I’ll take it and be grateful

I’m happy to say that it has been an otherwise fairly uneventful day. I’ll have to repair the male connector that activates Oliphaunt’s tail-lights, but it’s taped up and will do until I’m somewhere warmer and hurting less.

Heading South was a good move. It was bitterly cold on I-80. It’s getting more bearable every 50 miles.

I’ve discovered that not only stopping every hour and stretching, but running in place for a few minutes — until my whole body starts getting warm — really makes a difference. 

Exercise not only improves circulation and oxygenation, it helps stabilize the autonomic nervous system. This is my substitute for a 20 minute walk at every break, which is rarely realistic at highway rest stops.

I got 4 hours of driving time today, which was my target amount. Considering I’m in hard recovery from the previous 36 hours, that’s pretty good!

Well away from Pennsylvania’s peculiarly slimy water, here in roaring downtown Ashland, Ohio (you can blink without missing it, but don’t blink twice, or you might),  I’m curled up in a rather luscious little Super 8. (I did say my needs are simple…)

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The bath overflow is halfway up the tub, leaving a depth suitable for a footsoak. I tied a couple of loosely folded tissues into the plastic bag they leave in the ice bucket, stuffed it into the overflow gap, and it blocked it completely.

I put about a pound and a half (~3 kg) of epsom salt into the bath, and had a looooovely warm bath. My spine and hips and legs and arms are sooooooo much happier now, and I can bear to be inside my left leg. The thought of doing it again tomorrow is bearable, and that’s all I ask.

My sweetie is safe and well, my last lovely hostess’s internet is up and running, and I am warm and at rest. Life is good.

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I’m awake now

After an obnoxious 4am pop, not surprising after a cortisol-saturated day like yesterday, I dozed until 7 when I could persuade my body to take consciousness seriously.

Thinking in terms of an early start. It was great. Then I tried to move.

So I spent a little over an hour on qi gong, stretching, and PT exercises. Much better.

I used my hot pot to make tea and my self-important Oster blender to make my shake, not with kale but frozen spinach, a soft mutzu apple and slushy blueberries.

It burned out the blender.

When I tried to take a picture of the really impressive clouds of smoke, my phone declared it needed updating. I took it as a cue to move forward rather than stand there gawping.

But I needed to get it off my chest. The scary negative crap can stop any time now.

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"Plan" is a 4-letter word

Last night, in an effort to give my autonomic nervous system a chance to calm down, I turned off my lovely hostess’s wifi while I slept. Eventually, I did sleep, after several hours of meditation.

Why the insomnia?

People change with time. My sweetie is discovering that in the harshest way. A friend of 20 years is sinking into the pit of addiction and her transformation has put him at considerable risk, due to the company she now keeps and what they think of him.

I hadn’t heard from him since midday yesterday, and since we had agreed to call twice more that day for different logistical reasons, not being able to get hold of him was deeply worrying.

I followed my inner prompting to head away from the coast (where another storm is heading in, this one bitterly cold) and get to Cleveland, with the option of flying out from there to get to California to do whatever was needed for my sweetie.

I took off at 9:30 (woefully early for me) after plugging the router back in and forgetting my jacket — which my lovely hostess chased me down to my parking spot to return.

Worth a thousand words

Dr. Goyal and White Plains Urgent Care were a small parking lot and two buildings over from where my nav device had placed them yesterday. /sigh/

She was saddened and intrigued by CRPS, making notes in the margins of my sheet.  She was initially somewhat dismissive of my description of the bite, because this morning it was being coy, hardly red at all.

I said, “I knew I should have taken pictures. Let me draw you a picture.”

Despite my having explained its vacilating nature clearly, I know from long experience that they need to see it to believe it.

So, using the big white paper sheet they have you sit on, I sketched the bite when I first noticed it, half a day later, a day after that, and so on. I wound up drawing a series of concentric circle patterns, growing, then shrinking, then growing, then shrinking.

I finished by drawing an arrow from top to bottom and saying, “Would you trust that pattern? Because I wouldn’t.”

