Saturday, December 31, 2011

A year ago the earth was just about in the same position as it is right now in relation to the sun. But the planets, Poor Pluto, the asteroids, the comets, and even the space junk were configured totally differently. Our sun, bringing its satellites with it, revolved a bit more around the centre of our galaxy, the Milky Way, and the Milky Way danced its choreographed destiny with Andromeda and the other, somewhat near, galaxies. So really the earth is in a position today, at this writing that it has never been in before and never will be in again.

And of course our petty little measurement of 365 or so rotations that make up the one revolution are really pretty meaningless to any force of consequence in the universe , except of course to me, for I am the Centre of the Universe. Arrogance? Self Importance? Delusion? Not at all .... if the universe is infinite, if the power of the cosmos, the power of time are all infinite, then by default I am the centre. So are you. So is your friend, so is your enemy.

And if the power of God and God's majesty is infinite, I am at his / her centre. I find that very comforting. I can't explain God and I think that no religion can explain God. But I have no doubt that this power is there and on this last day of 2011 the calender, that is a very useful point of refection and gratitude that I can cling my mollusk like self to, and hang on for the ride.

I am thankful and grateful for so many things:
That I have a wife to share the journey with.
That I have a beagle and four cats that always add clarity
That I was able to share a friend's journey into cancer and share his joy at the words "Cancer Free"
That I was able to see another friend set sail on the MS Liberation
That I am employed with a moral and decent employer
That my cardiologist told me to "Get Out and Stay Out"
That I can huff and puff and pant as I try to run
That, despite my occasional misgivings, that we live in the most wonderful country on the planet and likely the best time in the history of the planet.
That I have old friends and new friends and Thursday Night Friends and Tuesday Night Friends and Running Friends
That my worries were mostly sown and nurtured by me and that I have the power to harvest and tie them in bundles and burn them at any time

My ride in 2011 was more than I deserved, it taught me, it nurtured me, it cradled me. I am thankful for all the grace that illuminated me and that I could bask in its warmth. I am in a spot now that I have never been in, and will never will be in again. That is comforting and that is frightening. But I am in nothing alone, and that is the best refection of all.

Friday, December 30, 2011

I wrote the first words in this blog the 31st of October of 2009; Halloween Eve. The first thing that I spoke about was the running that I had started in July of that year. I spoke of my plans to run the Resolution Run on December 31st, 2009, I spoke of the little chest pain that I incurred while running on the 21st of October and I spoke of the doctor’s appointment the following day that was either there by fluke (if you believe in that sort of thing) or by Divine Providence (if you believe in that sort of thing). The blog, for those friends that have muddled through it, know about the journey that reached the apex in the quintuple bypass and the wonderful and blessed journey that I was privileged to be able to trudge.
So what about the running? Well my intent now is to run six times a week and try and do a minimum of 6 kilometers per run. I have a good record of actually doing that. Up until a week or so ago, I was running outside, but with the lows hitting below minus 25 with highs below minus 15 , and wind and ice, I have joined the local gym and trying to do 6 to 7 K on the treadmill. The timer on the machine starts as soon as you start, so the warmup time sort of counts against my total time, but I am finding that it takes me close to an hour (well 57 minutes) to do 7 K on the machine. That is hardly anything to write to Running Magazine about and it seems to me that my treadmill time is slower than the outside time but I am happy that I am able to do this. I did three formal 5K runs this year, the Diefenbooker in Carp, the Army Run in Ottawa, and the Unity Run in Arnprior. In fact I was an instructor in the Unity Run. My goal, which I will state publicly here and now is to run 10K in the 2012 Diefenbooker. My PAC (Physical Activity Coordinator ) at my clinic has challenged me to run with her 6K in January, 7K in February , 8K in March – well you get the idea.
But I have enough friends that talk of One Day at a Time, so I will heed their advice. Tomorrow is New Year’s Eve and I have double booked to do two resolution runs of 5K – One in Ottawa and one in Arnprior. The weather is sort of erratic this weekend so I will likely stick to the Arnprior Run but I will report back on that.
As I type these words I have no idea if anyone reads them, save for my wife. The words are out there and the reason I do this is to put time in the freezer so to speak, and then have the ability to take it out, look at it, and then put it back in the deep freeze. One day I will be gone and one day the words will be gone but that concerns me not in the least. I am thankful to the entire earth and heavenly cosmos that creates a power greater than me that I can lean on and receive sustenance from, for as long as I need it, whenever I need it. That way, no matter how far back in the pack I am, or how alone I am on the treadmill in the gym, I never run alone. Another great present this sixth formal Day of Christmas.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

I got to apologize to a friend today. A couple of weeks ago I met this friend at a dinner, and being the great wit that I think I am, I made a joke at the friend's expense. He laughed (at least that is my recollection) and others laughed and I thought that I could chalk another one up in my repertoire. How wrong I was.
The friend mentioned to my wife, the other day, that I had hurt him, that he knew that I had not done so with malice but nonetheless I caused him pain, but he was reluctant to tell me for fear of upsetting me, but he decided to tell my wife as he had to "get it off his chest"
My initial reaction was self pity - I felt sorry for myself because I now felt badly. I was also suffering from disappointment in my failure to communicate my joke in being humorous as opposed to hurtful. I don't think that one can really do much with preliminary reactions that zap to the front lobe of your brain. But I have, in albeit a small way, learned not to act upon or react to these initial reactions.
So, first of all I had to dismiss feeling sorry for myself. I was in no way the victim here. Then my "failure to communicate" .... . This is not Cool Hand Luke, this is real life. If my mouth hurt someone, that is the way it is and no amount of rationalization or justification or edification changes that.
So what then remains? I uttered something hurtful .... end of story. I cannot, like Superman, fly counterclockwise (or is it clockwise?) to the rotation of the earth faster than the speed of light and go back in time and unsay what I said. The only option was to admit I was wrong and say sorry to the man, which I did. When we were wrong promptly admitted it, as some of my friends say.
So I made the apology and it was accepted and we are still friends. So why am I writing about this? It reminds me that I am far from perfect and make mistakes. It reminds me that when someone says something that I perceive as hurtful to me, that is is likely that the person met no malice. It reminds me that honesty is, if not always the best policy, it is a very good policy , and things are better on the table than under the rug. It reminds me that the three little words "I AM SORRY" are liberating, humbling, healing, and satisfying.
Most readers of my ramblings are doubtless more emotionally, spiritually, and intellectually more mature that I, so I do apologize for stating the obvious about apologies. But it was a good day of learning and maturing for me .... sort of a late present under the tree.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Tonight it is a frosty and clear night in the Ottawa Valley. After a balmy very early winter the ever so slightly lengthening days are being marked by snow and temperature dips to minus 20 C. I am sitting by the fireplace, toasty as a baby polar bear in his mother's embrace
Iistening to Bing Crosby singing carols. I know that by the 28th of December a lot of folks have taken down their trees and are in New Year's Eve mode but not I .... I cherish Christmas like a hard lemon drop and try to savour every drop of goodness. If Christmas is supposed to be about good will, charity, hope, faith, kindness, happiness , gratitude , cooperation , trust, joy, comfort, sharing, and just plain treating the world and every living thing on it as part of the whole cosmic being why the rush to recycle the tree? So I am having a Neo Citrin fortified with the juice of half a lemon hoping that the placebo effect will stop my sniffle in its tracks and let me fully enjoy not the 12 but the 365 Days of Christmas

