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The Long Road Back

The Long Road Back

Posted by on May 25, 2017 in Friends, Gallery, Hiking, Musings, Oregon | 51 comments

As of Saturday, we’re on the road again. YAY!!! To be perfectly honest, that’s “yay” with some sadness and regret at leaving our beautiful hometown and our wonderful community of friends in Ashland. Leaving this time, after seven months, was almost as difficult as the first time we pulled out of town four years ago to embark on our full time journey.

As I’ve said before, we would never have signed up for this particular adventure. Open-heart surgery is no walk in the park. But after many months of cardiac rehab and daily long walks, Eric is back to his normal, active, healthy self. I look at photos from early December when he was in the hospital, and then look at photos from the hike we did yesterday on a bluff overlooking the Pacific. Grateful and lucky, that’s what we are.

We couldn’t have done this without our friends and family. Or we wouldn’t have wanted to. Not only did they support us during the first weeks of Eric’s surgery and recovery, but when the crisis passed, we started having fun times together, just like always. That helped with our healing, as much as anything.

It has been a rich and full seven months. Playing music, creating art, dinner parties, hikes, wine tasting, film festivals, plays…it has been wonderful. I often reflect on how fortunate we are to have friends with whom we can share the highs and the lows of life. However, I will repeat here what I have told all of our friends: Eric took this one for the team. No one else needs to undergo this particular experience.

Our last two weeks in Ashland, we moved over to Emigrant Lake County Park. At a mere two miles from Ted and Kath’s beautiful farmstead, it was the perfect place for us to regroup and ease back into traveling mode. It was a bit anxiety provoking, that first hitching up and moving after almost seven months of sitting still. When I asked Eric how he felt about it, he said, “Well, I’ve done this a few times before.” I love how he takes things in stride.

Our last several days at Emigrant Lake, we were joined by Bill, Jodee, and Tessa, fellow full time travelers we first met up with in the Sierra Nevada a couple of years ago. We had a delightful time together, sharing breakfast on the plaza, walks in the park, and a picnic in our favorite spot by the creek. It was good for us to reconnect with friends we’ve met on the road. We’re looking forward to catching up with them again later this summer.

P.S. Just as we’ve fledged, so have the little Rock Wren nestlings that we rescued three weeks ago. All four were successfully released back at Emigrant Lake yesterday. You can read more about it on Badger Run’s website here.

See you down the road!

Next up: Tidepools and Lighthouses: Newport, OR

Back On The Road, Newport, OR

Words To Live By, Downtown Ashland

December 05, 2016

Our Home In Ashland For Seven Months

Sunrise Over The Pond

Amanda And Findlay Came To Be With Us

Fall Harvest, Ted And Katherine

Brunch With Winn

Keep Calm, Indeed

Tea With Ann And Jake

Dinner With Leslie, John, Steve, And Lindi

A Cozy Evening With Cynthia And Kyle

Us, Steve, Linda, Diana, John, Judy, & John

A Garden Party At Diana And John's

Grilling Oregon Oysters

So Delicious!

