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Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Anything is possible

Today felt like an important day for me to celebrate life. Exactly 21 years ago, my mom lost her battle with breast cancer. The recent death of women's basketball coach, Kay Yow, really hit home for me. Kay Yow and my mom were diagnosed with breast cancer in the same year. That fact brings home how long Coach Yow fought and lived with cancer. I can't imagine the mountain of strength it takes to live with dignity while fighting cancer.

My mom taught me to believe in myself and that anything was possible. Most days, I feel like I truly learned the lessons. Most of all, since my mom died very young, I internalized the lesson that my life might be short like hers was, and I better do what I love rather than what the world expects me to do.

In that spirit, I did what I love. My labs and I romped and rolled through the forest and delighted in the mountain spirit. Today was cold and blustery. The wind relentlessly blew from the west and tore the snow off the west side of the trees but not the east side (right photo).

My youngest Lab, R, was the one with 'gastric distress', and his tests showed a bad bacterial infection. Despite an illness that would've floored me, R's rambunctious spirit continued to burn. He's a super high energy dog, like most field labs. In fact, after going through the rehabilitation period for his elbow dysplasia surgery, we've become afraid of the wild puppy that he becomes when he doesn't get to run. So, when he insisted that he wanted to go with me this morning, I listened. The good news is that his illness seems about 85% better and the running did no harm that we can see. It might've helped by preventing the stress that he obviously feels when cooped up.

We've been getting a couple of inches of new snow each night, and it's building up. Fortunately, I'm becoming better at biking in the snow. I've learned a couple of lessons: 1) when going uphill, never stop pedaling even if I'm losing traction until I start to fall over. I've been surprised by how often my tires gain traction at the instant when I'm about to topple over. 2) I usually can recover from a skid by letting up on the brakes and steering correctly.
Moreover, I rarely gain enough speed in snow biking to have a bad crash. If I skid and fall, it's usually a pathetic little wipe-out.

In the spirit of full disclosure, I should mention that I'm much more careful about avoiding crashes than most riders. My docs have warned me about the risk of a spinal cord injury with a spine as messed up as mine. But, quitting riding isn't an option that I'll consider. Instead, I ride a bike, because I love it too much to stop and it reduces my back pain. In deference to my spine, I try to be very careful. Of course, that approach isn't foolproof - last summer, I crashed for no apparent reason and broke a rib - but that's another story.

Today, I followed a trail that I haven't been on in a year. First, I climbed up to a high point, making 'first tracks' in a sun-bathed snowfield (right, above). Then, I took a steep descent to a gulch that leads down to the water's edge of a reservoir (below).

Based on the tracks, it appeared that the ice fishermen that I
met the other day finally found their ice here. It's a beautiful spot but I still can't imagine enjoying ice fishing. In the photo, the wind is driving the snow sideways. I became chilled within a minute of stopping at the water's edge. I'm sure those guys were puzzled by my snow-biking but I think that I'm even more puzzled by ice fishing.

To stave off the cold, I rapidly turned around and started the long climb up the gulch (right photo above). As I climbed, I thought about my mom and felt thankful that I'm carrying on my mom's spirit on this beautiful Earth.


  1. I'm sorry about the loss of your mom, but I think that you honored the anniversary of her loss in a great way, by celebrating life.

    I was so sad to hear the news about Kay Yow's death - she was such an inspiration coach and a wonderful human being.

  2. I can't help but think that your mom would be so proud of how you are living your life...what a beautiful tribute. Aren't we so lucky to live surrounded by such paradise?

    I love the resilience that animals have regarding pain. They really do live in the moment and I am continually inspired by my critters. So glad that your pup is feeling better!

    I hope you had another beautiful day out in the snow-the winds are a bit much today but I'm sure it's so much nicer in the trees :)

    Sue and the gang

  3. Poor R's tummy. I wonder where he picked up such a bad bug. Glad he's feeling better.

    I'm sorry to hear about your mom, but what a great tribute to her.

    Three cheers for you and your MOM ... and for R's intestinal fortitude.

    We missed you at class today. Maybe next time.


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