Wednesday, December 30, 2009

new shoes

ok, so i got them a couple of months ago, but wasn't caught up with my projects and didn't write to tell you.

my old running shoes wore out, and at the end of the summer season i got a very handy coupon for a spiffy new pair of salomon XT wings.

even though you wouldn't know it today (twelve degrees and wearing extra clothes) i'm running a little faster in them; a sixteen minute mile on average.

before you go all unimpressed, yes, i AM aware that decent runners can do eight minute miles and hardly break a sweat. even in good condition i'm a sucky runner, so sixteen minute miles are a big step up for me.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

flask Christmas

presenting for the year selections from the flask Christmas album: daily download available from now until 1 january.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009


yesterday was the 21st of december, the day of the winter solstice, the day that the days bein to grow longer again.

and i can really use more daylight.

i decided to spend the day baking; i have a bread that i bake on the solstice day or when i'm asking special blessings. i call it "apple raisin spice" but it's more than that. it's heavily fruited with -yes- apples and raisins, but also with apricots and plums and sometimes currants. instead of water, i use for the liquid ingredients apple cider and dark amber maple syrup. the zest of a lemon is in there, along with cinnamon, clove, nutmeg, ginger, and a little black pepper.

all of these ingredients carry the traditional symbolism of ancient kitchen magic: they ask blessings of protection, prosperity, health, happiness, and love.

and so the baking of the bread is a prayer offering. with every added ingredient i think of what it symbolizes, and with evey turn of the dough, stirring or kneading, i consider carefully the prayers i wish to carry to those who will eat the bread.

it is hearty bread, heavy, substantive, and sweet.

so may you have what is substantial and sweet.

Friday, December 11, 2009

three views of a punchbowl

when i unwrapped it, i thought it was a small and ornate punchbowl.

what it turned out to be makes a lot more sense; you know perhaps that i am a lighter of candles.

when i say "i'll light a candle for you", i mean it. sometimes what i mean by "i'll light a candle for you" is "i'll keep a candle burning for you night and day until i know that you are safe."

like everyone else in my family, when my sister does anything, she does it to excess. right now that means that if it's glass, she'll paint it.

so i have this cool new bowl to hold my candle now. today i took some pictures of it; one so you can see the paint, one so you can see the glow, and the third one i just like because the light spreads and grows.

lighting up the darkness, you know?

Thursday, December 10, 2009


i kept watching bits of other people's homes go by my window, and decided to park my car on the leeward side of the building.

of course i had to go outside and take pictures, because i'm insane. a few miles upwind they clocked winds officially at 88 MPH, and i'll tell you that fully braced against it, i wasn't able to stand.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

preliminary sketches

what you have here is kind of my life in miniature: preliminary sketches for one of the paper discs i'm working on (which are supposedly a secret, but if you know where to look, you know where to look), but behind that is a sketch for a new song that popped halfway into my head this week, called "history of the world in brief", and beside that the notes for the hundred or so geocache logs i'm working on.

history of the world in brief:

i don't like you and you don't like me
content in our hostility
we'll act as if we're not insane
to wish to do the other pain

until we meet some other guys
that you and i can both despise
and we'll hold it like some precious gem
as we join our hands to

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

workmanlike approach

daniel pinkwater once told of a year in which he required himself to turn out one genuine piece of art each day before he turned in for the night.

he was not required according to his rules to do anything but make one good print, but this is a disciplined way to go about making art.

the thing about being an artist is that it's easy to sit around an wait until you have a golden inspiration, but quite another thing altogether to crank out work every day. if you go at it with the daily requirement, you don't always get a masterpiece, but you're exercising your craft, keeping your hand and eye in practice, keeping your work current.

so i'm working on a similar plan. i can't tell you what i'm up to because if you knew what i was working on i'd have to have you killed, but every day i turn out one new design.

some days, like today, i also make new music because i'm a composer and i'm working on my new album, songs nobody loves.

stay tuned.

