed aspirin and tylenol to tamp down the fever, and when I went through the boolsheet federal jobs program of wuhandromeda screening I denied all. And passed the screening. I doubt the screeners can actually work their thermometer ray guns, and I doubt the thermometer ray guns work to begin with.

The CT scan and full spine x-rays went quickly and perfectly, executed by well trained, professional, and cheerful staff. It's important for me to remember that there's a difference between professional medical staff and bureaucratic staff.

It's also important for me to listen to my body and use my brain when I'm ill. I hear all the wuhandromeda terrorism too, and I'm no different than any other ape-lizard when it comes to fear of the unknown. What if I really have it? What if all the terrorism is true? What if I die from this? I feel so sick and weak and vulnerable, why don't I just go to the ER for some reassurance and hand holding? Just to make sure?

At the same time I know my body, I know how viral illness works, and I realize that as sick as I am, it's clear that my body is fighting hard and winning. It needs real support, not bureaucratic hand holding. Fluids. Fuel. Hot baths. Aspirin and tylenol. Mucalytics and cough suppressants. Rest.

It takes discipline to do the right stuff in the face of fear. Spitting in the eye of bureaucratic terrorism provides just the spark of rage required to get me over the hump. I will not allow those people to drag me into their bucket of terror. I have a mind and I'm a real, live, ape-lizard, not a herd monkey.

I win because I have the tools and the discipline of the ape-lizard. It helps enormously that I've put in the work to learn and know medicine and to become physically fit. My pulmonary/cardio-vascular system is in tip-top shape. Were this not the case such a viral illness could be bad business for me. It's a reality of life. I made the choice to get fit and I've done the hard work required. I win. This round anyway. When I reach the end of the road I reach the end of the road and there's nothing I can do about that. In the mean time though, I can be tough and disciplined and enjoy the freedom and wonder of livin', rather than existin'.

On this lovely Saturday morning I'm well on the mend. I'm still recovering, but it's time to get back in the game of livin'.


I am blessed.


And that's a fact. 

##########

Last month. July 18.

At the park with the kids, I enjoyed watching the littlest try to catch birds. She was going for Robbins and Brewers Blackbirds.


She seems to be certain that she'll succeed in catching one, and if she persists she probably will, though it'll probably play out somewhat differently than she imagines.

Later she hopped on the merry-go-round with some newfound park friends, another three year old and a seven year old, both girls. They were having loads of fun, spinning round and round, laughing and shrieking. Then she got quiet and the color drained from her face. Her gyro had tumbled as her eyes and inner ears argued over exactly how her body was navigating the universe.

I stopped the ride and picked her up. It might be more accurate to say that she launched herself into my arms. She likes to spin around and play with wobbling dizziness -- that's fun! But this was something new, different, and unpleasant. Motion sickness.

She clung to me tightly, holding on for dear life with her eyes closed. I murmured reassurances and stroked her little back. After a minute or so she relaxed a bit and I imagined she was beginning to feel better. Then she retched a bit.

"It's okay to throw up," I said.

So she did.

As I was holding her and her face was pressed against my chest, you can imagine where the effluent ended up.

Perhaps I'm different than most (perhaps?!?), but my reaction to being puked on was not what you might think. The important thing was to comfort the little one and make sure she knew without question that I loved her unconditionally. It's a little hard to describe, because that kind of love doesn't translate to words. It's too big and too important for words.

I wasn't a bit surprised, but I never expected to find that being puked on is a transcendent, precious moment.

We got ourselves cleaned up and got a little bit of water down her neck, then we went home. It was supper time and the (almost!) five year old boy and his 11 year old brothers were ravenous. The littlest continued to cling to me as we sat at the table, and within only a few minutes collapsed into a hard, hard sleep. She had played hard -- three year old hard -- and then experienced a brand new life lesson. Her body needed the restorative power of sleep, and sleep she did.

Sitting there at that table with Grandma MeMe and the boys and a three year old snuggled safely in my lap was, again, an experience impossible to put into words.

Sublime comes close.
Summer Day In The Garden, by Littlest.

Littlest reacts to a critical review of her work.