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

It is two days after Christmas and maybe it is time to reconnect with this blog.
As a child I loved Christmas and I really loved it well into my thirties. Then it turned somewhat Blue for me but now it is my favorite time of year.
I love it because of the silence. Some folks rail about the commercialization: I read somewhere that if you had not snagged what you wanted by Black Friday, it would be too late by December. I am old enough to remember that Black Friday was the day that President Kennedy was slain but that was a long , long time ago. I have chosen to immunize myself against commercialization. (but in full disclosure I have to say that I did buy an iPad in early November)
So how did we spend Christmas? We is my wife, one beagle, four cats and me. Christmas Eve morning I made Apple Pancakes and then during the day a baked my Cast Iron Pan Bread. My wife works at the local church so she is busier than Santa on this day. She was back and forth but I made her some Spaghetti Bolognese before she was off at five in the afternoon. I also have to gloat (the only word that comes to mind) that I ran 6 kilometers as well, but more on that in future blogs.
I went to the second service of the evening at nine in the evening. The church looked like a church on Christmas Eve - resplendent in poinsettias and light. Although I am increasingly troubled by traditional organized religion there is nothing like the old carol Come All Ye Faithful to starve cynicism in mid bite. I found the net that was cast by the pastor to be exclusive of me, but that to was comforting as really the celebration of the evening is about three losers and outcasts, and in a strange way to be on the outside and looking in, wonderfully comforting on Christmas Eve.
We arrived home at just about 11 pm and lit the tree and the fireplace. That sounds quaint and traditional but of course all I did was flip two switches. We tuned the radio to CBC One and had our bread and two types of cheese. And that was it, a very simple and satisfying Christmas Supper. Oh, but one thing that is turning into a Christmas Eve Tradition for me - a small bag of Frito Lay Ruffles Potato Chips. That is the only time of year I eat them. So bread and cheese and chips while listening to CBC
We opened our presents - three cookbooks and a Heart and Stroke Lottery Calendar for me and a couple of scarves and a book for my wife. A cat calender for both of us. The beagle got some treats and the cats got new catnip toys.
Outside there was a white and pure shawl of snow on the entire country side - a true White Christmas. I felt love , serenity, and peace and my prayer is that everybody in the world could feel what I feel. As many times before my cup runneth over and Christmas truly is the zenith of God's Grace.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Well if I add my cycling, I as of today, have covered about 173 or so Camino kilometers. I have walked, I have run, I have paddled, and of course cycled. The goal of this was to listen and to see how Jimmy and I are getting along.

I am starting to learn that I am not a good listener as I let noise get in the way. My biggest noise is myself or , to break it down, my self, or to put in even better terms, my ego. I know I have ego problems because I always tell myself (and whomever else listens) that I do not have an ego and that is the surest sign that I have an ego problem.
So what is ego - well I like the definition that ego is actually an acronym so here it goes EGO = Edging God Out or Easing God Out. The only way that I can get my feeble little mind around God is to think of God as SOAPE or Source Of All Positive Energy. (I have said this before, but I am just posting this again in case on of my legion of followers is leading their life and forgotten) .

As I walk this virtual Camino Trail I see and hear and feel trees, leaves, grasses, raindrops, thunder, lightning, clouds, blue sky, stars, moon, sun, planets, birds, bugs, butterflies, flowers, bees, dragonflies, turtles, seeds, wind, heat, coolness, shadow, pebbles, stones, rocks, cliffs, mushrooms, toadstools, frogs,moss, fungus, rivers, waterfalls, fish, cats,dogs, and The Beagle. What a list!

But it is not good enough for me ... I ignore that list and look at the Dow and the TSX and the price of gold. I am nothing but a baby monkey that likes the shiny pebbles. Jimmy says I am a chump and need think of the list of value that SOAPE has put in front of me. If I ignore that list then God will think that I don't want it or need it and figure that he can take it away without me even missing it.

No nature but the TSX goes up a thousand points. Wow!!

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Today was a river day; 4.3 kilometers to kiss the buoy line at the Stewartville Dam and 4.3 back to the landing. I tried to do a steady stroke and only take a break at the buoy line. The sun was quite warm, hitting 30 degrees, little wind, and a lot of humidity. Small wonder that a thunderstorm warning has been in effect all day. The forecast was for foul weather in the afternoon only, so I was not as crazy as to head out into potential lightning.

The generators at the dam were not producing power and there was nothing coming out of the spillway so there was no current at the buoy line so the paddling was easy. I was glad that there were only a few power boats, mainly folks out fishing. The boats for the most part are mindful of paddlers and give you a bit of wave action to play with.

So where is the Camino reflection? I guess I still think of Jimmy, or as some like to call him, St. James. (I know that is not really Camino but his remains are supposedly squirreled away in that Cathedral so there is a connection) Anyway, Jimmy would have spent a lot of hours on the water. His paddling and rowing would not have been fun or recreation but work; hard, back aching, muscle stretching work, just to earn enough to survive. The tiny callous on my left hand, the slight ache in my back, are really nothing, but they are a window into Jimmy's World.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Today was a low key Camino. Five of us met up at Galilee for a gentle walk; we walked around the main building , then through the Grove, then down to the river and then back to the main building. My numbers? Not even three kilometers! So why does that bother me?

Why does that bother me, indeed? I think that it is because I suffer, no that is a poor word to use, I choose to practice Shallow Spirituality. Shallow Spirituality is a numbers game: How nay times did you go to church last month? How long did you pray for? How long did you meditate? How many prayers do you know? How complete is your check list. How many Camino Kilometers did you do this week? 63! Thanks for asking.