Sunday Music: Lydia, Joe, Cynthia, Karen, And Kyle

Lydia (Banjo Babe) And Laurel

Another Fun Sunday Gathering

Thursdays At Kindred Spirits Wine Bar

Friday Art Days With Diana

Cocktails With Steve And Leslie

Morning Coffee With Barbara

Alfresco Lunch With Kath And Ted

Morning Bird Walk With Janet

Happy Hour With Chris And Lila

In Lithia Park With Jodee, Bill And Tessa

Beautiful Site At Emigrant Lake

Owlet At Emigrant Lake

Rock Wrens Growing Up

Back On The Road, Newport, OR
Words To Live By, Downtown Ashland
December 05, 2016
Our Home In Ashland For Seven Months
Sunrise Over The Pond
Amanda And Findlay Came To Be With Us
Fall Harvest, Ted And Katherine
Brunch With Winn
Keep Calm, Indeed
Tea With Ann And Jake
Dinner With Leslie, John, Steve, And Lindi
A Cozy Evening With Cynthia And Kyle
Us, Steve, Linda, Diana, John, Judy, & John
A Garden Party At Diana And John's
Grilling Oregon Oysters
So Delicious!
Sunday Music: Lydia, Joe, Cynthia, Karen, And Kyle
Lydia (Banjo Babe) And Laurel
Another Fun Sunday Gathering
Thursdays At Kindred Spirits Wine Bar
Friday Art Days With Diana
Cocktails With Steve And Leslie
Morning Coffee With Barbara
Alfresco Lunch With Kath And Ted
Morning Bird Walk With Janet
Happy Hour With Chris And Lila
In Lithia Park With Jodee, Bill And Tessa
Beautiful Site At Emigrant Lake
Owlet At Emigrant Lake
Rock Wrens Growing Up
Back On The Road, Newport, OR thumbnail
Words To Live By, Downtown Ashland thumbnail
December 05, 2016 thumbnail
Our Home In Ashland For Seven Months thumbnail
Sunrise Over The Pond thumbnail
Amanda And Findlay Came To Be With Us thumbnail
Fall Harvest, Ted And Katherine thumbnail
Brunch With Winn thumbnail
Keep Calm, Indeed thumbnail
Tea With Ann And Jake thumbnail
Dinner With Leslie, John, Steve, And Lindi thumbnail
A Cozy Evening With Cynthia And Kyle thumbnail
Us, Steve, Linda, Diana, John, Judy, & John thumbnail
A Garden Party At Diana And John's thumbnail
Grilling Oregon Oysters thumbnail
So Delicious! thumbnail
Sunday Music: Lydia, Joe, Cynthia, Karen, And Kyle thumbnail
Lydia (Banjo Babe) And Laurel thumbnail
Another Fun Sunday Gathering thumbnail
Thursdays At Kindred Spirits Wine Bar thumbnail
Friday Art Days With Diana thumbnail
Cocktails With Steve And Leslie thumbnail
Morning Coffee With Barbara thumbnail
Alfresco Lunch With Kath And Ted thumbnail
Morning Bird Walk With Janet thumbnail
Happy Hour With Chris And Lila thumbnail
In Lithia Park With Jodee, Bill And Tessa thumbnail
Beautiful Site At Emigrant Lake thumbnail
Owlet At Emigrant Lake thumbnail
Rock Wrens Growing Up thumbnail

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A Beautiful Autumn In Ashland

A Beautiful Autumn In Ashland

Posted by on Apr 26, 2017 in Friends, Gallery, Hiking, Musings, Oregon | 30 comments

Autumn in our hometown of Ashland, Oregon is truly a thing of beauty. For a leisurely stretch of several weeks, the valley is painted with rich reds and golds, the weather is generally perfect, and the holiday season is ushered in with the most outrageous Halloween parade and street party imaginable.

We usually return home once a year in our travels, and stay for about a month. This year, of course, was very different with Eric’s unexpected health crisis and surgery. We arrived just in time for the fall colors, survived one of the coldest, wettest, longest winters in history, and are now enjoying the spring blossoms.

Sitting still in one place for seven months (seven months!!) was certainly not what we had planned when we started our full-time journey almost four years ago. But if we’re going to be settled down somewhere, Ashland is where we want to be. It’s been wonderful to reconnect with friends, and to even share our hometown for a few days with fellow full-time traveling buddies MonaLiza and Steve (Lowe’s Travels), who came to visit in mid-October.

It’s a bit disconcerting to realize that so many months have passed. I can’t quite tell you where all of the time has gone—but suddenly, we’re just weeks away from leaving town. It’s a strange feeling to have had something of this magnitude happen, and to have had our lives rearranged for us for such a long stretch of time. It certainly puts into perspective the illusion of control.

I’m excited about resuming our travels, and also feeling a bit tentative. Part of me wants to go, and part of me wants to stay in our beautiful hometown, surrounded by people we love, doing things we enjoy right here in our own backyard. This is a familiar internal tug-of-war. I don’t know that I’ll ever reconcile the two.

But as I think about our summer and fall plans—the Oregon Coast, Olympic Peninsula, San Juan Islands, North Cascades, and Glacier—I feel the spark of adventure rekindled within. And in my mind, I hear the words of my favorite poet, Mary Oliver, nudging me along: “Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and wonderful life?” For now, travel wins.