##########

I hope the title doesn't scare anyone away; readers who might imagine this missive will be a ranting screed (or screeding rant) against the manifest indiscipline of my fellow ape lizards!

For this is not about that.

What this is about -- at least initially and in part -- is the curious nature of my own indiscipline.

How, I wonder, is it that I can exercise iron discipline in realms which make many of my peers shudder to even consider, while in other areas I drop the ball completely? With such ball-dropping areas being realms where my heretofore shuddering peers operate at the master level of discipline?

I suppose some examples are in order.

I can exercise when it hurts. I can endure severe pain and drive on. I can work hard and well and execute jobs and tasks properly in the face of adversity and the perversity of foolish and vindictive people. I can deal with disappointment and the deep hurt of grief and loss without sinking into victimhood or morose childishness. I can give my time when it's the last thing I want to do but is the right and proper and principled thing to do.

I can and do strive to live up to Kipling's immortal pathway to being a man.

On the other hand, I can be slovenly and slothful and gluttonous at the drop of a hat. I can think deeply evil thoughts and hold resentments and invented fears close to my heart. I can slack off when slacking off is not the proper thing to do at all. I can push at edges and boundaries just because I want to, and not because it serves any but my own selfish purposes.

It's easy to be selfish. It's hard to drive on through egocentrism and arrive on the plane of proper being.

But that place, the plane of proper being, the plane of true livin', is the place for me to be. I need to be centered to properly live; one foot in chaos and one foot in order.

Perhaps that's why the indiscipline remains even when I wish it wouldn't.

With a foot in chaos and a foot in order there can be no stasis, only constant movement. I imagine it as a kind of Brownian motion, vibrating, vibrating, vibrating -- back and forth all over the place. Unlike molecular Brownian motion, however, an ape-lizard has the capacity to chart a course and steer this improbable contradictory/complimentary contraption of life. For certain values of steer, of course. Life, the Universe, and Everything gets a vote too.

It seems to me that at one level and in one sense, a fundamental choice facing all of us ape-lizards is whether and how we conn our individual ships of life. If we let the Brownian motion of the chaos-order dichotomy decide where the ship goes, we live a life of existence. If we purposefully decide to plant our feet in the sweet spots of chaos and order, and then do the hard work and heavy lifting of steering, then we are livin'.

The second option is where discipline comes in. Discipline and all the other hard stuff that makes livin' -- as opposed to existing -- possible.

Whither discipline? A vital question, methinks.

The options are whither discipline or wither discipline.

It's a choice. The good news is that so long as we draw breath we have the option.

It's always good to have options. In the present delightful times, with the Zeitgeist being overwhelmingly one of self-indulgent victimhood, the options look like this: I can let the Brownian motion drive the boat while I moan about "everbuddy pickin' on me," or I can suck it up, grab the tiller, and do what I can based on doing what I should according to a solid set of principles.

It's good to have the choice, although even recognizing that the choice exists takes away a great deal of the deliciousness of supping from the self-pity pot.

Does any of that make sense?

Was it a screed? A rant?  

##########

Last month again. July 24. The four year old turns five (two days early so that the celebration can be on a Saturday and more family can attend). At age five two days early is cool. Next year he'll have a year of formal learnin' under his belt and he may be more inclined to hew to the calendar. We'll see. At any rate, he had a nice celebration with lots of love and presents (CARS!!!) and a humongous cake.


The cake says "Zeke is 5" and represents a work of love if not a work of art. Two "funfetti" cake mixes and about two pounds of real live buttercream frosting. Z-man is a frosting dude, and he wanted blue and yellow, so that's what he got. With cars! Cars are important.
What's behind that shared glance? Only the kids know. But it's awesome!

And now the grownups wanna take pictures!

I wish I had the words to properly describe the wonder of the day. It was epic.

##########

Still later in July. The last day of the month, July 31.