Monday, November 02, 2009

pulling up stakes

last week i went out to catamount to do some trail work.

the trails are closed, but not if you're working.

pulling up stakes

they'd just hosted two cyclocross races and a collegiate mountain bike race, so there were a lot of trail markings that needed to be pulled in.

fall races are mostly on the hillside or in the meadow, so once they're mown they have to be taped off which means a bajiliion stakes get hammered into the ground and hung with flagging tape to mark the course.

in other places the course is marked by lots of those little flags you stick into the grass.

the thing is that when the races are over, someone has to go out and take down all the tape, pick up all the little flags, and pull up the stakes. the pack basket only hold so much tape no matter how hard you jam it in there, so it takes me seven trips back and forth to the barn, which isn't much of a bother since the weather is nice and i need the exercise anyway.

i gather the stakes in piles, leaving them on trails that are easy to get to by four-wheeler, and i mark each pile with one upright stake and a streamer of tape. little flags, if present, are put neatly under a few of the stakes, to keep them from blowing away in case there's a storm.

besides the happiness of getting exercise and being useful, i am also wildly attracted to the idea that if i finish all the prep work in time, i will get to drive the four-wheeler to haul in the stakes, which are heavy.


Saturday, October 24, 2009


ok, so i'm getting ready to leave the house to do a little light trail work and go to the pharmacy and then to a nice dinner at a restaurant for my brother-in-law's birthday ad for some reason as i pass the mirror in the bathroom i lift my shirt up a little and

-what's this?-

i don't recall having an angry-looking purple welt there...

and i'm trying to get a good look at it, but it's on one of those pieces of real estate along your flanks that you can't really see and can't really reach and i'm trying all sorts of contortions and mirrors and i still can't get a good look, but it looks like it might have legs.

now, i've had a bunch of tick bites and picked off countless ticks before they bite, and one of the things about the legs is that they move, which is what makes them so creepy.

typically, they bite, they dig in, they feed, and then they drop off to lay eggs. this one, apparently, has died WHILE DEEPLY EMBEDDED IN MY FLESH, so that's kind of icky, and later on i will get around to wondering why it dies there; i mean, have you ever tried to kill a tick? they're like, bombproof. you have to squeeze HARD.

and i figure that the last time i might have picked up a tick would have been monday, so it's been there four days at least, and i'd have had to have picked it up in the adirondacks, where supposedly they don't have ticks.

oddly, the last embedded tick i had, i got in the adirondacks, where they supposedly don't have ticks.

somebody is lying.

so i call my doctor right away, because this thing has to come out and considering how long it's been in me, i'm going to need doxy. (do you remember when "doxy" referred to a woman of questionable virtue and not a strong antibiotic?)

and they tell me they'll have the triage nurse get right back to me, but nobody calls for an hour and a half so i call them back and it turns out they don't think it's important to return my call because they have nobody available to see me today and i should go to the walk-in care clinic.

well, that's nice. ya think it would have been useful to call me and let me know?

so i put together my things and head out to walk-in care, and i am not really prepared for what i find there. it's not quite matthew brady, but there's a lot of misery there.

the guy at the front desk barely looks at me and asks "chest pains? cough? fever?"

uh, no. embedded tick. probably infected. probably not lyme, but dirty, you know?

well, it's going to be a long wait, he tells me.

how long?

a couple of hours. he tells me to have a seat in the waiting area.

i am not comfortable in there. the place is jam-packed with people who have the flu. our area actually has a cluster of real live H1N1 cases, so they're all suited up with masks and such, but they're all coughing and feverish.


but i'm going to need the doxy.

the guy calls me up to be checked in. he notices that i do not touch the desk or any other part of the furniture if i can't help it. he offers me some of his disinfectant, which i take.

i return to the waiting area. i feel very much out of place.

see, now i've felt pretty complacent about H1N1 and every other flu or cold because i have a robust immune system and i live alone. not alone in the city; alone in the country.