So what did I learn? Or more correctly, what do I think I learned? In no particular order:

1 - I practice Shallow Spirituality
2 - I obsess about numbers
3 - The milkweeds have suddenly grown pods - fat pods.
4 - Colours are getting more vibrant as the summer matures.
5- Talking is good
6 - Listening is better
7 - Jesus picked Jimmy because they crossed paths
8 - Sweating is good.
9 - Self Mobility via walking, cycling, or paddling is a luxury and blessing beyond measure
10 - Thinking is easy, Doing is harder, Knowing is beyond me.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Today was another cycling day with that 20.7 km route. It was warm and muggy and I was quite the little sweating piglet. I do believe that pigs are minimal sweaters, so maybe the comparison is not apt. But I was sweaty.
And,I would imagine that during a Camino walk there is a lot of sweating. Jimmy and Jesus and the other apostles would have would have sweated a lot doing their work. So what does the fact that I sweated make me think?
Well, it is funny that for me sweating is something worth mentioning. I rode, at least according to my fitness level, quite aggressively ; I worked and my flabby little thighs were almost burning. That is unusual for me because I have a cushy job where I either sit or drive or talk or listen or stare at a computer screen and once in a while type. Elevating my body temperature, increasing my respiration rate or my heart rate, having even slightly sore muscles, feeling fatigue, and even getting a callous (from paddling) are all so rare and unusual that I give it special names: Working Out, Exercise, Fitness
Jimmy would have thought it crazy that I would go to the trouble of doing all this stuff, he would have thought that I had won some kind of lottery that I did not have to toil and yet I did it anyway and then was proud of myself. And he would have no idea what I did for a living.
So what do I have in common with Jimmy? Well we both had fathers so that hardly counts. He fished, I look at a computer screen. He sweated sunrise to sundown and thought nothing of it. I sweat so infrequently that I consider a big deal. Jimmy was handpicked by Jesus for a mission and Jimmy signed up on the spot with no idea of what was going to happen. What made him out the big OKAY without thought of what he was getting into? Did he just know? Is that our connection? Is that a lesson coming out of a week of numbers?

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Well today Camino was on the water - a 5 kilometer swish of the Madawaska in my kayak. The sun was still shining high in the sky when I hit the water at 5:30 in the afternoon.
I was greeted by 3 large barking dogs at my launch landing - the dogs were loud but friendly and their owners seemed pleasant enough. There was a light wind and the river had more power boats than usual so I had to be mindful of them. When I paddle I feel superior to the fishing boats and ski boats. I think it is just pride, ego, and love of self that motivates that in me. I am certainly not superior in care or action on the environment - so into this Camino Stew goes the pride, ego, and love of self - funny how I cannot control the ingredients.

The walk is Camino@Galilee so being on the water makes me think of the Sea of Galilee. I have never been there and of course with modern water usage that freshwater lake is under a lot of pressure. But what would have Jimmy thought of the lake? It was he home - he certainly lived by the Sea of Galilee. He would have paddled and sailed the lake. He would have fished the lake. He would have seen calms and storms. He would have seen whitecaps and rainbows. He would have felt liberated by the water and at times he would have thought that he is a prisoner of the water. All of this experience was exactly what Jesus wanted on the resume. So what lessons can I learn from the water?

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Today was Camino Cycling: 20.69 solo kilometres. It took about an hour and 6 minutes (did you catch that I was using the GPS) so my average speed was about 18.8 km per hour. But it of course not about speed. But it sort of is about speed. The Tour de France just finished and the average speed for the winner was 39.78 km per hour. That of course is for the whole thing; average for flats and the ups and downs. Near the end of my ride there is a bit of a downhill where I hit just over 40 km per hour. I go gaga when I hit that - it is as fast as I go. During a flat I can hit,for a few hundred metres a speed of 27 km per hour. That is a touch faster than the first Tour average speed in 1903. So it is about speed.

We are getting faster, the Tour is getting faster, the stats matter, the reading on the GPS matters, the top speed matters. But why? Why does the speed matter? If I could do this little route I have of 20.69 kilometres in less than an hour would that be good? Would it be better for my health? Would it be better for my heart? Would it be better for the Camino experience.

I have no answers, I am still tossing things in the stew pot and maybe will have a chance to think things out on Sunday.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Today I decided to walk 7 kilometers of Camino. I did it close to the house and it was sort of 4 out and 3 back - that is because my wife, drove by bearing iced coffee and I hopped on for a lift. And I had a nice chat with a neighbor with whom I have not really chatted with before now.

So what are my observations? Well, you likely meet more people walking than you do running, cycling, or kayaking. I had a very nice talk with my neighbor (well he lives a kilometer away) about high speed internet, the summer, mobile phone safety while driving, and jobs. He did not really know me before the talk but now he does and I know him a lot better. So you get to know people by a)taking your time, b) stopping to talk, c) stopping to listen, and d) making the effort to say hello. Valuable lessons that need to steep.

And a Wife Bearing Iced Coffee is a lesson that shows me that what I really need is really simple and close to home. I enjoyed the walk but was thankful for the ride and thankful for the refreshing beverage.

These lessons are in the pot and steeping.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Today is the Feast of St James and some may say: "who gives a hoot?." Well St Jimmy takes care of milliners, pharmacists, sock makers, and pilgrims and that is good enough for me. I lose enough socks in the washing machine so I need sock makers and I am going on a pilgrimage. He also brings forth good weather and battles arthritis and rheumatism; he was before Tylenol.

St. James was the son of Zebedee and an apostle of Jesus. He was never a Big Gun apostle, and I cannot see Jesus of my understanding calling him James ; so he is St. Jimmy to me.

His relics are by tradition located in Santiago de Compostela,Spain and for a 1000 years people have done this journey of up to 750 kilometers. People I guess walked for penance, they walked for forgiveness, they walked for inspiration , they walked to walk. Well, one of my favorite spots on the planet, the Galilee Centre in Arnprior Ontario is doing a Virtual Camino Walk. It starts today on the Feast of St Jimmy and goes until Canadian Thanksgiving .

I did my first steps today. I was eager to move quickly and be at the front of the line to show off my ability but ended up at the back doing a slow walk and having an engaging conversation. My Personal Camino mediation is below : Funny how it is starting to come forth the first day.

