Yesterday didn't turn out like I expected although it started beautifully. K and I headed up high early, catching a view of the golden hue of sunrise reflecting onto the snowy mountains to our west.
The warm sun still glowed on us, and we turned our faces to the sky to feel its warmth.
Because I was in a playful mood, we stopped to use the timer on my camera for a joint photo.
The mountains behind us were gorgeous but didn't show up in our photo.
Yesterday, I dropped K at home, and headed out for a brief ride. At one point, I was pedaling back onto someone's private property. I know the person and have permission to ride on his land, as long as I don't bring other people or let people see me using it. Basically, he doesn't want it to become a public trail. The funny part was that, as I rode through wearing my blaze orange jacket, a person walked into view along the road. I felt like a deer caught in the headlights. The only strategy that I could think of was to freeze, but I was wearing that darn jacket. Believe it or not, the person walked within 20 yards of me and didn't notice me, just because I was still. It truly makes me wonder how many tan or brown animals we forest-visitors pass close by without a clue.
As I rode, the clouds gathered over the mountains, seemingly portending the day ahead of me.
After my ride, I drove to my spine doctor's office. After my initial exam, he was alarmed, to put it mildly. He ended up spending 2 hours with me, using his office's imaging equipment to figure out if he had a true emergency on his hands. In the end, he decided that although my physical exam was atrocious (strength losses, asymmetrical reflexes, patches with no feeling on hands and legs), I probably wasn't in immediate danger despite the bone spurs protruding toward my spinal cord in my neck. He ordered expedited MRIs of my entire spine, and we'll go from there.
I go to this particular doctor because he's a proponent of avoiding surgery whenever possible although he won't shy away from it if a patient is in danger. His last words to me yesterday were that I might have progressed beyond the point where conservative management (i.e., no surgery) was even on the table as an option. Coming from him, that's a shocking statement.
You can imagine that I was crushed, completely and utterly crushed. Moreover, within an hour after his exam, every pain flared up, probably due to the strength and flexibility tests that I'd just done. Last night wasn't one of my better ones.
This morning, K and I stuck to our routine, heading out for a ride. I was cranky, to say the least. But, within a few minutes, we saw the biggest deer buck that I've seen in our area in years. His antlers towered above his head, and the muscles rippled in his neck. After calling back K, we watched him, frozen in place, in the midst of the forest. My photos turned out blurry, due to the dark light and dense fog. But, it was a special moment.
We stopped two different places, hoping to see the mountains through a break in the clouds but it was not to be. So, I gazed at my worried K in the fog.
And, she guarded my bike while I tried to discern mountains on the horizon.
I did smile when K sprinted enthusiastically through snow, churning it into the air.
After I dropped off K and started my solo ride, I realized that I was focused on my inner landscape rather than the world around me. I consciously tried to be here and now, enjoying nature rather than stewing inside my own mind. I noticed a Red Squirrel perched atop a boulder working on a Ponderosa Pine cone. He diligently ripped it apart while keeping one eye on me. I took out my camera for a photo.
Just after I snapped the photo above, a gray and white hawk gracefully swooped out of a nearby tree, attempting to snag the squirrel in his talons. Just after the swoop, the squirrel had vanished and some debris floated in the air where the squirrel had sat, either fur or feathers ripped from their moorings.
Then, I heard scratching and saw movement in a dead tree behind the boulder. After scrambling for a view, I spotted a Northern Goshawk perched on the tree skeleton, with no squirrel in his grasp. I wasn't fast enough to snap a photo before he flapped away and out of sight. I borrowed someone else's photo which is shown below.
I stood rooted in place, wanting to know if the squirrel was OK. I felt partially responsible. After all, I distracted him so that the hawk could attack. After a few minutes, my squirrel scampered from under the boulder, quickly grabbed the remainder of his cone, and leaped back to safety. Whew. I didn't inadvertently cause his injury or death. My conscience couldn't have handled that weight today.
I often wonder about my accidental effects as I wander through the forest, scaring up animals and doubtless affecting the behavior of others who I don't see. One day, I scared up a mother grouse and almost grown-up babies. Then, about a quarter mile later, I saw a human grouse hunter. I worried about whether my passage had started a cascade of events that led to one of the grouse being killed. I didn't hear a shot so I doubt it. However, the rippling effects of my travels must have profound consequences on some days.
For the rest of my ride, despite my fervent efforts to focus on the forest, I mostly turned inward rather than outward, so I missed any interesting nature stories that might have been along my route. Looking back, I feel like I was riding in a fog. In fact, I was!
When I was younger, I always thought that someday I'd turn a corner and life would become easy. It hasn't happened. But, through my travails, which I know pale in comparison to those faced by many other people, I have learned to seize the day and enjoy good moments to their fullest. That's one good consequence of having had 8 major surgeries already in my life and possibly facing another. Carpe diem.