Next Up: Birds In The ‘Hood

Brilliant Fall Colors In Ashland

In The Japanese Garden

Beautiful Lithia Park

A Walk In The Park With MonaLiza And Steve

A Fun Day With Friends

Our View In The Fall

Old Farm Down The Road

A Few Of The Neighbors

Halloween In Ashland

Dia De Los Muertos Costumes

Even The Ferret Has A Costume

Double Take

Flying Dragon Baby Stroller

Not Just For Halloween

A Hike On The Rogue River

Peaceful Autumn Hike Along The Upper Rogue

The Rogue River Near Natural Bridge

A Contemplative Moment

Brilliant Fall Colors In Ashland
In The Japanese Garden
Beautiful Lithia Park
A Walk In The Park With MonaLiza And Steve
A Fun Day With Friends
Our View In The Fall
Old Farm Down The Road
A Few Of The Neighbors
Halloween In Ashland
Dia De Los Muertos Costumes
Even The Ferret Has A Costume
Double Take
Flying Dragon Baby Stroller
Not Just For Halloween
A Hike On The Rogue River
Peaceful Autumn Hike Along The Upper Rogue
The Rogue River Near Natural Bridge
A Contemplative Moment
Brilliant Fall Colors In Ashland thumbnail
In The Japanese Garden thumbnail
Beautiful Lithia Park thumbnail
A Walk In The Park With MonaLiza And Steve thumbnail
A Fun Day With Friends thumbnail
Our View In The Fall thumbnail
Old Farm Down The Road thumbnail
A Few Of The Neighbors thumbnail
Halloween In Ashland thumbnail
Dia De Los Muertos Costumes thumbnail
Even The Ferret Has A Costume thumbnail
Double Take thumbnail
Flying Dragon Baby Stroller thumbnail
Not Just For Halloween thumbnail
A Hike On The Rogue River thumbnail
Peaceful Autumn Hike Along The Upper Rogue thumbnail
The Rogue River Near Natural Bridge thumbnail
A Contemplative Moment thumbnail

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The Long, Long Winter

The Long, Long Winter

Posted by on Mar 5, 2017 in Gallery, Musings, Oregon, Travel | 42 comments

It’s been a long time since we’ve spent winter in a wintery locale. For many years—even before taking to the road full time—we’ve spent a good part of winter in warmer, sunnier climes—southern California, southern Arizona, the Gulf Coast of Texas, Florida.

We would never have deliberately planned to spend winter in our trailer in Ashland. And this has been an unusually cold, wet, and snowy winter for southern Oregon. As I write this, it’s snowing yet again.

Fortunately, our little Arctic Fox lives up to the promise of being a four-season RV, and we’re cozy and warm. (Obviously, our propane heater is getting a good workout, and we wear fleece and slippers indoors.)

Our lives have been very different the past several months. Instead of the thrill of almost constant new adventures, we’ve basically been confined to our hometown backyard. But it hasn’t felt like a hardship. Drawing a smaller circle around our lives has been exactly what we needed during this time of healing.

Despite the fact that we’d rather be wearing flip-flops instead of snow boots, we’re finding plenty to enjoy. We’re keeping ourselves occupied with daily long walks, time with friends, music gatherings, creative endeavors, and home improvement projects. This winter has turned out to be a rich and satisfying time.

Still, I felt a small thrill of joy when I saw the bright little faces of the crocus poking up through the snow yesterday. Spring really is just around the corner. 

Crocus In The Snow

Our Home In The Snow

Our View Of The Pond

Prayer Flags In A Snowstorm

The Geese Don't Seem To Mind

Canada Geese And Ring Necked Ducks

Oak Titmouse In The Cattails

Glad It's Not Like This All The Time

View Across The Hills

Raucous Acorn Woodpecker

Beautiful Lewis's Woodpecker

Waiting For Spring

Crocus In The Snow
Our Home In The Snow
Our View Of The Pond
Prayer Flags In A Snowstorm
The Geese Don't Seem To Mind
Canada Geese And Ring Necked Ducks
Oak Titmouse In The Cattails
Glad It's Not Like This All The Time
View Across The Hills
Raucous Acorn Woodpecker
Beautiful Lewis's Woodpecker
Waiting For Spring
Crocus In The Snow thumbnail
Our Home In The Snow thumbnail
Our View Of The Pond thumbnail
Prayer Flags In A Snowstorm thumbnail
The Geese Don't Seem To Mind thumbnail
Canada Geese And Ring Necked Ducks thumbnail
Oak Titmouse In The Cattails thumbnail
Glad It's Not Like This All The Time thumbnail
View Across The Hills thumbnail
Raucous Acorn Woodpecker thumbnail
Beautiful Lewis's Woodpecker thumbnail
Waiting For Spring thumbnail