My wish in this journey is to learn how to listen,
To heed the messages and signs from my body,
To hear the songs of the birds and of the insects,
To feel the heat of the sun and the cool of the wind,
To understand the silence of the stars and the moon,
But I really want to hear my Soul and Spirit,
And not have their message muted by Want and Desire,
As I step forth, I wish to learn how to listen.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

So , time to talk about investing the gift. If, through the grace of a power that is greater than myself I am alive and well, what do I do with the gift of life? The first thing that I am doing in enjoying life. I love my wife and I like being with her. In the mornings it is somehow my routine to make the coffee. I grind the beans, I make the coffee, and bring it to my wife.
I remember that, after getting my "adult" job a good 150 kilometers from my parent's house I would still visit an awful lot on weekends. My dad would, without fail make me morning coffee and deliver to my bedside. I was still a very young man, often recovering so to speak from a late Friday Night and the smell of the instant coffee next to my bedside was often not greeted with full enthusiasm by me. But something in my knew that of course the coffee would not last forever, that likely my father would leave the mortal world well before me and he did indeed die in 1990.
So it is with the coffee for my wife. The day will come when either I will not be there to make it, or she will not me there to receive it. But today I was able to make and give her coffee. It is a very, very, small payback but it helps me start the day.
I try to leave each day doing the right stuff for me, a sort of personal investment. I take my drugs: The morning is a baby aspirin, a beta blocker, a calcium blocker, a fish oil pill, a multivitamin, and a hit of extra fibre. At night it is another beta blocker, a statin and more fibre.
Then there is the food. I have a few things that I have done well. I love Frito Lay Ruffles but I only eat them on Christmas Eve. I have not taken up smoking or drinking. I have cut down drastically on my consumption of diet soda pop. I eat no more that two eggs a week. I never (well almost never) add salt at the table. But ice cream (soft cones) have entered my life a bit more than the summer heat should allow. I am getting careless on portion size. But I am trying to me mindful.

I try to move 30 minutes a day over and above what I have to do. Jogging, cycling, padding, and walking are what I do. Doggie walking does not count in the equation. The heat is making me lazy but each step, each stroke is an investment

More to come .....

Saturday, June 11, 2011

I don’t know why I have strayed from blogging … maybe too much is going on and that is good but if this blog is the one thing that survives the future I had better update my history for the future anthropologists from three solar systems over.

The big news for me is that I had my cardiac checkup on May 30th. The cardiologist basically (in a nice and professional way of course) told me to “Get Out and Stay Out”. My blood flow is restored, the blood work is good, I am on the right meds, I am on the right path.

So I have been given a great gift. As I have stated in previous posts, the vast majority of people on the planet do not have access to this sort of surgery and for the vast, vast, history of humanity this surgery did not exist. My total out of pocket expense for this whole journey has been a couple of hundred bucks; parking and Tim Horton’s coffees and sandwiches. I take a daily baby aspirin, two beta blockers, a calcium blocker, and a statin. You need money to do this, or a drug plan and I am lucky enough to have both.

I have the time and ability to run or cycle or kayak. I have a stable job for a wonderful employer. I have a spiritual home in many places (Galilee Centre is just one) and at many times, although Thursdays do come to mind. And I come home to love with my wife of over a decade. And then there are a collection of 20 legs and 5 tails that challenge, sooth, and instruct every day.

So what do I do with this gift I have been given? I am mindful of the The Parable of the Bags of Gold in Matthew 25 (14 to 28 for those interested). Here is the quick version. Dude goes traveling and puts homeboys in charge of cash. Homeboy One and Homeboy Two invest cash in markets and provide returning dude with original investment plus bonus. Homeboy Three stuffed loot under mattress and returns it a bit sweaty but otherwise untarnished BUT no bonus, no interest, no nothing. The dude was , to out it mildly, pissed , in fact megapissed. Now I am no theologian, but I do not think that Jesus was advertising mutual funds. I think he was saying, if you have a gift, if it has been granted to you by the grace of a power greater than yourself.

Stay tuned on how I am investing the gift …..

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Just like a year ago today, May 15th is still my birthday. A few details: I did go into emergency to check out that side pain (can't be too careful) and it turned out to just be muscle pain due to my raking - that felt good! (no, not the pain, but the relief at it being muscle pain) .
I was up north of Massey Ontario fishing for the last few days. I was with some life long friends and their kids. Other than that making me feel old, it was a lot of fun and I am glad that they let me be part of their family. It was a lot of driving - 1200 kilometers in four days and kind of tiring but I am glad that I was able to do it. It really made be grateful for my health.
Today I woke up in a warm house with my wife at my side and a beagle and assorted cats near by. I read birthday greetings on Facebook. I had local fiddleheads for dinner. I had a rhubarb custard tart (more like a pie!) for dessert. Yet again my cup runneth over.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Yesterday, I had a full day of raking and picking up branches strewn about in a recent storm over at Galilee Centre in Arnprior. (it was a Work Bee) Being in a cushy day job that involves either sitting, or driving, or yapping, or meeting, or doing deep thinking the physical effort on my part was perhaps a bit more excessive than a wiser man would have done. We had a group chili dinner and as I sat up after the meal my muscles did a bit of a rebellion. I got home, did a soak in the tub and then it was off to bed.

This morning I woke up and noted a bit of soreness in my chest / left side. CHEST PAIN!! So what should I do? I suppose that I should have thought about heading off to the local hospital. But the pain was very mild. It did not migrate. It did not radiate. It seemed to get a bit more noticeable when I moved my left arm. So I decided that it was muscle related to raking.

A week ago yesterday I participated in a 5K run - a actual race! Here is my race time: 196 37:44.1 7:33 1203 (196th out of 227 runners with a time of 37 minutes and 44.1 seconds, I paced 7:33 per km and 1203 was my bib number, not great but I am proud of myslef). I have been running 15 to 18 K a week. I am careful of what I eat, I take my drugs like I am supposed to, so I find the idea of chest pain very irritating. So I took it to be muscle pain due to raking. As I compose this in the evening I find it (the pain) hardly there.

So am / did I do the right thing by ignoring? Stay tuned.

I blog to capture my feelings and to a certain extent be cute. If I for a second thought that something was really awry, I would go to the hospital. I am not suggesting that anyone ignore chest pain or discomfort, I am just saying that I think I know my body better than anyone and I am doing the right thing.


Saturday, April 9, 2011

Today was a Deifenbooker Practice Run We go in the opposite direction of the actual "real run" and today was six and ones. The actual "real" run takes you through the Blast Tunnel of the Diefenbunker but that is not available until race day ...... I mean run day . They group is down to 35 or so runners. I can certainly boast that I am part of the Top 35!