I walked out with a prescription for 3 weeks of doxycycline and having promised to follow up with my CRPS specialist.

I know it’ll take 3-6 months just to get my insides back into any kind of order. Could take up to a year. I had a bad feeling about this bite, so I’ll consider it time well spent.

 When people talk about Mercury Retrograde, this is what they mean

 While I was in there, my lovely hostess texted me: “Internet still not working – what to do?” An hour (and a lot of non-Mac behavior from her Mac) later, my best answer was, “Call the cable company; it’s a hardware problem.”

Doing unsuccessful telephone tech support for one dear friend behind you, for a problem you might have caused, while driving at highway speeds on strange roads, when you’re sick with worry over another dear friend ahead of you, is not something I would recommend. In fact, now that I can check it off my bucket list, I think I’ll try not to do it ever again.

Her life depends on the internet even more than mine. It’s not optional. I wanted to whip around and ride back to save the day … but for the lashing in my brain to go on, and the fact that her hands work better than mine and I know the interfaces by heart, so there was nothing — in practical terms — that my presence would have added.

I had a fierce feeling that, if I could get far enough away from the tangled vibes behind me, both of these problems would resolve themselves.

So, with solid logic on one side of me, and crystal-clear intuition on the other, I charged ahead.

I crossed the New Jersey/New York state line. Then my lovely hostess texted me to say that she had found a second loose connection — and that the internet was now working fine.

How to search for someone who’s gone missing

I crossed into Pennsylvania. I’d been stopping every hour to stretch and breathe, but I couldn’t stop mulling my sweetie’s situation, so I pulled over to start the legwork of searching.

Here’s the drill. The order varies depending on what you think the situation is, but, when someone has gone missing and you fear the worst, I find it’s very soothing to rule out the worst as soon as you can bear to:

– Contact the police in the area you last knew them to be in. (Use the non-emergency number; the goodwill is worth the effort.) Have they had any dealings with that person? Car accident, fight, anything? One of the first things cops do is ask for ID, whether it’s appropriate or not, so they’re likely to have records of even minor events.
– The police can connect you to the morgue. Rule out the worst, breathe a sigh of relief, and move on.
– Call the hospitals.
– If they aren’t admitted to the hospital, ask for the Emergency Room admissions, which may be a different number.

If all of those turn up negative, count your blessings and wait for them to get back into signal range or to realize they let their phone’s battery die.

First, I surfed the police logs to see if anything was reported. If there was any violence, then it’s a small enough town to turn up on the online blotter. Nothing matched.

I mulled whether it was worth calling the non-emergency number to see if they’d had any other dealings, and I decided to go straight on to calling the hospitals, on the grounds that any police involvement in the situation would be blotter-worthy.

Then the phone rang.

And it was him.

I really think there were gouts of steam poufing out of my ears. My eyes closed and I dropped against the door, so I’m guessing, but it felt like it.

He was slightly shaken, but intact, and maybe beginning to really “get it” about how some people change.

He told me emphatically to be careful who I trust, not to pick up hitch-hikers, and be careful who I talked to.

Naturally, I promised him that I would.

Just for the record, I have really great friends who always have my back to the best of their ability. I am one lucky human, and I know it.

Kylertown, PA (don’t blink… No, really,  don’t blink, or you’ll totally miss it)

After sorting out some logistics and stopping for a quarter of hot roasted chicken (definitely a local bird — tasty!) I came to the sinking realization that Motel 6 doesn’t go along I-80, and I can’t afford the ones that do.

Garmin is no help, because they just list the upper scale lodgings. Lots of B&Bs, but no cheap little roadside doss-houses.

I don’t need much, and can afford slightly less. It can be a problem.

I stabbed “Kwik-Fill Motel” on my phone’s map. What the heck, truckers know a thing or two about cheap dossing.

I spoke to a woman, which was reassuring; when I blew past the exit (# 133, if you’re curious, and it’s right after a wooded curve) she did a swell sales-job that convinced me to drive the 10 miles to the next exit and come back… and it turned out to be a good decision. 