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The Best Of 2016

The Best Of 2016

Posted by on Feb 2, 2017 in Gallery, Musings, Travel | 38 comments

Just for fun, Eric and I have been looking at photos from our last year’s travels and playing, “What was your favorite (campground, hike, paddle, bird sighting, café, etc.…)?”

On these cold, long winter days, I look at photos of us kayaking the wild rivers in Florida, hiking through meadows of wildflowers in the North Cascades, and biking on Lopez Island. I once again delight in the fabulous multi-hued landscape of southern Utah and the flamboyant sunsets of the Gulf Coast. I peruse the remarkable array of birdlife that we’ve seen, from tiny colorful songbirds to boisterous nesting colonies of egrets and spoonbills. I remember the delicious crawfish we had in Cajun Country, and the excellent paella in Boise.

Reflecting back on yet another year of travels, I’m amazed at all that we’ve done—and I’m extraordinarily grateful that we set out on this journey three-and-a-half years ago.

I wouldn’t be honest if I didn’t admit to moments when I wonder if we’ll really be able to get back out there (“there” meaning back on the road, embracing whatever adventure captures our interest). We’re told that this is a normal part of the healing process—it takes time to heal emotionally and spiritually from a radical life event, just as it takes time to heal physically.

All in all, we’re doing pretty darned well. Eric had his two-month follow-up appointment yesterday with the cardiologist, and he passed with flying colors. Another couple of months, and we should be back to our pre-falling-off-the-cliff definition of normal. Yay!!

As we reminisce over our photos and our adventures, I am reminded yet again of how important it is to follow the thread of our dreams, so that those dreams become reality, and then become wonderful memories. And I envision us back out there, doing what we love, and making more memories.