flu epidemic? i don't care. i don't come into contact with people.

but here i am at the hospital, surrounded by people with flu. and you just KNOW that some of them have H1N1, not that i care about strain.

i mean, i haven't had a cold in so long that i don't even remember if it was four or five years ago.

the intake nurse comes to get me, and i express to her my tredipation at having been plunked down in the middle of all these sick people. i mean, just take the tick out and give me the doxy already. it's not very complex.

she suggests that maybe i might have a friend take the tick out. ok, fine, but even if i could get a friend to take it out properly, i'll still need the doxy.

at this point it becomes apparent that even though it is not yet three in the afternoon, i am going to miss my five-thirty dinner reservations with my family.

i am sent back to the waiting area, but i ask the guy at the desk if i might do my waiting outside, where there isn't quite so much plague floating around in a closed space.

he says sure, and goes so far as to suggest that i might wait in the main lobby (just around the corner), where typically they do not allow people with visible symptoms to hang out.

fine. i make myself comfortable there.

and i wait.

and wait.

i call my mom, to explain why i'm going to be late to dinner. she says that they'll stall if they can, and they'll order for me, which ought to give me a little extra time.

somewhere just before five i get impatient. i have read the end of one book and made a good start on a second. now i get up and start pacing.

and finally someone comes to get me.

"i'll give you a gown and come back when you're ready."
"i'm ready", i say, pulling off my shirt and dumping it on a nearby chair.


so the guy comes to take the tick out and he starts to make friendly chitchat but i cut him short, saying that i'm already going to be late for a dinner reservation, so we keep it pretty much to business. he gets most of the dead tick out, telling me not to worry about the parts left in; what's there is buried pretty deep and my body, he says, will push it out just fine.

he disappears to write the scrip, and just this last part takes twenty minutes.

seventeen minutes later i am at the restaurant, and the moment i sit down the waiter puts my plate in front of me, and what has been ordered for me is fabulous, so that goes a long way.

but what i want to know is this: why did the tick die? why not feed and drop off, like they're supposed to? is there something toxic in my blood? is one of my medications fatal to ticks?

that'd be cool.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

a day on the road

out on the road there's a routine to adhere to, both because peregrination demands it, and because a routine makes it easier to manage the many details of "stuff" that has to be tended to.


for your amusement, i'll try to reconstruct my typical day for you, in handy list form:

  • waking

  • trying to figure out where i am (the better i have slept, the less likely i am to know my location or orientation.)

  • waking prayer (if i can conclude my prayer without lapsing back into sleep, i get up.)

  • move "downstairs" into the driver's seat, leaving bedding open and unfolded.
    turn on car and check temperature. if there is frost or much condensation, the car is left running until these clear up.

  • put on shoes, which are located on driver's side floor.

  • move driver's seat to daytime position, suitable for driving.

  • remove various objects from top of closed computer and move them to day positions: unplug earbuds from ipod and roll them into their case, which goes in the front pocket of the blue bag, on the passenger's side floor. power cords not presently being used go into cord bag. food items not consumed during sleep replaced in their proper bags. wrappers from food items consumed in sleep put in trash bag. cell phone located (it's somewhere in the bed) and placed with ipod in center console. water bottles (2) put in daytime positions, one handy and one not. if a pizza box is present, it moves to the back seat awaiting final repositioning.

  • open and plug in computer, replacing appropriate power cords into appropriate outlets. be sure to wedge the door over the power converter open so it won't overheat and blow a fuse.

  • plug in ipod to charge.

  • emerge from driver's side door.

  • open driver's side rear door.

  • move green food bag and green kitchen bag to temporary location.

  • remove breakfast drink from cooler and place it in cupholder.

  • zip up cooler.

  • move cooler from the ground beside the car to its daytime position behind the driver's seat, on top of the map bag.

  • replace the green bags around the cooler.

  • open tailgate and other car doors.