I run at the back of the pack, and the more experienced runners now really get a jump on we laggards. The story for me started just after my Red River Cereal breakfast. I was also set to take my morning dose of pills which include a beta-blocker and a 81 mg ASA. I was so ecstatic about the Red River Cereal my wife had made (banana, pecans, dried apricots, and dried cranberries) that I forgot to take my pills. (but it took me a while to figure that out .. read on)

I arrived early at the meet point in the Carp Fair Grounds and was surprised to see the parking lot so full. Ahhh - The Gun Show was on (this is the Ottawa Valley After All) I joked that the pace runners (who wore bunny ears) were at risk. Someone said that wearing antlers would have been worse.

Anyway, we hit the trail and , even though I was at the back of the pack, we all did well. About half way through I saw two little poodles walking with their masters. "I can catch you little dog , and your master too" I thought in my best Wicked Witch of the West thought wave. And I did catch up and pass both little dogs, although one of them wagged his tail at me mockingly. The last hill is up Fall Down Lane, but I did run the hill and not fall down

I was ignoring the heart monitor but when I looked down I was hitting 160 bpm at the top of the hill and this was with me being hot, sweaty, and conductive. And then the big YIKES. I was running without meds!

Since I am writing this a few hours later and M. Night Shyamalan is nowhere to be seen I am thinking that I am likely in the land of the living. I will have to ask the cardiologist about this . SO note to self : Don't forget the pills, no matter how good the Red River

Friday, April 8, 2011

Well I am back to heart monitor and watch for running. Jessica the Exercise Coordinator at my clinic really thinks that cardiac guys should run with a monitor so I dusted it off and ran with it a couple of runs. Not sure if it needs a battery change ; today after a minute of running I was at 160 beats per minute and no way I was doing that. After I got a bit of a sweat on, the thing hovered in the 103 to 117 range which is in the okay field for me.

Since I am signed up for 5K of Diefenbooker I have decided to follow their running schedule sort of - this week we should be running six and ones in tomorrow's five kilometer run, but my wife inspired me to do ten and ones this week. I am sure that she would not want to take the credit but it is her doing.

I feel strangely serene when I run except when I run up a hill and then vomiting crosses my mind. (it has been my experience that vomiting and serenity are often mutually exclusive) Bur then I feel like a soaring beagle and sniff myself ahead.
And for the record (and the benefit of my wife) I do know that nausea is a cardiac danger side and my refernece to vomiting is factious. I do struggle in hill running, but runners do say the "hill is your friend", and at times I do believe them.

When my wife reads that she inspired the ten and ones she will act bewildered and I will giggle hysterically, which I often do when I am , er, what is the word - am lying. It was my idea, inspired by the good weather to run those ten and ones. But I love my wife a great deal and want to be around for her so I can receive her love and give her mine. So it really was her fault and that is no lie.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Personal Inventory Time:

I was doing fine on the abstinence from meat thing until about 6:30 pm today. I was invited to a simple dinner to share with friends but, as the simple dinner was served it was chicken and rice. Common sense and good manners trumped my need to follow my “rules” blindly so I enjoyed the deliciously fowl meal (this is my blog so the humour can be as bad as I like)

I did say no to the carrot cake offered for dessert so I am batting 1000 in the No Sweets reflection of gratitude although I did partake in a Hot Chocolate to warm up one day.

The bread thing has been a bit of a challenge as I have been on the road a fair amount and often the quickest and most practical thing to do is have some kind of sandwich. Maybe the bread thing was not that smart a thing to focus upon.

In the same traveling and on the road vein I have had salmon at least on two occasions. As bad as that fish can be from an environmental stance (Norway to Germany to China to British Columbia to Ontario) it sill seemed the best choice on the menus that I was being presented. But I am going to try a potato / sardine cake on the weekend – I will see how that goes.

As for the running – well I am back on the tyranny of the clock. I have signed up for a 5 K race and am going to running classes at my health clinic. They have us on timed walk and runs and I am doing four and ones this week.

But more later …….

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Not being Catholic, or not having the pleasure of really wearing any formal religious mantle I have complete freedom to ignore Lent which of course means I will not.
Here is what I am doing for 40 days:

– One cup a day of Small Producer and Roaster coffee in the morning to be aware of the wonder of the drink, that it connects you to a part of the world that is the same and yet different from Canada. Purchasing and drinking the coffee still helps small producers, coffee does have health benefits, and yet drinking it in a limited way makes you mindful of the distance that it travels and that not everybody can get it.
Meat – Abstaining from all meat unless it is from Renfew County. This is better for the environment and supports the local farmer who we will desperately need in the near future.
Fish – Fish like sardines and anchovies can be eaten in unlimited quantities. No salmon, no large fish. Frozen fish in our freezer and canned fish in our pantry is acceptable.
Bread – Only home baked bread in mindful quantities.
Sweets – No cakes, pies, cookies, chocolates, candies(except throat lozenges if needed) , doughnuts, soda pop (artificially sweetened or not), etc.
Purchases - No purchases of books, clothing, downloads, electronics, appliances, etc., unless truly needed

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Here is what I was doing 365 days ago. In a deep, drug induced sleep, slowly warming up under the care of two angels, Carly and Kevin. I cannot believe that a year has passed since the grace of the gift of my surgery. Today, a year later, the world’s headlines are on the aftermath of the earthquake in New Zealand, Gadhafi Duck hanging on to power in Libya, the price of oil continuing to rise, Lindsay Lohan’s troubles being laid out for the world to see, and the announcement of the launch date for the iPad II. Nowhere is there a headline screaming “HE LIVES”, but that is my headline. I am alive and very well today. Why? Here are some reasons;

1- SOAPE - My Source Of All Positive Energy. Has many other names: Higher Power, God, Mother Earth, Allah, Burt - the label list is infinite. My understanding would not fill the change purse of a baby gnat, but no matter. SOAPE takes care of me.

2- My Wife - She loves me, likes me, puts up with me, supports me, carries me, lets me annoy her but is like the soft centre of my Caramilk of Life. How she got there and why I deserve her only SOAPE knows

3 - Cousins - A man with no living siblings should feel alone but not with fabulous and helpful and wise and generous cousins.

4 - Critters - A tabby cat, a black cat, a white cat, a calico cat and a beagle - all are experts at putting life into context and perspective

5 - Fathers - Jack and Joe know the foolishness of the head office, the wisdom in the original instructions, and how to make it work in the fields.