Our Current View: Ashland, Oregon

Technicolor Gulf Coast Sunset

In The Florida Piney Woods

Quirky Cedar Key Campsite

Low Tide In Cedar Key, Florida

Beautiful St. Augustine

Gorgeous Florida Springs

Green Heron

On The Trails In Florida

Ichetucknee River, North Central Florida

St. Mark's Wildlife Refuge, Florida Panhandle

White Pelicans In Flight

French Quarter Festival, New Orleans

Exploring The Louisiana Swamps

Crawfish Feast In Breaux Bridge, Louisiana

Biking And Birding Dauphin Island, Alabama

Lovely Hooded Warbler

Nesting Egrets, High Island, Texas

Nesting Spoonbills, High Island, Texas

Bike Friendly Austin, Texas

Texas Hill Country Wildflowers

Mosaic VW On The Riverwalk, San Angelo, Texas

Monahans Sandhills State Park, Texas

After A Long Day In The Caverns

Colorful Downtown Silver City, New Mexico

Gila Cliff Dwellings, Southern New Mexico

Lyman Lake State Park, East Central Arizona

Homolovi State Park, Northern Arizona

The Magnificent Petrified Forest

Wahweap RV Park, Lake Powell, Arizona

Hiking Buckskin Gulch, Southern Utah

The Toadstools, Grand Escalante Staircase NM, Utah

Lower Antelope Canyon, Northern Arizona

Paria Ghost Town, Southern Utah

Snow Canyon, St. George, Utah

Great Basin National Park, Nevada

Angel Lake, Eastern Nevada

Shoshone Falls, Southern Idaho

Biking In Boise, Idaho

Paella In Boise

Charming Downtown Joseph, Oregon

Riding The Rails In Joseph

Overlooking Hells Canyon, Eastern Oregon

Lake Diablo, North Cascades National Park

Hiking In The North Cascades

Pipestone Canyon, Northwestern Washington

Spencer Spit, Lopez Island, Washington

Biking On Lopez Island

Kayaking The Bays, Lopez Island

Sunset At Shark Reef, Lopez Island

Lavender Fields, San Juan Island, Washington

Lime Kiln Lighthouse, San Juan Island

Words To Live By

Our Current View: Ashland, Oregon
Technicolor Gulf Coast Sunset
In The Florida Piney Woods
Quirky Cedar Key Campsite
Low Tide In Cedar Key, Florida
Beautiful St. Augustine
Gorgeous Florida Springs
Green Heron
On The Trails In Florida
Ichetucknee River, North Central Florida
St. Mark's Wildlife Refuge, Florida Panhandle
White Pelicans In Flight
French Quarter Festival, New Orleans
Exploring The Louisiana Swamps
Crawfish Feast In Breaux Bridge, Louisiana
Biking And Birding Dauphin Island, Alabama
Lovely Hooded Warbler
Nesting Egrets, High Island, Texas
Nesting Spoonbills, High Island, Texas
Bike Friendly Austin, Texas
Texas Hill Country Wildflowers
Mosaic VW On The Riverwalk, San Angelo, Texas
Monahans Sandhills State Park, Texas
After A Long Day In The Caverns
Colorful Downtown Silver City, New Mexico
Gila Cliff Dwellings, Southern New Mexico
Lyman Lake State Park, East Central Arizona
Homolovi State Park, Northern Arizona
The Magnificent Petrified Forest
Wahweap RV Park, Lake Powell, Arizona
Hiking Buckskin Gulch, Southern Utah
The Toadstools, Grand Escalante Staircase NM, Utah
Lower Antelope Canyon, Northern Arizona
Paria Ghost Town, Southern Utah
Snow Canyon, St. George, Utah
Great Basin National Park, Nevada
Angel Lake, Eastern Nevada
Shoshone Falls, Southern Idaho
Biking In Boise, Idaho
Paella In Boise
Charming Downtown Joseph, Oregon
Riding The Rails In Joseph
Overlooking Hells Canyon, Eastern Oregon
Lake Diablo, North Cascades National Park
Hiking In The North Cascades
Pipestone Canyon, Northwestern Washington
Spencer Spit, Lopez Island, Washington
Biking On Lopez Island
Kayaking The Bays, Lopez Island
Sunset At Shark Reef, Lopez Island
Lavender Fields, San Juan Island, Washington
Lime Kiln Lighthouse, San Juan Island
Words To Live By
Our Current View: Ashland, Oregon thumbnail
Technicolor Gulf Coast Sunset thumbnail
In The Florida Piney Woods thumbnail
Quirky Cedar Key Campsite thumbnail
Low Tide In Cedar Key, Florida thumbnail
Beautiful St. Augustine thumbnail
Gorgeous Florida Springs thumbnail
Green Heron thumbnail
On The Trails In Florida thumbnail
Ichetucknee River, North Central Florida thumbnail
St. Mark's Wildlife Refuge, Florida Panhandle thumbnail
White Pelicans In Flight thumbnail
French Quarter Festival, New Orleans thumbnail
Exploring The Louisiana Swamps thumbnail
Crawfish Feast In Breaux Bridge, Louisiana thumbnail
Biking And Birding Dauphin Island, Alabama thumbnail
Lovely Hooded Warbler thumbnail
Nesting Egrets, High Island, Texas thumbnail
Nesting Spoonbills, High Island, Texas thumbnail
Bike Friendly Austin, Texas thumbnail
Texas Hill Country Wildflowers thumbnail
Mosaic VW On The Riverwalk, San Angelo, Texas thumbnail
Monahans Sandhills State Park, Texas thumbnail
After A Long Day In The Caverns thumbnail
Colorful Downtown Silver City, New Mexico thumbnail
Gila Cliff Dwellings, Southern New Mexico thumbnail
Lyman Lake State Park, East Central Arizona thumbnail
Homolovi State Park, Northern Arizona thumbnail
The Magnificent Petrified Forest thumbnail
Wahweap RV Park, Lake Powell, Arizona thumbnail
Hiking Buckskin Gulch, Southern Utah thumbnail
The Toadstools, Grand Escalante Staircase NM, Utah thumbnail
Lower Antelope Canyon, Northern Arizona thumbnail
Paria Ghost Town, Southern Utah thumbnail
Snow Canyon, St. George, Utah thumbnail
Great Basin National Park, Nevada thumbnail
Angel Lake, Eastern Nevada thumbnail
Shoshone Falls, Southern Idaho thumbnail
Biking In Boise, Idaho thumbnail
Paella In Boise thumbnail
Charming Downtown Joseph, Oregon thumbnail
Riding The Rails In Joseph thumbnail
Overlooking Hells Canyon, Eastern Oregon thumbnail
Lake Diablo, North Cascades National Park thumbnail
Hiking In The North Cascades thumbnail
Pipestone Canyon, Northwestern Washington thumbnail
Spencer Spit, Lopez Island, Washington thumbnail
Biking On Lopez Island thumbnail
Kayaking The Bays, Lopez Island thumbnail
Sunset At Shark Reef, Lopez Island thumbnail
Lavender Fields, San Juan Island, Washington thumbnail
Lime Kiln Lighthouse, San Juan Island thumbnail
Words To Live By thumbnail

