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Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Photo Wednesday: Top of the world to the valley floor

One day in Moab, we were on top of the world in the morning.

We were on the valley floor below the cliff for sunset. In the desert, sunset is a magical hour that paints the rock cliffs in mystical purple and gold hues.


Magic.

Monday, November 28, 2011

A sunset to remember

I never in a million years imagined the warm and wonderful comments that I received yesterday. I'd kept my story quiet for what felt like a long time. I'm so glad that I told it, and that I have such compassionate blog friends. None of us is really alone out here.

While I spent a few hours in the hospital today being injected with radioactive glucose and then being scanned, I remembered an incredible sunset that we saw last week at Dead Horse State Park near Moab, Utah. A popular state park is usually a place that we avoid like the plague because we value solitude in the wilderness. However, we thought that Thanksgiving Day at dinner time would probably be pretty quiet. We were right.

We ventured out to a lookout where we could see a sweeping curve in the Colorado River.
The sun sank toward the horizon with that unbelievable speed that characterizes this time of year.
I glanced to the south and saw cliffs, mesas, and snowy mountains all tinged in pink. When I was a girl, growing up in a crowded part of the eastern part of the country, I had absolutely no idea that vistas like this one existed.
As the sun sank further, I realized that it was bathing us in that honey glow that I love so much on K's fur. Her fur turns copper red, almost aflame with beauty.
As the sun fell further, I glanced down at the river again. The desert moonscape looked alien in the sunset light.
K gazed in the same direction. There was another photographer at the vista, and I'm sure that he couldn't imagine why I was taking photos of my dog at that moment. I couldn't resist capturing her fur in the amazing light.
After the sun had just disappeared, I glanced to the south again. Pink and purple everywhere! Can you believe that places like this exist on our Earth? I can't.
Finally, sunset morphed into dusk and the sky caught on fire.
That's what I thought about during my scary scans today. Nature's beauty keeps my hopes high. This spectacular ride can't possibly be derailed anytime soon. Life is too beautiful and too good.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Carpe Dieme

Have you ever walked to the edge of a cliff and peeked over the edge, realizing that the desert floor is thousands of feet below you?
During my internet break, I visited the desert and noticed how I was drawn to the concept of cliffs, both literally and figuratively.
During my blogging break, we decided to escape winter and some unwelcome drama in our lives. It involves a figurative cliff that I'm peeking over right now. Over the past weeks, I had a series of imaging studies of my spine to determine whether I need more surgery yet. The state of my spine always scares me... but something else scared me more. The images showed multiple small nodules in my lungs and enlarged lymph nodes around my lungs. We know these oddities are real because multiple procedures have illustrated them.

A couple of different things could underlie them. One is a rare autoimmune disease that tends to attack the lungs and the specific lymph nodes that are inflamed in my chest. The other is scarier and starts with a "C". Tomorrow, I'll be having a PET scan (no, that won't examine how many pets I have!). It'll give more information about the kind of cells that make up the "lung nodules" and inhabit my lymph nodes. It'll also scan the rest of my body for abnormal cells.

I'd be lying if I said that I wasn't scared. I think that I was drawn to cliffs during our trip to the desert because I feel like I'm teetering, not knowing whether I'll be able to stay precariously balanced in this situation. Unfortunately, I probably won't get definitive answers tomorrow or even anytime too soon. I suspect that even more procedures will be needed to distinguish between the diseases and decide what to do.

My greatest hope is that the disease won't start with a "C". Rather, it will be an autoimmune disease that I can learn to manage.

I also hope that by peeking over this scary cliff, I'll learn more about my character and will be stronger in the long run. By being forced to face this potentially life-threatening situation, I hope that I'll learn to rejoice in the time that I'm given on this Earth. I already try to do that. "Seize the day" is my motto and is the main reason why we took our desert trip despite this medical drama. But I know that I can do better and I shall.

I'll keep you all posted... but, be warned, this is one of the slowest-moving dramas that you can imagine. I don't foresee a conclusion tomorrow or the next day.

During our trip, I wanted to step back from that mythical cliff and feel balanced again. Believe it or not, it happened. My K danced on slick-rock, making me grin ear-to-ear.
I went for long grueling mountain bike rides, reveling in warm sunshine, dry trails, and defying gravity!
And, the Runner and R made me smile more times than you can imagine. R defied gravity daily, as he bounced off the Earth with joy.
I'll tell you more about our desert escape in the coming days.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Thankful

It's becoming our morning tradition. K and I sprint up the hill to see the sunrise. Some days it's glorious, like a rain of fire from the sky. Regardless of the sky show, I'm happy to be out on the trails with my K.
Below was a surreal morning. A wild wind blew off the mountains, and a swirl of clouds hovered to our east. The sun barely shined through, creating a ghostly appearance to our familiar world.
After sunrise, I often pedal toward the forests where K and I enjoy wending through the trees. Recently, fallen trees have converted the trails to obstacle courses. Moreover, the wonderful local hikers and bikers who usually clear the trails probably won't be out on them again until springtime. So, I've been stopping at each one to contemplate what I can do about it without hurting my spine. During one pause for pondering, K decided to wow me by leaping the fallen tree. She seemed to say "See - just jump it like I do!". What an athlete she is.
I used to get angry and upset about the wind. It can be relentless around here in the winter. Feeling it batter me while I try to pedal forward could frustrate me to the point of spewing angry words out loud. Somewhere along the way, I developed a more philosophical view of the wind. It's not worth getting angry at it - it's part of nature and can't be stopped.