This place has been in business since the 1970’s and has only raised its prices $10 since then. It skips the kitsch, thank goodness. My decent-sized room has the tasteful modicum of furniture with classy Colonial lines, with just the occasional bit of ’70’s carpentry or carpeting peeking around the edges. Decoration and color schemes are quite tasteful, for a motel, and — most importantly — the heater works.

A total find.

Next time you want to come to the wilds of Western Pennsylvania, you might as well plan an overnight at the Kwik-Fill; you can’t do any better, but you could do a great deal worse.

The only downside is, I wasn’t prepared for Pennsylvania water. I’d intended to bring a case of bottled for PA, but it was just like I didn’t have time this morning.

I’m going to run the bath and the fan, and give the whole thing time to clear the copious chlorine. If it doesn’t smell bad after that, I’ll have a nice bath at the end of this roller-coaster day. If it does, well, I’ll let it go and be grateful for the rest.

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Not what I expected today

I got bitten by a deer tick right before leaving Massachusetts.

Lyme disease is, of course, something CRPSers are susceptible to, so I took it seriously, especially when the head popped off when we tried to remove it.

A two-tone rash quickly rose and fell with much hot salt water, but it rose again last night and I woke up this morning feeling glandular.

I found an urgent care clinic, called to make sure they take Medicare, and put it on my list of errands on my way out of Scarsdale. I returned one thing, picked up another, stopped at Trader Joe’s to pick up lots of kefir to help with the antibiotic impact, and pulled over at an AT&T shop because my newly-activated Galaxy S3 phone wasn’t behaving well — and wasn’t surfing at all.

(Mine is white.)

Two hours and a great deal of work later, I walked out with a phone I now know is not as unlocked as Negri Electronics said it was (it will soon be available on eBay, once I know what carrier it can use) and a brand new Galaxy S3.

The very capable and helpful young lady who got me sorted out gave me a tip that is probably worth what I’ve lost on the phone: Never buy anything that matters from a company that doesn’t have a customer service phone number on their web site.

What a simple, brilliant filter. No customer service phone number = no interest in staffing for customer service. Do you want any problems dealt with in a rational manner, or not?

The good news is, these phones are so hot I probably won’t lose all that much on my original purchase price.

Then I went to the address of the clinic, according to Google Maps, and there was no clinic there. In fact, nobody at the Family Center had any idea about it. I  should have taken the secretary up on her offer to give me directions, if only to check the address…

I wanted to cross the Tappan Zee Bridge (yes, those of you from anywhere else, that’s the right name) before the construction started tonight. So I did a search for hotels and motels on the other side.

They’re all full, probably with hurricane refugees, and the least expensive room I could find was double what I have budgeted for a single night’s lodging. Most of them were quadruple that.

It was getting below 40 degrees Fahrenheit and very dark. I called my hostess and turned back to Scarsdale.

Safe, warm and fed, this is beginning to look less awful.

It really brings home to me the pointlessness of taking plans too seriously. The linear approach has only ever yielded average results for me, at best; I can only excel in a more seat-of-the-pants kind of way.

It’s hard to accept, because it’s — wow — really, really difficult to start something when you have absolutely no idea what the finish might be, and are necessarily vague about even the next step.

The blind leap is exceptionally challenging, especially with a hotwired fight-or-flight response thanks to dysautonomia.

Try it blindfolded, with live wires stuck in your brain…

But I did get down that birth canal all those years ago, and that was the quintessential one-way leap into the void.

After that, any other trip oughta be a piece of cake. Right? Even if you have to start it twice.

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After the burn

JC said, “Let’s take a ride.” This always precedes eye candy, long silences punctuated by little “wow” sounds from me and gentle wafts of quiet satisfaction from him. So I said, “Sure, babe, wherever you want to go.”

We went up towards a ranger station I’ll redub Indian Richard, and the vulgar among you can go wild. (My very Ute friend says the correct name with a certain wry satisfaction.) The road goes through a national forest that had extensive fires. I’ve seen quite a few of those on TV in my California years, and I’ve seen smaller ones up close — the forest fires in the Santa Cruz mountains always get controlled pretty quickly, as these things go.