Nona greeted me first thing in the morning, then lay down beside me and proceeded to die. The process took about thirty minutes. It looked peaceful from my perspective and she didn't appear to suffer. It was a blow. I was there when she was born on July 13, 2011, and I was there when she expired. She brought an indescribable quantity of love into the world and shared it. I buried her in the doggie graveyard at the ranch. It was hard digging but worth the effort. The next morning an old, dead elm tree had fallen directly across her grave. Kind of makes you wonder. Nona's little "brother" Tommie, a dog Alex rescued, has done reasonably well. He paced the yard for a few days, perhaps searching for Nona. He's been a bit more, I don't know, touchy? Clingy? He's still full of happy enthusiasm and loves to chase around and nip my heels. So he's doing fine and we're coping.

##########

Tuesday marked a year.

Something I've figured out but haven't really written about. In my life Alexzandra is an Angel. What do I mean by Angel? It's a very interesting thing. Her presence is with me always. Most of the time it feels like she's in the next room, and she's paying attention to what I'm doing and how I'm doing. It's a very loving, reassuring feeling.

And then sometimes she offers up suggestions, or points out options, or something like that. Let me give you an example.

Last month the Jewelers from whence we purchased her engagement ring sent me a letter reminding me that I still had the wedding band on lay away. I had utterly forgotten. When I explained the circumstance to the clerk and apologized for not coming in sooner, she quickly told me I could have store credit for what I'd put down on the ring. But I wanted the ring, so I paid the outstanding balance and took it away. My plan was to thread it on my dog tag chain with another of her rings and some other baubles. It was a good plan, but it didn't feel quite right for some reason. As I drove home it occurred to me that the proper custodians for the ring are Alex's sister and her mom. That felt right, and that's what we did.

Alex and I did that. The proper solution came from Alex. And from me, enthusiastically, because it was the right thing to do. But I'd have never arrived at the solution without my Angel's loving guidance.

She steers me in the proper direction whenever I need the assist, which is not infrequently.

How does all this Angel stuff work? I have no idea. But I do know that God does for me what I cannot do for myself, and I'm convinced that He employs Alexzandra in the role of primary adviser and ass-kicker.

The me that can love the way I love today -- that dude ain't me. Not without God and Alexzandra it's not.

That's what I know. It's ground truth even though I can't answer the why or the how. It just is, and that's good enough for me.

I am blessed.

##########

There are many more things to write about, and I will, but for the moment I've run out of free cycles. There is more moving to do, with lots of lifting and carrying and good, purposeful, physical labor. Every bit of it is a labor of love, and I do none of it alone. When Uncle and Auntie and MeMe and the kids help, which they do a lot of, we don't do it alone either.

We are blessed, and it feels right and proper that we are blessed.

##########

A year ago I read in comments at another blog -- regarding the tragedy I had suffered, you understand -- that a commenter disagreed with the old saw that it's better to have loved and lost than never to have loved. The commenter was rather vociferous in their disagreement.

I have a different take. It is infinitely better to have loved and to continue to love.

Perhaps this is the most beautiful truth I've found in my journey. And I almost missed it!

Maybe the most important words I can ever share with my fellow ape-lizards are these. Turn that heart loose and love unconditionally. Don't sweat the details. They'll work out as they are supposed to. Just love. Yeah, just love.

##########

Be well and embrace the blessings of liberty.




Sunday, July 18, 2021

I won the lottery!





What's better than a picnic?

Trees are for climbing. The artsy looking soft filter effect is a result of having grubby three year old finger slime applied to the phone camera lens.

##########


"Why," asked the little one, "do you have water running down your face?"

I explained that it was sweat. "I just finished working out and when I work out I sweat a lot. Sweat is good, it keeps you cool and shows that you're working hard."

"I don't like it," she said. She's at a place in her life where she makes major and important pronouncements about whether she approves of things or not.

I am so enormously blessed. I never had any idea what loving children was like, and never would have known had I not met Alexzandra.

I had no idea what loving another human being unconditionally was like until I suddenly found my world completely changed by loving Alexzandra completely and without condition.

These are things I would never have experienced had life not put them in my path, and had I not taken that path and instead chosen the other fork.

Which reminds me of an old post I found while searching for a different old post. It's titled as a Corpsman Chronicle yet it remains a formerly lost post which does not appear in the CC Sidebar Pantheon.