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Snow Days

Snow Days

Posted by on Jan 5, 2017 in Gallery, Musings, Oregon, Travel | 62 comments

We went for our daily walk today in the snow. It’s beautiful and treacherous. Eric needs to walk every day as part of his recovery (and I need to walk for my sanity), but we can’t risk him slipping and falling. It will take at least two months for the bones in his sternum to begin to knit together.

Had everything gone according to our plans, we would have been strolling the white sugar sand beaches of the Florida Gulf Coast now. Instead, we’re buried in almost a foot of snow with temperatures in the teens, a rare occurrence in our hometown in southern Oregon.

But here we are. At just one month after Eric’s unexpected surgery, we’re emerging, somewhat battered and fragile, into the light. Neither of us is sleeping through the night. He awakens often, his entire being thrown off by the invasive and life saving surgery he endured. I awaken often, a habit of hypervigilance instilled during the 10 days of his hospital stay when I checked on him every hour or two, making sure that he was still present and accounted for. It was an otherworldly experience for both of us, a journey to a foreign land that we never expected to visit.

We’re relieved for our return to a somewhat normal life. And yet, we’re still far from normal. We go for our daily walks, slower than our usual pace, and only on level ground. Three weeks ago, when I accompanied Eric on his first halting walk through the hospital corridor, I could barely reconcile the man hunched over a walker; shuffling along at a snail’s pace, with the man I know who hikes 10 miles or bikes 30 miles with no discernible effort.

But today, I recognize him. We walk at a reasonably brisk pace around the lake, through the snow, for 40 minutes. It is nothing short of a miracle what the body can endure and recover from.

As much as we love our hometown, we would never have planned to spend the winter in our trailer here. There are many things that are challenging about wintering in an RV. It’s a total pain in the butt to be filling the propane tanks every week—they’re heavy and awkward. And we can’t hook up to water because the hoses will freeze, so we have to keep filling the fresh water tank and using the water pump. Most of the tasks of daily living are falling to me right now.

In our normal life, pre-apocalypse, Eric did the outside stuff on the trailer, and I took care of the inside stuff. In our usual sharing of duties, I plan the meals and shopping lists, he does most of the errands, and we share cooking and clean up. I plan our travels; he drives. But right now, while he’s healing, I’ve been doing most everything.

I want to do this; I want to care for him. And there are times that it feels hard. It’s hard for him, too. I know that it won’t be forever, that he will get better, and that we’ll return to our normal active lives. But I’ve arrived at one of those life-changing moments, the realization that there will come a time—hopefully many years down the road—when something will happen and it won’t get better. Maybe it will be him; maybe it will be me. It’s sobering to think about, either way.

It’s like that for my mom and dad now. My mom is suffering from Alzheimer’s, and where they once shared equally and happily in the tasks of life, my dad, at age 88, has taken over responsibility for every aspect of their lives. He does it with remarkable grace and acceptance. I’m watching him and learning. It’s not a bad thing, this awareness. It brings life even more sharply into focus, and helps me keep my priorities straight.