6 - Doctors - My Family Doctor and the Doctors at the University of Ottawa Heart Institute.

7 - Nurses - The wit who coined the Disney Phrase "Don't Fuck With the Mouse" was certainly inspired by an encounter with some of those inspired by Florence Nightingale. Nurses are overworked, under appreciated, and underpaid. But since Kevin and Carly and Kathy and the many others had no visible wings it sort of debunks A Wonderful Life.

8 - Friends - Sunday Night Friends, Tuesday Night Friends, Thursday Night Friends, Friends Made 50 years ago, Friends made yesterday.

9 - Taxes - Thank God and SOAPE Almighty that we can pay taxes.

10 - Life Itself - The promise of dawn, the brightness of the day, the tranquility of evening, and the blessing of the night.

Monday, February 21, 2011

I am going to run 5K in the 2011 Diefenbooker Classic on April 30th. There, I have said it. The run is sponsored by my health clinic, Ottawa area libraries, and the Diefenbunker. I got my doctor's okay and I am back to being a runner.

I am abandoning the clock and the heart rate monitor and the advice books. I have a 5K course and I start off by walking and then I run when I feel like it and then when I feel a bit winded, I walk. and then after a bit I run until I am a bit winded and then I walk etc etc etc.

I may abandon this structureless course of action in the future (in fact one of the docs at my clinic is a Chi Runner and I have signed up for that) but so far I like it. I have found that I can get very hung up on procedures and programmes: Run five and ones, run ten and ones, challenge the hill, don't wiggle your head. All of this is well intentioned, but I do not want to run a marathon and I do not give a rodent's buttock about a) personal best, b) maximum return on time investment, c) winning, d) constant improvement, or e) failure not being an option. My motto is that this endeavor is not worth doing unless you can do it with a) not succeeding, b) injury, c) humiliation, d) coming in last, e) being outrun by a toddler, and f) totally failing and giving up. That is what makes it so sweet and so real and so wonderful.

Today , as it was Family Day , I walked and ran in the afternoon. It was minus 12 C, the sun was out , but there was one heck of a wind. I wore a very goofy but warm faux fur hat with massive ear flaps. On my feet I had the brand new New Balance 880s and a windjacket, and two underjackets. I looked like the perfect tool.

I walked the first 400 meters and then ran a couple of hundred and then walked a couple of hundred and ran a couple of hundred. I got very warm, and I started to sweat and puff a bit but those bypassed arteries held their own. Slumbering chipmunks would have heard my clop, clop, clop, and in their state of torpor would think "he is back". Dreaming chipmunks, the cold wind, the rough and icy road: the lonely trudge of the reborn runner.

Who knows where this will lead? To the 5K Diefenbooker? Maybe a autumn 10K? Maybe total failure? Each has advantages and disadvantages. But I know the most dangerous thing that I can do: Sit on a couch, watch TV, and eat potato chips.

Being a runner means fresh air, new pains in joints, the possibility of encounters of bears (I live in the country) and freedom. Diefenbooker here I come.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Lions and tigers and bears Oh My! ! I have thought a lot of that line from the Wizard of Oz over the last days – A silly and whimsical and fun conversation that Dorothy and the Tinman and Scarecrow have as they enter the Enchanted Forest to give them courage. (just before they meet the Cowardly Lion) Have you read John Valliant’s “The Tiger – A True Story of Vengeance and Survival” ? Read that book and no beast will frighten you more than the tiger. Except maybe for Kalahari Lions. The Bushman never mention the lion by name in the daylight hours. Why risk waking a slumbering beast? And my mind is fresh with the warning signs about bear attack on the portion of the Juan de Fuca Trail that I very briefly traversed a few days ago.
All this rambling preamble brings me to the wonderful vacation I just had with my wife in the small, small village of Shirley in British Columbia. I am sitting in a hot tub on the deck of small cabin. Below me is the Strait of Juan de Fuca. I can smell the ocean and feel the spray of the salty misty that gets carried up 30 metres. I can see Washington State and the Olympic Mountains across the waters and the occasional container ship that traverses the marine highway. The ocean is for the brave and the hearty and I am neither. I am not a mariner; I know nothing of the darkness of the sea, of her anger, of her deep cold, of her temper, of her bounty. And yet I sit in a 40 degree C bubbling froth of chlorinated fresh water and dare look upon her.
Lions and tigers and bears Oh My! ! The Kalahari Lions at sleep during the day. When does the sea sleep?

Saturday, January 29, 2011

I am 55 years old and today went tobogganing at the neighbour’s house. What a blast! The air temperature was a balmy minus eight. The wind was almost still so the infamous wind-chill was not even on the weather chart figuratively or literally. The sun was hidden behind cloud yet even at three thirty in the afternoon was still high enough to allow its warmth to be felt just a little. There is not a huge amount of snow on the ground this year, especially for very late January but we were graced last night with about 5 cm of fresh light snow on the ground.
At 55 I was amongst the youngest of the crowd but the gang that I was hanging with had learned, among the many several centuries of life lessons that it is okay to have fun. My toboggan was not really a toboggan but a China made Bat Saucer. It is black and slick and looks like something that Bruce Wayne would have has as a kid. It unfortunately was a bit slow: I only got to speed when I borrowed the Orange Demon. But no matter – I got snow during a gentle crash up my nose and down my chest. There is nothing like frozen snow melting on your hot heaving chest to bring you back to your childhood.
My hosts had a fireplace on the deck and the warmth of the fire, the warmth of the sun, and the heat generated on the uphill walk by your body made the day almost Jamaican. Of course looking over and out from the deck and seeing a frozen Madawaska River made it look Jamaica New York City but matter – it was still terrific.
My wife missed the sledding but showed up for pot luck supper. (she had to work). Ten neighbours, two loaves, one pot of beans, one pot of pork chilli, one pot of meatballs, one coleslaw, one potato salad, one fruit crisp, one tub of ice cream. We live in blessed times to have such a surplus, of food, fun, and friends.

Friday, January 28, 2011

There are few narratives in the Christian Scriptures that compel me more to thought than the story of the conversion of Saul to Paul.

Acts of the Apostles Chapter 22

About noon as I came near Damascus, suddenly a bright light from heaven flashed around me. I fell to the ground and heard a voice say to me, ‘Saul! Saul! Why do you persecute me?’
‘Who are you, Lord?’ I asked.
‘I am Jesus of Nazareth, whom you are persecuting,’ he replied. My companions saw the light, but they did not understand the voice of him who was speaking to me.
What shall I do, Lord?’ I asked.
“ ‘Get up,’ the Lord said, ‘and go into Damascus. There you will be told all that you have been assigned to do.’ My companions led me by the hand into Damascus, because the brilliance of the light had blinded me.