But with miles and miles, and none of it belonging to anyone, and access so hard — these huge forests are sometimes left to burn.

Caveat emptor: I might have to wax lyrical. There was no way a photograph could do any of this justice, especially from my elderly little iPhone, so I’m left with words alone to draw these pictures with.

Here’s what the California coastal ranges look like normally (except the redwoods; those are temperate rain forests. The inland highlands are much drier, almost arid.) Tawny pelts of grass stretch over the flanks of hills that roll, or sometimes tumble, over knuckles of exposed rock — mottled grey, often fractured in angular planes, puzzle pieces of multicolored lichen covering them, incredibly decorative in the wild and apparently pretty useless for anything commercial, so they’re left to mark turns in rivers and roads.

Those wide tawny pelts are speckled with live-oaks, dark acrobatic limbs twisted in double-jointed abandon, leathery little leaves shaped more like holly, so dark a green they look nearly black against the lion-colored hills.

Occasional stands of cottonwood soak their feet in little streams between the hills, such a bright lively green that they look fey and fresh, too tender for this terrain — but there they are, just the same.

Manzanita twists long dancer’s limbs in dark red tights against its own rich green foliage. It clutches clusters of indigo berries like little nosegays. I can’t get enough of the manzanita. It grows everywhere: in the chapparal, in the woodland, on the edge of the dry lands.

Up on the wooded slopes, jack-pine and maple grow side by side, the jack-pine in big fat perfect shapes, long swooping arms holding long swooping needles. The maples are petite by comparison, appearing to shrink shyly in the shadow of the large-gestured pine.

The woods are never as dense as the Eastern forests, so undergrowth is rife. Poison oak (my personal favorite, hah! ;-p) and scrubby whatnots are simply everywhere. You get breaks of sweeping grasses or areas buried in pine needles hiding roots and vines underfoot, but there’s always something to stumble over.

And that is what first penetrated the overall stunned feeling of seeing such huge forest fire remains up close. The ground was utterly clear. It was covered in a perfect layer of… nothing. There was nothing underfoot. Nature didn’t even bother with a broom. There was nothing but neutral surface, a sort of grey to greyish beige, a noncolor in a monochrome land. Oddly, there were huge astrocytes of white among the grey, straggling stars splashing the grimness with a weird dash of style.

Everything was shades of grey and beige. The trees that had burned the hardest, had been burned to their purest form: no decoration, no hiding, just pure form. More beautiful than the hardest freeze of winter for absolute pared-down revealment. Their trunks had the color and sheen of raw graphite. The stark black of their flayed branches against the cooling sky was absolute.

The jack-pines’ branches and surviving needles told a harrowing story of scorching wind and searing holocaust, limbs twisted against themselves and needles curled into cupped hands as they tried to escape. The live-oaks that still had leaves clenched them into little fists at the ends of thier branches.

But already there were signs of the future creeping up on the recent past. Deer paths and rabbit trails shot through the bleak perfection, loud fawn-colored ribbons laid across the grey velvet. Where maples and the occasional sumac had survived the first blast of heat, the leaves withered afterwards and dropped, golden, on the clean ground, a touch of warmth and — though I saw that they were really just dead — looking exactly like the promise of life.

And then there were the anomalies, those random moments of wildfire charm: a perfect green-and-red-and-indigo manzanita surrounded by total monochromatic devastation, radiant and queenly though no more than 5 feet high; a green maple gracing a stand of tortured jack-pines with unshattered elegance.

The maples consistently kept their heads; somehow, surrounded by much taller jack-pines totally scorched, it seemed they had lifted thier heads and one or two limbs out of the way, and somehow were likely to have kept a bit of green there.

At the last moment, just as we crossed from the last great burn into untouched woodland, a flash of silver — not grey, but sparkling, living silver — danced into view. A fat and sassy squirrel pirouetted on a twig too small to hold it, flirting and twitching in lively activity, a visual shout of life on the edge of the stillness.