  • previous day's laundry is sorted. outer layers clean enough to wear again are left on the left side of the cargo space. dirty laundry is put in the laundry bag.

  • at back of car, strip off any shirts worn during the night.

  • put on a clean bra and then put the bottom layer, short-sleeve shirt back on.

  • other shirts still clean enough for sleeping are buried in the rear of the cargo space, to the far right.

  • shirt(s) appropriate for the day's weather are selected and pulled on.

  • tights or other leggings worn in sleep are removed and put with sleeping shirts.

  • pants (and long johns, if cold enough) are selected and applied.

  • pocket items (lip balm, pens, folding money and such) taken from dash and put in pockets.

  • sleeping hat is removed and put in the pocket on the back of the passenger's seat.

  • daytime hat is recovered and put on.

  • change from soft shoes to today's hiking boots.

  • a jacket (raingear or standard geocaching jacket) may be put on at this or any other time, as needed.

  • stove disassembled and parts stowed in green kitchen bag.

  • computer turned on.

  • bedding folded up. pillows covered.

  • pizza box, if present, is moved to top of bedding just behind passenger's seat.

  • laundry and clothing bags are redistributed to daytime positions, spread across back of car.

  • towel(s) spread out over gear bags to dry.

  • drive or walk to nearest toilet. at any point where gas or groceries are purchased, also make use of available restroom. do not buy anything from businesses without public restrooms.

  • drive to nearest wifi access point, check emails. if no open network is nearby, this step may be skipped until one is available. this action may also be repeated as the day goes on.

  • select day's first destination.

  • while driving, drink breakfast.

  • geocache. or not, depending on availability of distractions. mostly geocache.

  • at 1000h, stop for morning prayer. if time of prayer arrives while driving, stop at nearest convenient place. if no place is available (interstate driving comes to mind) turn off radio or other distraction and have prayer while driving. if time and place permit, read a page or two of scripture.

  • if breakfast beverage bottle is empty, (i only drink half at a time) it goes to trash. if not empty, replace in cooler.

  • resume geocaching.
    at some point in the day the radio s being used instead of the ipod, unplug ipod and use outlet to charge flashlight.

  • prayer at noon, followed by

  • lunch. if a cold pizza is present, two slices are eaten. if a pizza is not present, a bowl of cheerios is eaten.

    if eating cheerios:

  • assemble spiffy origami cereal bowl.

  • pour cereal (two kinds) and milk.

  • find spork. not the usual kind, but the advanced kind, with spoon on one end and fork/knife combo on other.

  • when done eating, pour out leftover milk, unfold and rinse bowl and utensil, repacking the kitchen and food bags.

  • resume caching.

  • afternoon prayer at 1400.

  • resume caching.

  • evening prayer at 1700, followed by

  • dinner. if cold pizza is present, eat that. if pizza is not present, find a suitable place from which to buy ether another pizza, or other grocery items.

  • find nearest open network, and check email.

  • return to nearest available toilet. sometimes this is at the campsite, and sometimes it is several miles away.

  • return to campsite.

    now comes the REAL fun:

  • if it is cold, turn on the heat.

  • if the campsite is empty, choose a podcast to listen to while preparing for bed. this minimizes the number of things you think you hear out in the darkness.

  • remove SD card from camera, and transfer photos to computer.

  • write today's caches (in chronological order) in black notebook.

  • shut down, close, and unplug computer.

  • plug cellphone charger into outlet previously used by computer.

  • if there is a pizza box present that still contains pizza, put it on top of the closed computer.

  • if an empty pizza box is present, place it and other paper waste in campsite fire ring and burn.

  • take out night items and arrange on top of either computer of pizza box (see above):

  • water bottles moved from daytime places

  • bible and other reading

  • ipod and earbuds

  • pretzels and granola bars from food bags.

  • open driver's side back door.

  • take stove and cook pot from kitchen bag and assemble stove, placing it on the ground in a suitably flat place left of car.

  • open tailgate on way to passenger side where both doors there are opened.