Some people explain this to me a fact of history and then use it as a test of worthiness: If you believe this exactly as written you are worthy. You are either hot or cold, you are either a believer or not a believer, you are either worthy or unworthy. Not that I should let what others think trouble me, but I find this explanation and understanding very sad. I find that it belittles what to me is a great and wonderful lesson.

Saul of Tarsus of Cilicia was a man of great power and prestige and presumably wealth. He was at the top of the heap in the Jewish hierarchy and at the same time a Roman Citizen. I can relate to him – I am a citizen of Canada and am amongst the wealthiest elite that the planet has ever known in terms of the resources that I consume. As I write this I am sitting by a warm fire drinking hot apple cider. I am getting warm after going for my outdoor exercise wearing a pair of $145 running shoes and all kinds of fancy layered and reflective pieces of clothing. I took my sourdough starter out of the refrigerator and am creating a sponge for bread that I need tomorrow for a toboggans party. My wife and I are looking at getting a new car. All this while people in Tunisia and Egypt are being brutalized. I have a lot in common with Saul of Tarsus of Cilicia

Yet he changed. Or I think more correctly, he was willing to change, and he was willing to learn. If you have quarrel with what I say, read the text again. No one forced him to go on to Damascus; he did it of his own free will. And he further was told that he would be taught what he had to do. It is also compelling that his companions saw the light but did not know what was happening. Or was it that they just were not listening?

Last year I wrote that Saul became Paul when he was hit by a flash of empathy and I still think that to be true but not the whole story. I think that Paul, when he heard the voice of Jesus heard the voice of all humanity. Humanity was telling him that he was not connected, that he was a taker and not a giver, that he, worse of all was not even alive. The Conversion of Paul is the story of how we are only alive and have worth if we are connected to humanity. That is what Christ taught in all those parts of the Bible that are in red ink. I am not capable of interpreting it in any other way.

Which brings this back to me. Why am I so afraid of Paul and desire to remain Saul?

Monday, January 24, 2011

Minus 30 C , no wind, a cup of boiling water is flung towards the stars and as the power of gravity stops that journey even before it starts the savage chill of the air crystallizes the water droplets into a thousand little balls of ice that try to return to the centre of the earth, only to be stopped by the frozen ground. And people say you can't have fun with a kettle and bad prose.

(The thrower in the picture is my wife and the savage chill of the night air was not as savage as it could have been. Next cold snap she will know to toss "up and out" as opposed to just up. Some of the water splashed on here and luckily it had chilled from scalding and boiling to just very hot. I had the good grace and good sense not to snicker)

Sunday, January 23, 2011

In the Christian calendar Advent is the period or a time a time of expectant waiting and preparation. It comes the four weeks before Christmas and of course is used, ideally as a period of contemplation and preparation for whatever Christmas means to a person.
But for me January of 2010 (a year ago of course) was my time of anticipation. As the year started I was anticipating surgery on the 25th of January. I was trying to maintain an attitude of positive thinking and gratitude which I do think was there. In reflection a year later I can say that it was there positive thinking and gratitude there indeed but there was also a great deal of self-centred thinking there as well. In fact, on reflection, I think that SCT – self-centred thinking was the dominant theme that ran my brain.
So, a year later as I reflect on the Month of Anticipation I wonder SCT – Self-Centred Thinking , maybe it can be my contribution to the world … maybe, just maybe, I will get to be on the Dr. Chubby Guy with A Mustache Show (I am having a brain vacation here, I know that Dr. Oz is the guy my cardiologist can’t stand but I am thinking of the other guy)
On the airplane they always tell you to grab and don your oxygen mask before your child’s, your spouse’s, or anybody else’s: Why? Well, the answer is simple; if you are not breathing immediately after the catastrophic need to take emergency measures to do so, you are in deep, deep, deep, trouble. And you will not be able to help anyone else. Period.
So, if one is facing something, like open heart surgery you really have to put First Things First and practice SCT. SCT means:

1 -Acknowledging that you don’t have the Power
2-Accepting that you can cry
3-Accepting that you can laugh
4-Asking for help
5-Insisting on help
6-Being okay with dying
7-Planning on not dying
8-Losing embarrassment of anything to do with your body or body functions
9-Holding a cat for longer than he wants to be held
10-Walking the dog to the river when he would rather go up the road
11-Reading Anne of Green Gables and nor caring who knows
12-Saying no and meaning it
13-Laughing, giggling, guffawing, and not worrying when stuff come out your nose
14-Not worrying whenever stuff comes out your nose
15-Realizing the Plan and Blueprint are big and your part is no more or less important than any other
16-If the Universe and the Power are infinite then you are at the Centre of the Universe and at the Centre of the Power

Self Centred Thinking – SCT

(oh, the Dr. Chubby Guy with A Mustache Show would be Dr. Phil)

