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Friday, November 13, 2009

Tangled up in blues

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.


  1. Well, I'm glad it wasn't a rush-you-into-surgery kind of day, but I can see how the news as it stands isn't so hot, either.

    Your ability to pedal on -- mentally, emotionally, and otherwise -- astounds me.

    Hang in there. Enjoy the pups and your trails. Take it one decision at a time.

  2. You and Max are the poster 'children' for inspiration!

    Khyra says she'll include in 'The Cirkhle of Paws' -

    BTW, thanks for the most excellent earworm - it is probably my favourite Dylan song for some special reasons!

    Khyra's Mom
    P.S. My word made me grin: DIGMEN

  3. Roxanne beat me to it - sorry about the cruddy news, we'll hope for the best (no surgery) over here. In the mean time, I know you'll live every day to the fullest out on your bike with the dogs, just like you did yesterday and today.

  4. Sometimes it all sounds so serious, I am just left speechless.

    But I want to wish you the very, very best, whatever comes along!

    Jo and Stella

  5. Oh KB...I am simply speechless. I cannot imagine what you must be going through after that doctor visit :(
    Sending you the most monstrous (but gentle) hug that I can muster...

  6. I'm sorry for the bad back news. I have a feeling that your determination will conquer that news. The drive to get out there and see the simple things (like goshawks hunting squirrels - how cool you saw that!) that inspire healing of so many will prevail over those silly MRI results and surgeries! Ride on!

  7. Hi KB, You are one outstanding, courageous woman; your bike riding each day astounds me-even without back problems. I've only had herniated discs and sciatica but remember how awful the pain is so I applaud you continuing on. Your choice to live today and enjoy the moment is so wise. Have a good weekend-hopefully the pain will ease a bit.

  8. You are one amazing woman. We wish you all the best with your health struggles. You sure do inspire us all to live in the moment.

    Hugs, the OP Pack and Mom

  9. wow, that is shocking news to get....i love how you seize everyday and the beauty that surrounds is a lesson for all of us...sending positive energy your way....
    interesting how the person didn't see you, even in your orange...imagine all the animals that sit stationary while you whiz past them on your bike...
    the hawk and the squirrel, neat thing to see, but glad you didn't have to feel guilt that the squirrel was carried away in the talons...i once saw a hawk going for a squirrel, very interesting fight...and the squirrel was able to out maneuver the hawk, only i think because they were in a wooded area...
    enjoy the beauty around you today and try to keep your thoughts from flooding your mind about what might be....

  10. well, crap. I'm so sorry that you didn't get better news at your doctor's appointment. I hope that the info from the MRI gives you more options for treatment.

  11. Hi KB, I was hoping that you would get better news from you DR. I'm glad, though, that you live in a beautiful place where you can stay tuned to Nature. Hopefully, your mind and body will find some rest and relief from pain and stress in your sojourns outdoors with your dogs. I know movement is important but do be careful! We are having snow in Breck - about 4" so far. I'll think of you as I walk in it later today.

  12. Thanks to every single one of you for your kind comments. You lifted my spirits, which had definitely reached a nadir yesterday. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

  13. I don't think I can say it better than Dog Geek. As you say in your next post, you love nature and your rides so much, it's frightening. But you are doing the right thing by just focusing on what you CAN do right now. I appreciate you sharing your life with us. But now, I have to go look up what a nadir is.

  14. I'm late catching up. Obviously this is a bummer; please keep us posted. Like your other readers I'm glad that you have your priorities straight, and passions that bring you happiness and adventure everyday.

  15. Hi KB! So sorry about the news from your spinal doctor. Husband, Dave has been fighting degenerative disc disease for some time now. He rides as much as he can...usually in some for of pain. But, knowing he can still ride, and always enjoying the sights and sounds... Brings those moments of physical peace.

    Hugs and snaggle-tooth kisses,
    Sierra Rose and mom


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