  • take out two water jugs (three if more water will be needed) and return to stove area.

  • unless the "WASH ONLY" jug is full (it nearly never is), fill the quart sized cookpot with water from one of the other jugs.

  • the lid to the wash jug goes on the rear door hadle so it can be found later.

  • light stove (lighter located driver's side rear door handle) and put water on to boil.

  • return to passenger side front and fill water bottles with potable water from jug(s).

  • replace potable jug(s) on passenger side rear floor.

  • brush teeth.

  • sort out meds. if the hour is close enough to bedtime, take all of them. if there remains a couple of hours before sleep, take only non-sedative meds, leaving sedatives in med cup, located in front passenger side door.

  • sort out sleeping clothes, being certain to choose a clean pair of socks suitable for tomorrow's shoes and weather.

  • take slip back clogs and put them on the ground near the driver's side rear door. move tomorrow's boots to outside position (alternate boots by day), leaving room for today's boots in inside position of driver's side rear floor, where shoes are kept.

  • empty pockets, putting items on dash.

  • take flashlight from front console and place in pants pocket.

  • check on the water to see if it's boiling or not. probably it isn't.

  • evening prayer. if appropriate to place and weather, light a candle.

  • keep watching to see when water boils. it's cold and dark out, and you don't want to waste gas. a watched pot does, in fact, boil.

  • when water boils, turn off stove.

  • put on heavy duty workgloves that serve as potholders. (kitchen bag)

  • carefully pour hot water into wash jug. since it already had some cold water in it, what results is water of a comfortable temperature with which to wash.

    depending on the weather, these next steps may have to be executed very quickly or especially vigorously or they become excessively uncomfortable:

  • strip off all clothing above the waist. any clothing that is excessively dirty or that has been in contact with poison ivy is turned inside-out immediately.if there are people present nearby, a changing skirt may be used to protect their sensitive eyes.

    working from top down:

  • pour heated water on head.

  • using a tiny bit of shampoo, wash hair (there's not very much hair to wash). if it is unbearably cold or rainy and/or i haven't broken a sweat during the day, this step may be omitted on alternate nights.

  • using only as much soap as sticks to my hand in one pass over the bar, wash face. on each step warm water is poured so that it flows over exposed body parts.

  • similarly wash arms, chest, pits, anything i can reach. pants and boots are left on so far in order to keep feet and soft shoes dry, as well as for warmth.

  • vigorously towel off.

  • put on first sleeping layer: lightweight short sleeve shirt. unless it's REALLY cold out, the hat does not go on yet in order to allow the hair to dry.

  • the flashlight is removed from the pants pocket and retuned to its place in the center console.

  • change from boots to soft shoes and remove pants and, if present, long johns. keep sock on; they will absorb nearly all of the stray water thereby keeping shoes dry.

  • wash squishy bits, then legs.

  • if it's saturday, shave legs. on saturday nights no portion of the washing-up may be skipped for any reason. to come to church sunday properly washed up is an offering.

  • one foot at a time (right first) remove dirty sock, wash and dry foot, put on clean sock.

  • put on all remaining bedclothes: one lightweight layer in warm weather, a light weight and a midweight layer in cool weather, and a lightweight, a midweight and a heavyweight layer including a hood in very cold weather.

  • all gear is removed from bedding and piled up in the cargo space, on the driver's side.

  • towel(s) are spread out over the gear bags.

  • the cooking pot is turned upside-down and put over the stove.

  • one last check is made to be certain that gear is appropriately stowed.

  • starting at the front passenger side, the doors are closed. the last door is never closed unless the driver's door is open, or unless the keys are IN MY HAND. voice of experience.

  • once inside car, lock doors.

  • push driver's seat all the way back and lean it as far flat as it will go. this makes it easier to get in and out of the back.

  • turn on car one last time to check temperature.

  • apply moisturizer to hands.

  • turn off all lights besides dome light.