Searching blooger via the search feature is a hopeless task. Therefore I did not yet find the post I was looking for. But I did find a lost and largely forgotten post about forks in the road. Perhaps you'll enjoy the tale. I enjoyed the living of the thing.

##########

I may or may not have mentioned that Alex's birthday was June 13. I didn't expect it to be as hard as it was. I was nearly frantic as seemingly fresh waves of grief washed over me. To my great good fortune I do my livin' in a place where I can easily convert hurt energy into physical exertion. And I can do so in a place where, in mid-June, nature displays a gentle and beautiful canvas of her circle of life work.


Baby Mourning Doves.


Scarlet Globemallow(Sphaeralcea coccinea) or Cowboy's Delight.


Baby Lark Buntings. Or Larks Bunting?


##########

I've been on an incredible journey of discovery these last few months. The immediate, shattering shock of losing Alexzandra has eased. That's not the right word by any means, but I'm at a loss to find a right word. Anyway, I'm finding myself doing actual livin' these days, especially since weathering the emotional storm of her birthday. Actual livin' (the proper phrase I think) as opposed to reactin'. The indescribable shock of loss will always be with me, but I'm beginning to understand that the presence of the thing will be bearable.

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I've written at length here about the first and foundational principle of America; that all men are created equal. That all human being are equally human; that none of us are "other." None of us are airplanes or tomatoes or wuhandromeda viruses. The contract we Americans have with our government -- the Constitution of the United States -- stipulates that not only are we all equally human, we are each and every one of us sovereign human beings. We are not the property of the government.

But this argument isn't about the government. It's about the principle of human equality and the responsibility which attends this principle.

In simple formulation we're talking about the Golden Rule. "Treat others as you would yourself be treated."

A lot of people I encounter -- many of them having achieved full adulthood and some having extensive higher education (there's your problem!) -- read that simple dictate differently than I. Their golden rule reads something like, "you have to treat me the way I demand you treat me, because I am me and you are not me."

Another way to write the concept is the way Emanuel Kant did in his Categorical Imperative, which says that one should always seek to treat oneself and others as an end only, and never as a means to an end.

Trolls stop by this place from time to time. Mostly to tell me how wrong I am and how victimized they are by my writings. I guess being a professional victim is hip and cool. 

I mean c'mon, what do you even do with that?

The Golden Rule comes to mind.

The other thing that comes to mind is how very blessed I am to not be mired in a nasty pit of certainty and resentment. My days are filled with livin', and in livin' my life I find myself loving people in a way I didn't even know existed not so long ago. I've won the life lottery. Blessed.

The point of livin' seems to be to keep exploring and discovering new and important things, regardless of the quantities of shit sammiches you encounter along the way. Finding and learning about life's important lessons is the proper path, and along that path is indescribable beauty.

Walking dogs.


Doing the slide the hard way.


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Be well and embrace the blessings of liberty.



    

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Wednesday, June 16, 2021

Learning and driving on






Nature in springtime is a beautiful thing.


In this part of the world the transformation from winter to spring is delightful. Cold and drab seem to last a very long time, and I kind of get used to the world looking and feeling like winter. It's not a bad thing, but it is winter. And then spring arrives in a rush of rebirth. In the wake of boring old winter springtime is sensory overload. Delightful sensory overload. Pretty flowers, pretty green grass, pretty leaves, pretty babies. Pretty everything.

Since waving goodbye to Uncle Sugar's Yacht Club I have been blessed to spend a great deal of time out of doors and away from the ape-lizard accommodations where most of us spend nearly all of our lives. Mind you, my daily explorations of nature's reality have been limited to a very local area. I'm familiar with this area and the rhythms of this place have seeped into the core of my being. I feel intimately at home here.

Now you might think that I'm an expert on nature's work here on my familiar stomping ground.

Ha!

Nature surprises me every single day. She is always changing things up and showing me things I've not seen before. Sometimes things which have been certified as impossible by The Committee For Excellence In Ape-Lizard Certification.

The video above is a case in point. This lovely bouquet of breeze-ruffled tickseed appears to be threadleaf coreopsis, Coreopsis verticallata. According to The Committee, it's not allowed to be here. We're allowed to have Coreopsis tinctoria, but not verticallata. Nevertheless...