Here's a short clip of video (9 seconds) from a ridge where I rode today. I literally couldn't ride my bike or even stand still because the wind buffeted me with such force. The camera wobbling is despite me trying my best to hold it still. Be sure to turn the audio on so that you can hear the fierce gusts.
video

In the evenings, just after sunset, the wind often takes a short rest and the world seems peaceful again. There is no way that I would be able to convince K to stand on this boulder if the wind were howling.
And the skies look brooding, planning their next aerial assault.
I am thankful to experience the wild fury of nature and the peaceful lulls, day in and day out, from my perch in the Rocky Mountains.

I may take a short break from blogging so please don't worry if this blog is quiet. Just in case, Happy Thanksgiving to all of you.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Almost Wordless Wednesday: Eight years with K




Then, she grew up...


Well, not really...

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Bobcat mother and kitten!

I've captured rare (for me) photos of the bobcat mother and kitten multiple times this week! They're still frequenting a very snowy north-facing slope where I have a trail camera set up hoping to photograph bears who are heading to their dens. I'm amazed that the bobcat pair is still using the slope. It's SO cold. I hate checking my trail camera there because I get chilled to the bone in the shady and snowy world.

The first time that they passed my camera, the kitten led the way but turned to look for mom.
Mom wasn't far behind and the pair walked onward, placing their paws in my snowbike tracks.
A few days later, the pair walked in the opposite direction past the same trail camera. This time, mom led the way.
She looked back to check her kitten's progress.
Her kitten walked briskly to catch up with her.
A little later the same morning, the kitten ventured off by himself to investigate something.
He sniffed around in the snow and then realized that mom hadn't followed him when he looked over his shoulder.
He hurried off, away from the camera, to find his mother.

Clearly, this kitten hasn't yet started spending much of his time alone. He and his mother are traveling tightly together. Ah, I love seeing our wildlife living their lives naturally with my trail cameras!

I made a "flipbook" video of the rapidfire photos of the pair. You can watch it here or at Youtube.

On another note, as the year is winding toward its end, I've started sorting through my photos to enter a photo contest. This one represented a wonderful summertime memory of a warm hike up near the clouds with my K. I think that it'll be among my top choices as my entry.

Monday, November 14, 2011

The wind of change

The wind has howled continuously for days now with gusts so fierce that they toppled at least 20 trees across the trails on one of my favorite riding routes. I feel as if the wind has decided to inform us that it's winter and there's no turning back.

K made one of her most funny faces ever today when a gust hit her from behind. Her look sums up how many of us feel about the unrelenting wind!
During the lulls in the wind, K sort of relaxes. A tongue flick, like she's doing in the photo below, is said to be a "calming signal" that dogs use to calm other dogs or themselves. Perhaps K was trying to calm the wind... (it didn't work).
We stood in our favorite spot for sunrise. The wind let up for a moment, and I took a deep breath, enjoying the nascent sun rays and the setting moon.
During a wind gust, I noticed how K clung to the rock with her toes. You can see her three-toed paw clearly in this photo. It's come to represent strength and courage to me. She's been through so much in the past year, and she keeps embracing life with incredible joy.
We found a meadow where the wind didn't reach us. I looked back toward our local ski area and admired the winter colors and the snow-covered slopes. Although I'm not allowed to ski anymore due to my spine, I'm happy for everyone else that it looks like the skiing will be good this year!
K romped in that meadow, happy to be out of the wind's fearsome force.
On many of my recent rides, I've seen our elk herd. They've arrived from the high mountains to spend the winter with us. I took this photo about a week ago, and many of the big bulls still stood tall. The main hunting season ended yesterday, and we have just one more season, a "limited" season, which I assume means that there will be fewer hunters rustling through the woods and eying the elk.
I saw the entire herd standing in one of my favorite spots. I couldn't fit the whole elk herd in my field of view but they all mingled in a meadow with a towering peak on the horizon.
On one of my rides, the herd decided to thunder across the small dirt road in front of me. I captured some video as they sprinted. You can watch it below or at Youtube.
I love having the elk herd back for the winter! My nephews and I made some "LED photographic art" that sums up my feelings about the elk. We made the photo by keeping the shutter on my camera open for a long time in a dark room. One of the boys took an LED light and drew a happy face in the air using the light. What fun!
Smile - the elk are here!

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Up with the sunrise

I remembered that one of my favorite things in the winter is being outside to see the sun rise. Because my spirit has been flagging recently, K and I have hustled out the door on the past two mornings to experience that magical moment when the sun peeks over the rocky peaks to our east.
Usually, I am awed by the quiet at that early hour out in the woods. Alas, that wasn't true this morning. The wind howled, almost knocking me off my feet at sunrise. K hates the wind - this photo shows her looking the happiest of any of the photos I took this morning. Notice the almost full moon setting behind her.
Indeed, when I pedaled laboriously up to Hug Hill, I was blown backward when we emerged from the trees near the rocky summit. I trudged the last yards to the top. K tried to pose with her front paws on her favorite rock but the wind, whooshing from behind her, caused her to stumble toward me. Notice how the wind blew her ears outward and the fur on the top of her head so that it stood straight up into a crest.
When we arrived home, both K and I were happy to have the shelter of a warm house. It's truly winter here when the Chinook winds start howling.
It's also truly winter here when the bears start to settle in for the season. I have been tracking a bear this week, as he wandered all over a north-facing slope. Over the course of multiple tracking sessions, I found a magical place that is supremely well-sheltered where he has been spending most of his time recently. I'll tell you more about that in the near future.

By getting outside for sunrise and finding time to track our bears, I've lifted myself out of the trough that I'd fallen into. I'm also starting to see bear tracks when I close my eyes (the bear had walked toward the camera in the photo below, using the familiar pigeon-toed gait). Do what you love. Love what you do.