  • unplug cell phone from charger, placing it in the outer folds of bedding. the phone is kept with me at night because it has on it the only clock i can see without my glasses.

  • remove power converter and other cords from console compartment and close compartment.

  • unplug ipod from car, plugging in earbuds.

  • conclude "downstairs" portion of the day, retiring "upstairs" to the "loft". the sleeping area is only nine inches higher than the driver's seat, but it still feels to me like going upstairs for the night.

  • if all meds have not been taken, take remaining ones.

  • settle comfortably into bedding.

  • if it's early enough, read. if not, choose an appropriate podcast to listen to while falling asleep.

  • have a few last words of prayer.

  • sleep.
  • Monday, October 05, 2009


    i'm out on the road. while i'm out here i live in my car, hanging the loose "where" of my days on geocaches and stopping at regular intervals for prayer.

    so out here i need campsites, food, fuel, and occasionally an open network.

    there's a sequence to it.

    to start, i have to establish a "home" from which i can cache. sometimes this is an actual campground, but i can stretch my trip a LOT longer if i find free legal campsites.

    they're hard to find.

    so if i have one, i can stay there and while i'm out caching i look for others, and when i find another, my area expands to what i can practically reach from that new base. it's kind of a game of leapfrog.

    around the new campsites, i have to find public restrooms or outhouses that i can use, because these are not typically present at the campsites.

    and you NEED those things.

    i also need open networks that i can use to pick up my email, send messages, and do research. most libraries have open networks these days, but out in rural areas it can be tricky to find libraries.

    and pizza! pizza is the ideal food for the roadtrip; $16 usually buys you enough pizza for three meals. it can be eaten cold, and it comes in a handy box. it's nutritious and you can get different meat and vegetables on every one you get, so you can kind of vary what vitamins you get.

    sometimes you can find natural springs to fill up your jugs, too. sometimes the water is sweet and good, besides useful.

    i also have to find gas stations and pharmacies and churches; i always say that wherever i am on sunday is where i go to church, but that's only partly true.

    the whole truth is that as i travel from town to town during a week, i get a sense of where i should go to church. i consider it prayerfully, trying to get a feel for where i ought to be.

    sometimes that's not a surprise. sometimes it's a church not so dissimilar from my home church, but sometimes it's a church very foreign to my experience.

    typically at least once in a trip i will return to a church where i have gone already because i'm returning to friends, but i also like to stretch and make new friends.

    i start to feel more at home on my earth, welcome and comfortable in wider and wider ranges.

    and all of these places go on my map: springs, privies, campsites, churches, pizza places. it all goes in my giant database of amenities so i can find my way back later.

    out where i am now there are a lot of roads that are on the map but they don't go through anymore. it's easy to get lost or have to go around the long way, so i got this brilliant idea: map those so i can avoid them later!

    so my day is partly geocaching, partly searching for amenities, partly study and partly prayer.

    if i can be of service to someone along the way, that's just gravy.

    i gots ta go back to my campsite now.

    Monday, September 14, 2009

    tide comes in, blessings go out

    today i made this new video from pictures i took in wells, ME:

    and i updated this old one:

    Wednesday, July 29, 2009

    not really gone

    i realize it's been a while since i posted here.

    it's not that i have nothing to say, but sometimes instead of posting here i post to my photo albums or my podcast.

    these days i'm trying to catch up on my geocaching logs, but i'm also writing a lot of new music, so although i am working at communicating something, i am not so much doing it here.

    Friday, April 17, 2009

    the two hearts

    the small one and the large one
    they're nested, these two:
    the small frail heart of who you are
    and the wide expansive heart of who you strive to be.
    mine in yours
    and yours in mine
    God's great heart and our small heart
    and inside that
    God's great heart again.