There are many gifts now, even in the challenging moments. Last night after a marathon grocery shopping expedition, followed by hauling in the groceries and five gallons of water (through the deep snow, mind you), reorganizing the refrigerator, and putting away the groceries, I took out the compost. As I slogged through the snow in the dark to the compost bin, the sparkling diamonds in the pure white snow illuminated by my headlamp mesmerized me. That made me happy. When I can see and appreciate the diamonds in the snow on the way to the compost bin, I don’t miss the white sugar sand beaches of the Gulf Coast at all.

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Matters Of The Heart

Matters Of The Heart

Posted by on Dec 30, 2016 in Family, Friends, Gallery, Musings, Oregon | 88 comments

On the morning of December 5th, Eric underwent open-heart surgery and a triple bypass. As he told the surgeon, this experience was not on his bucket list. Nor mine. Needless to say, this has been the most intense month of our lives.

All things considered, Eric is doing remarkably well. He’s now walking 30 minutes a day, soon to increase to 45 minutes. He looks great. But he looked great before the surgery, and had no symptoms other than occasional minor chest tightness when we were hiking or biking strenuously. We were lucky. This could have turned out very differently, and I try not to think too much about that.

There have been times in our adventures when we’ve been hiking alone in the middle of nowhere and I’ve thought, “I wouldn’t want to sprain an ankle out here, miles away from help.” I’ve even had brief imaginings of “What if something really bad happened and help was hours away?” At those moments, I’ve reassured myself by acknowledging that I’d rather accept the risks that come with doing what I love instead of indulging my fears and staying home where life is undeniably safer. Nonetheless, I am extraordinarily grateful that we didn’t suffer a tragedy on the trail.

Our doctor told us that Eric is very fortunate—that only about one quarter of people have symptoms that indicate cardiovascular disease. Apparently the first symptom for the remaining unlucky 75 percent is a heart attack. Eric didn’t suffer a heart attack. In fact, his heart is remarkably strong (the EKG tech referred to him as a “work horse”). He also has perfect blood pressure, a heart rate in the 50’s, low cholesterol, and takes no medications. We thought he was bullet proof. But his dad had a heart attack at age 47, and died from cardiovascular disease at 58. So there’s that.

Even now, almost four weeks after we entered the cardiac lab for a diagnostic angiogram (“He might need a stent,” said the cardiologist) and ended up in the hospital for nine long days and major surgery, the whole experience is surreal. I still have times when I expect to wake up and discover that this was all merely a bad dream. The image of Eric in intensive care, hooked up to a tangle of tubes and wires and flashing lights, haunts me. More than ever, I am in awe of both the fragility and resilience of the human body and spirit.

I have always been skittish around hospitals and medical procedures, and do my best to keep medical intervention at bay with a healthy diet, daily exercise, and a positive attitude. When we need help, we turn to herbs, acupuncture, massage, and other noninvasive treatments. This problem, obviously, required drastic measures. The technology and approach of Western medicine is at once terrifying and miraculous. This has been the most humbling experience of my life, and I will be eternally grateful to the skilled and compassionate people who saved Eric’s life and made a scary situation as comfortable as it possibly could have been.

Both Eric’s surgeon and cardiologist assure us that in time, we will be able to return to our normal lives. And they understand that “normal” for us looks different from what most people think of as normal. The doctors and nurses were intrigued by our stories of travel and our outdoor adventures. In Eric’s chart, one of the doctors wrote, “He and his wife travel the country full-time in their RV, and are active hikers, bikers, and kayakers.” I loved reading that. It made me feel that they understood something about us, and that they cared.

So, here we are. We would never have signed up for this adventure, but we are extraordinarily grateful that we discovered the problem before it turned into a tragedy. We are grateful that we’re here in our hometown, within a few miles of one of the finest cardiac centers in the country. We’re grateful for our wonderful surgeon and the skilled nursing care Eric received. And we are grateful to be in the embrace of our loving community of friends and family, who have held us in the most challenging moments, opened their homes and their hearts, brought us nourishment, and encouraged and supported us through it all.

Here’s to life, and to doing what makes your heart happy. You’ve heard it many times, but I have to say it anyway—don’t put off doing what you want to do. Tell your family and friends that you love them. You can’t say it too much. I know that I’m going to do my best to be more present, more generous, and more compassionate in this amazing, wild journey of life. We wish you peace, joy, and good health in the New Year.

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