An important lesson -- for me at least -- is that what exists in nature's reality is truth. Nature doesn't exist in television or film or books or VR video or in this blog. What I can see and touch and smell and taste an hear is real, the other stuff is a poor and incomplete imitation.

Where am I going with this? I'm not entirely sure. Just a reminder, perhaps, that all of the things we see in various magic image machines are woefully incomplete representations. The actual people, places and things they mimic are fundamentally different in reality than they appear in two dimensional dress. This is probably a good thing to keep in mind.

Now where was I?

Oh yeah, springtime!

Spring is a time of rebirth, but death is also part of the process. Predators consume prey, even when the prey is cute. The bullsnake will seek out, find, and consume recently hatched Say's Phoebe chicks. Doesn't matter whether we like it or not. Nature does nature stuff on her own terms.

 




One way an ape-lizard can describe nature is to say it is round. It is round and full and closes a continual circle of birth, livin', death, and rebirth. Nature's holistic cycle is the place in which we live, and we are part of it whether we like it or not. Whether we believe it or not. To paraphrase an oft butchered quote, you may not care about nature, but nature cares about you!

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This spring has been a surprisingly hard time for me. There have been moments, minutes, hours, and even strings of days where the sledding has been impossibly hard. Looked at and analyzed intellectually, my path is curious and interesting. Where do some of these roadblocks come from? What is their true nature? Why is the struggle so hard at times?

Many if not most of the what and why questions are simply unknowable. In a very real sense they do not matter. My job is to suck it up and drive on.

None of that makes sense, does it?

It's not all hard all the time though. I get slammed with beautiful life adventures every day.


I paused while writing this to capture some video of the pre-dawn morning. Another microscopic slice of beauty, even though my phone camera lens had a slight coating of three year-old fingerprints.


The last couple of days have been filled with adventure and I have some fun things to share in the next couple of posts.

Be well and embrace the blessings of liberty. 




Saturday, June 5, 2021

Doc's Monthly(ish) Dump





I have so many drafts started. Ideas flower but life and inertia spring (get it?) to the fore, and the ephemeral beauty fades.

Looking back from today, June 5, I can now see with clarity how hard the winter was. The combination of physical and emotional pain is a tough one. Over much of the winter I was in a sense barely hanging on, shuffling forward haltingly. But I did shuffle forward. I had to bring grit and determination but the table was set by God's grace and the love of family.

It'll be 10 months on Thursday. Alexzandra walks with me, day in and day out. Sometimes I get quite cross with her. "Leave me alone! No more hurt!"

She ignores my bullshit whining. Of course.

Thank God.

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Okay, here we go with some funny stuff and pondering. I posted this a while back and I recently experienced a bizarre echo of a similar but completely different experience.

To set the scene I'm thinking about, early in my recounting the tale of Grease's interesting day, there was a point where Grease was having a seizure on the deck of the tiny fighter squadron Maintenance Control space on the boat. The squadron's Maintenance Master Chief -- a very senior, very skilled and experienced sailor who had been sailing the briny years and years before veet-jam was even a thing -- had tried his best to help out by finding a large tablespoon. Back in the day "everyone" knew that if a person had a seizure you had to stick a tablespoon in their mouth to keep them from swallowing their tongue. I can remember being introduced to the concept in elementary school -- perhaps in second grade.

There's a story behind that introduction. During a high school basketball game one of the local players collapsed and perished on the court. As you can imagine this was a significant emotional event for our small town. The word that we second-graders got was that the lad had swallowed his tongue, and if only someone had stuck a tablespoon in his mouth he would have survived.

What really happened? I have no idea and I'm probably not going to to try to research a tragedy half a century gone. But there could be a grain of truth in there. His tongue might have blocked his airway during a seizure and he might have expired from suffocation. Opening the airway by lifting the tongue with a tablespoon might indeed have saved the day. There are better ways to clear an airway though, and sticking a tablespoon in there is quite a risky thing to do, so I can't come down solidly on the tablespoon side.