I’m still digesting. Both my friend and I have been quite harrowed recently, and he might have chosen that road for a number of reasons. It’s an interesting lot to think about, and the images are burned, as it were,  into my mind. I only wish I could do it more justice. Nature at her most natural is far beyond this language, though.

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Regen at Black Butte

I came to CA for a leisurely camping trip with my sweetie. (One can have enough of the “long-distance” in a “relationship” until you have to cut some slack on one or the other. I chose the former.)

I landed in the fiery heart of an explosive crisis in his life, but one thing that nursing and 10 years of serious illness have taught me is, other people’s crises are not mine. It frees me up to have all the empathy in the world, without losing my own balance. (Much… :-))

Our idyllic excursion into nature with nothing much to do has turned into … an idyllic excursion into nature with nothing much to do, but a lot more to talk about.

We wound up at Black Butte Country Store and Camping, …

The store as you approach through the intersection.

…run by his old pals Tom and Margie, a charming and hospitable couple who came up from the East Bay – so they know damn well they’re onto a really good thing here. Margie’s smile just won’t quit, and that kind of says it all.

We’re at the juncture of Black Butte and the Middle Fork of the Eel River, a far corner of a protected and remote swathe of the simple life called Round Valley.

This phone is getting old, but it still shows how blue the sky is.

We’re in the shadow of the Mendocino National Forest, recently the site of a huge wildfire. You can see where the charring and scarring stop at the top of the hill right across the street. A huge sign in front of the store thanks the firefighters in letters over a foot high.

Everyone here is REALLY fond of the fire service now.

 There’s very little cell signal (neither JC nor I get phone-joy), only a few radio stations come through at all, and the only wifi is at the store run by the campground owners, a 5 minute walk from the site. This is a huge bonus: the low levels of EM radiation are letting me cope with the stress and the dietary compromises perfectly well. 

Good for neurons and what they control.

I even drank half a soda yesterday, and hardly felt a thing… In other times and other places, I’d have paid for that for 3 days. At least.

The grill (closed on Wednesdays) serves fresh local natural beef and incredible salads. Really good greens with just enough dressing and the lovely smokey meat of your choice. The convenience store is pretty small, but the coolers are packed with everything from coconut water through Naked juice to conventional sodas all the way to the rankest beer you’d hate to find.

They’re perfectly happy to make me a gluten-free sandwich wrapped in that lovely lettuce.

You can’t see the sandwich, which covered the whole plate, cuz I ate it.

On our first night, the full moon rose directly over our feet, waking us both out of our first doze to stare at the radiant spot on the tent wall in bleary wonder for at least a minute, wondering who turned on such a damn great light at that hour.  JC finally stuck his head out and told me what it was, and we both had to laugh.

The air is absolutely pure. Each evening, the spotless sunset gets punctuated by exactly one contrail, a screaming streak of orange across a melting sky of peach, green and sixteen shades of blue.

Since the moon rises later and smaller every day (and as we get caught up on our rest, able to stay up past dark!), last night we got a full hour of gazing at the Milky Way and the million million stars I never get to see.

Photo collage: TwTunes at www.digitalsky.com

Casseiopea and the Big Dipper wheeled overhead with a-a-all their lovely autumn cohorts, as familiar and ever-present as old friends.

At the time of our visit, there was a breathtaking piece on show from local artist (and Santa  Cruz transplant) Lynn Zachreson. The link goes to her web page but, of course, online photos can’t do justice to her brush control, delicate textural discrimination, or authoritative use of color. Look her up; it’s worth it.

There’s a gorgeous swimming hole a few minutes’ walk up the pike, sinking deep around great boulders of white chalcedony. Healthy-sized fish nibble your legs if you hold still long enough, and the water is perfect on one of these bakingly hot afternoons.

The water is a lot bluer once you’re in.

JC says the weather can change in a minute here (this old New Englander reserves judgement) but we’ve had a glorious run of unseasonably hot, clear weather with deliciously cool, clear nights.