Friday, January 21, 2011

I forced myself to go to the funeral home yesterday. Not too many people I know relish going to funeral homes and I was not really that close to the deceased. He was a comparatively young man, only 48 and he lived by himself and was very much a loner. I really knew nothing about him except to say hello to him on the street which I not done for over a year as I simply had not seen him. Yet we had spent a bit of time together as we dealt with a common disease. Since I had not even seen him for that 12 months we could not be called friends. He never called me and I never called him, I didn’t know if he even had a phone so I advised him on nothing and he advised me on nothing.
My first thought was just to go to the viewing. He had a bit of family there; turns out he had a sister and brother who were local and a sister who lived in New Brunswick. He was also an uncle. I was one of a very few people that were there and a quickly navigated the reception line. I really had nothing to say to them other than a mumbled condolence but they smiled and offered their thanks.
There was a slide show video set up in a corner. These days some funerals have video montages of hundreds of slides and carefully orchestrated music. Here there were only about 20 pictures. Him dancing his mom. Him as a young man. Him wading in the Atlantic. Him pretending he was a pilot. Simple, back to basics pictures; no pretentions, no false posing, some goofy, all loving.
I decided to stay for the service. While I was waiting for the service to start I was sort of lounging with some other people in the area of the cremation urn. Suddenly a little white dog came careening out of nowhere and ran from mourner to mourner. It took a while to corral the critter but no one seemed at all offended. The dog was just wanting to spread a little joy in the hearts of those of us there, he certainly meant no harm and certainly did not suffer from false pretence. I smiled and looked at the urn and thought how an urn can contain the ashes but not the spirit.
The service was short. There were only 50 of us there. The minister gave all the usual readings and the reasons for hope. I learned that this gentle giant loved gardens and even kept a balcony garden. I learned that he loved animals and that the request had been made to make donations to the local animal shelter in his memory. I kept thinking of the little white dog and how death cannot keep the spirit down.
I have often thought that I don’t want to be in heaven with most of the people that say they are going to heaven. But if this man goes, I want to join him. The splash he made on the world was small. He consumed hardly any of the economic pie. He like did not know what the latest shoe style was and he did worry about matching shirts and ties because he did not own a tie. He did not die in the arms of his beloved: He died on the floor by himself. But the joyous little dog knew the truth. The man who died was my friend and I did not even know it. He had the wealth of spirit. He was not drunk with consumption. He gave far more than he had. If indeed by some angelic mix up in the paper work I at least get to see the gates of heaven, I know that there will be at least one person that I knew on this earth in the upper echelons of the afterlife. I have been blessed knowing him here.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Minus 16 C, and a bit of a wind from the North West: My wife’s sciatica is flaring up so she has an excuse. The Beagle says “Listen, I am a short haired opportunistic scavenger with cute dangling ears. I have been outside and done what you so euphemistically refer to as number one and number two. I can work you like a string puppet show in The Sound of Music. But given the choice of laying alongside a warm fire or stomping through the snow, I the Dumb Animal will lay by the fire” (Beagles are so dramatic)
So it was off by myself for my work out walk. The snow was newly fallen, about 6 centimetres or so, and the texture was a bit like the foam of white water; it was neither liquid, solid, or gas but had a translucence and texture that seemed transient. When I stepped through it the snow would faintly protest with an audible crunching groan and where I had stepped, the texture totally changed leaving behind very distinct Sorel tracks. In an ordinary year I would have left snowshoe or ski tracks but not yet this year. But I was not the only critter that had been in the Valley since the overnight snow stopped. Little voles or mice, rabbits, and likely a deer had made tracks as well.
This time the silence of last week of last week was replaced by a murmuring of wind. It really was white noise as the snow was reflecting the sun back towards the blue sky with full vigour which made the snow brighter and whiter than the backside of Gabriel himself. (NB – I have seen plenty of angels, the UOHI is full of them, but not the Big Guys like Michael or Gabriel so it is an assumption on my part their posteriors are very white - also note the joke ASSumption – get it?) . Anyway, the snow was white and the wind was murmuring and the whole thing was very peaceful.
Well, peaceful but cold; I had to move briskly. I looked at the snowmobile tracks that reached out boldly onto the frozen Madawaska and was tempted to follow but did not. There is word that there still is lots of water in Bark Lake up in the Algonquin Highlands and that this water is still making its way to the Ottawa River via the frozen River that was tempting me to tread on it. That means that beneath the serenity of the ice there are conflicts and issues and resentments and ….. well there is active water at least. I will leave river walking for another day.
On the way back I am walking into the wind. It is not a particularly harsh wind but it does caress my face into a benign numbness. I trudge the road more briskly.
So I make my way home to a warm fireplace , mint tea, and a sleeping beagle. I am sure this is my imagination but he seems to open one eye and then a look of glee illuminates his face. I am not sure if he is glad that I am home or he is just glad that he did not join me.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Today I walked in the valley just behind our house. I did not walk alone, and I am not counting the spiritual beings and powers that no doubt walk every step with me. My wife and The Beagle walked with me today.

That luxury, at least the valley part, did not exist a year ago. I was in anticipation of my coronary bypass, sticking nitro patches on my above-the-waist body, and carrying a little spray bottle of nitro-glycerine as well – just in case. It would be unfair and inaccurate to say that walking for me was forbidden but walking 500 + meters off any beaten path in a valley would have made me and those who loved me nervous, so I chose not to do it then.

But a year later things are different. I am enjoying the Gift of Life. So today, a Saturday, was a day of light snow. We slept in; all of us - my wife, me, The Beagle and all four cats. Then I was lucky enough to make breakfast. I layered strawberry yogurt in the bottom of a large clear glass cup and positioned a floor of raw almonds above that layer. Then I cooked up porridge of steel cut oats softened with some large flake oatmeal and some Cream of Wheat and carefully built that up as the top stratum. It was a nice treat that made me thankful for having the resources to make this, the spare time to be able to think of this, the frivolity to have fun with breakfast, the teachings of my dietitian to make something healthy, and the blessing to be able to share the meal with my spouse.

Fortified with food we hit the trail: Originally we had thought of snowshoeing but there is insufficient snow on the ground for that, but no matter, we just plain walked. Well not really plain walked, as The Beagle came along on his extended clothesline leash. It was about -8 C with a light wind and constantly powdering of snow, as if the Great Baker herself was finishing off some cupcakes with a light dusting of fine sugar.

The walking was easy but the doggy wanted to follow the path least direct. He sees little point in the straight line, along a path. He sees and smells what the rest of us pay no heed to at all, so the walk was meandering, stopping many times for him to half bury his head in the snow to look or sniff for something. We saw abandoned birds' nests not 4 feet from the ground. At first blush one thinks that this a silly place to build a nest, but a nest in the middle of a thicket of hawthorn bushes in the height of summer is a Fortress Mighty. There are also what my wife and I call the Condos. Trees that no longer flower or leaf but still stand tall. Guys (both winged and unwinged) dig holes in the softening wood. Picture a raging blizzard and you are in a wooden cave, a few woodshavings help insulate the space and you puff up your feathers and fur and fall into a deep, deep, slumber. Maybe most humans would prefer a night at the Holiday Inn Express but the critters don’t add to climate change with what they do.

The valley that we trudged is a wet land much of the summer so we were walking on snow covered ice a lot of the time. The cattails stood tall, brown, and proud and barely wavered in the wind. A lot of the seed heads were still there and were acting like a catcher’s mitt for the snow; it was like there was a contest of who could be whiter and fluffier, the seeds of autumn or the newly caught snow.
And so the walk went, up, down, stop, go, to the left, to the right, forwards, backwards. Snow falls silently and in fact, acts like a big acoustic sponge so there was no extraneous sound. There was no one in the universe except for The Beagle, my wife, the snow, the valley, and the sound of our footfalls. And I could not be happier or more grateful.