Anyway, there I was the other day assembling widgets at the widget foundry. Across from my work station is the work station of another olden duffer. This guy has the old-duffer diabetes and doesn't appear to take it seriously. It's not unusual for him to zone out with low blood sugar, and the local ambulance has responded such incidents several times in the recent past.

Now I don't know the old guy's story, but I do know that I find it irritating when he has an attack of vapors. That irritation is all on me; no one else in the universe is responsible for for me being selfishly irritated. In my incomplete world view he should be taking better care of himself so as not to put me in an uncomfortable position.

That uncomfortable position rests in the perspective of a former first responder who still feels responsible for responding. And also knows he's long out of cert. And also knows that it's not his job to super-corpsman his ass into every sniffle that appears in the world.

On the one hand I still want to be the man, on the other hand I don't want to be bothered, especially by the antics of an olden duffer who in my judgement needs to step up to the plate and execute some personal responsibility.

Yep, you got it in one! I'm an asshole!

Now where was I.....?

Kay. Olden duffer begins to zone out. There's a flurry of activity as line leaders, the foundry's self-certified medical response team, bored widget assemblers, and most of the community's dog population converge and begin milling about smartly, shouting advice and encouragement at each other. The crowd makes it impossible to work, and impossible for me to help, unless I decide to use my super-corpsman command voice and take charge. Which I do not want to do.

A fleeting thought is this -- being unconscious and at the mercy of such a bizarrely remarkable crowd is an awful thing. I try to imagine myself in the olden duffer's place and decide that I must, at my very next opportunity, visit my favorite tattoo parlor and have "DO NOT RESUSCITATE" inked across my chest. And across my forehead.

I also think -- again fleetingly -- that the price of not taking care of oneself is sometimes its own reward.

Crap! It has been a hard winter!

At this point it's nearly break time and I have a date with step running, so I slide past the circus and get on with some cardio. Within a couple of minutes I have a good sweat going and my heart rate is up to 180 or so. Feels good.

Then the plant PA system erupts with a call. "Anyone who knows CPR please join the circus immediately!!!"

I'm internally pulled in a couple of different directions. What are the chances that CPR is actually required just now to save olden duffer's life? If so, what are the chances that he can be resuscitated? What are the chances that an out of cert paramedic will be savaged if the circus goes south?

Tiny. Essentially impossible. Highly likely.

I keep running steps.

The plant door bangs open and a circus member rushes out. "Shaun, come quick, olden duffer needs CPR!"

Oh, firetruck me.

Inside the circus crowd has grown and now includes most of the population of the nearby villages of Dix and Bushnell. There are even a few latecomers from Fort Morgan, down in Colorado. It's a festive circus. No ambulance yet though.

I eyeball the situation. Olden duffer is leaned back in his chair. He's clearly breathing and I'm reasonably certain his heart is ticking along. One of the circus acrobats has thoughtfully stuffed an ink pen in olden duffer's mouth, because it's what you do.

I return to my cardio. The best thing I can do to shield myself from the tender mercies of the circus is to stay fit and healthy. Sucks to be olden duffer, but at least he's presenting an object lesson in how not to do it.

Man, am I an asshole or what?

Postscript. The ambulance arrives. Olden duffer gets glucose gel under the tongue. He comes around, signs AMA (against medical advice) for the fifth or sixth time in the last 60 days, and goes home for beer and pretzels. He's back at work the next day.

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And now for something entirely more funner.

The first of the cattle arrived yesterday. What's better than cows savaging fresh grass in early June?


Earlier in the day I came across an earless lizard. More properly a Common Lesser Earless Lizard, Holbrookia maculata. Beautiful lizard. If the herp experts are correct, the golden hue on this one identifies her as a female ready for egg laying.


Speedy!


After that adventure I came across a Pronghorn giving birth. I was a quarter-mile away and the optical zoom wasn't quite up to sharp images, especially with shimmering heat waves in the mix.





I left the new pair alone for about an hour and a half, then drove back by just in case I might be able to get some decent video of the baby.


Which I did!


Quite a beautiful springtime day which included lots of physical labor and bumping into nature's springtime rebirth.

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Be well and embrace the blessings of liberty.