This illness is hugely responsive to nutrition, air quality, and man-made radiation. In most far-flung places, the produce is dodgy and tends to look (and taste) second-hand; you can’t get good food and good air waves without a lot of advance planning and a huge cooler.

This place was a total find, and for those of you who really care about things like air, food and EM smog, it doesn’t get much better than this. Especially at these prices.

It’s absolutely outstanding.

And you can bring your horses! There’s a black and a bay here who’ve kept us endlessly amused.

Being around JC has always knocked back my pain and increased my strength since we first met, before we ever thought of getting together. He’s obviously got his own electrical field or something. Between his company and the clear and deliciously benevolent environment here, I’m stronger after a few days than I’ve been in some weeks.

I’d thought of this as a side-trip to squeeze in, before I got on with my serious healing junket… but it’s looking like an ideal start, instead. I wound up landing on my feet, and I am grateful.

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Himalayan dreams

Had a dream of a remarkable wolf. It said it was from an extinct ancestral species. There were great mountains around us. I got curious and looked a few things up.

Timing couldn’t have been much better. In 2004, scientists examined mitochondrial DNA and cleared up a lot of questions about speciation and ancestry:

Here’s the Smithsonian’s article with that graphic: http://nationalzoo.si.edu/SCBI/SpotlightOnScience/fleischer2003108.cfm

Until this study, all canids except maned wolves (truly ancient) and coyotes were thought to be basically a type of grey wolf; Tibetan and Himalayan wolves were different flavors of the same breed. (The web being what it is, the old ideas of the much-loved grey wolf being the grand-daddy of them all still show up everywhere.)

Turns out the beautiful and sweet-faced Himalayan wolf is the ancestral canid from which Tibetan wolves, grey wolves, Mexican wolves, red wolves and modern dogs (from molossers to dachsunds) are all descended.

The adorable mutt I grew up with. The huge, terrifying sheepdogs of Turkey, where I was born. The overdressed show poodle that walks my marina. The chihuahua who helped fix my boat. All from the Himalayan wolf.

There are only 350 of this extraordinary species left, as of 2004.

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/south_asia/3804817.stm

The main problem? Human ignorance, voraciousness and violence.

Because 12 billion of us just isn’t enough, humans are expanding cultivable and buildable land every day to feed still more. I’m not sure why this is still seen as a better option than parental education and birth control, which are tragically underfunded worldwide.

Wolves are hunted for sport, because some people just have to prove they’re better than anything that doesn’t have ballistics and steel.

Wolves are hunted out of fear, because they are the bugaboos of Himalayan legend — since wolves have been made metaphors for the vilest traits of humanity in Europe and Asia alike. They aren’t like that, we just wish they were, so we wouldn’t realize we are looking in the mirror when we think of unrelenting evil.

They are hunted for killing livestock, which they do in the winter … But the ranchers who keep a couple donkeys with their herds, never lose animals to wolves. Donkeys have no fear of wolves and will kick the living snot out of anything that attacks their herd. Many ranchers don’t know this! Livestock predation is a stupid problem with an easy fix.

Rumor has it there’s a captive breeding program in India, but I haven’t been able to track it down online. I’d be happy to make a website for them with a big, persuasive “Donate” button.

Meanwhile, I’ll keep looking.

Addendum 1

Turns out that donations aren’t possible: http://wildlifesaviour.blogspot.com/2011/05/himalayan-wolf.html. HOW is that POSSIBLE? Further research needed, apparently.

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Fabulous dress sense!

Coming up to Castro & Market, I noticed half a dozen middle-aged men, most in wonderful shape, some with jackets draped over their chairs and some with jeans in puddles around their feet. Wearing nothing but hats. … And a few tattoos, possibly as punctuation, but it’s not like they cover anything.

I perked up and went over; said, “Gentlemen, I _love_ your outfits!”

A circle of shit-eating grins glowed back at me. The cutest-and-he-knew-it said, “Thanks; we worked real hard on ’em!”

Had it been an enclosed space (like a bar), I’d have had a comeback, but aware as I was of the very mixed crowd, I just gave a little laugh and passed on –with a big grin.

I love this town.

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