    Friday, April 10, 2009

    carving the candle

    last year for the first time i carved and painted the paschal candle for our church. my design was simple, based on a 15th century design.

    this year for a lot of reasons it wasn't clear whether or not i would do the candle, but in the end i had to. you know how it is sometimes.

    i wanted something simple, but a little more ornate than last year. i also decided to go with inlaid wax instead of paint,a thing i have never done and so only have an idea about how to proceed.

    graph paper! you maybe don't know this, but there are some really nice onlice sites where you can print up free graph paper.


    sketch design. in the sketch i don't include a couple of the details, and although i can visualize most of the design, i still don't know about some of the colors.

    once the design is sketched, you have to wrap it around the candle and cut it into the candle's surface. beeswax can be ornery; while it doesn't crack as easily as cheaper candles, it also doesn't necessarily lift out of the cuts. it's sticky.

    the reason i know about the cheaper candles is because before i started cutting into an expensive one-shot-only paschal candle blank, i needed to practice cutting design elements, working with the dyes, and inlaying wax. it's a complex process.

    i also had to practice simple design elements like thin stripes, or outlines. wherever you lay two colors right next to each other, you run the risk or chunks falling out of your inlay when you cut near it, or else of the colors running together if you heat the area too much.

    the crown was a risk for me; the pointier a thing is, the less likely it is that you will be able to cut it properly into the wax, the less likely it is that you will be able to fill it with color, the less likely it is that it won't chip and break when you work around it.

    the yellow dye was also difficult for me to work. i had to keep thinning it with more and more beeswax to lighten it up. the other dyes needed to be strong for that deep color, but the yellow needed to be very dilute. a little yellow dye goes a long, long way.

    so here's the process: after the basic design is lightly cut in, you take your knife and cut holes for real. you have to be sure you cut deep enough (a little over and eighth of an inch) and you have to be sure your edges are clean.

    then you scoop the melted colored wax into the hole, making sure to fill right to the corners, and not leaving bubbles. the best wax consistency for this is that elusive point just when it starts to congeal; still clear and liquid-y, but thick enough to stay on the knife.

    as you might imagine, this requires hundreds of meltings, and each time you melt and re-melt you have to add dye and wax to keep the color going.

    it's best to seal the new inlay by going over it very lightly with a hot knife. if you seal it properly, it sets the colored wax into the tight corners and makes the surface easier to work later on without chipping.

    the tricky bit is that if you press too hard with the hot knife or linger too long over a spot, you will ruin your clean cut and the colors will run. your lines will blur and there will be a hole.

    once you've got all the wax laid in and sealed, the whole thing looks a mess. it's kind of a leap of faith, not seeing your pattern while you're working. but then, slowly and carefully, you use your knife to scrape away the excess surface wax and little by little your design emerges underneath.

    now's the nervous time. now you get to see if you really did fill in the holes properly. now you have to be extra careful not to catch any edges and break an inlay.

    scrape, polish, pray.

    Monday, March 02, 2009

    mood swings


    so aside from being wildly unstable, i have noticed a few patterns. the tricky bit is that the patterns don't normally remain stable.

    barring moods that are connected to actual life events, most people without a mood disorder have fluctuations that look kind of like this.

    the amplitude of the wave isn't very great, nor is the frequency. just in case you're not familiar with the anatomy of a wave, the amplitude of it is the height of the wave and the frequency describes how often the waves occur. the peak is the highest point on the wave, the trough is the lowest point, and the node is the place (twice in a full cycle for this kind of wave) where it crosses center.

    the problem for people with manic-depression is that the waves have too great an amplitude, and often too great a frequency. when you have full cycles more than three times a year, they call it rapid cycling. a year might be represented this way:

    the problem for me is that i have a very extreme form of the illness, and my year looks more like this:

    let me break it down for you.

    a while ago i noticed that i was hitting a trough on average every 27 hours. that's hard to cope with, because although you can predict when it's going to happen, it's kind of like a rolling blackout and it makes it just that much more difficult to keep any kind of regular schedule to my day. a three day period looks kind of like this:

    but then i was noticing that i was peaking 4 to 6 hours before the troughs, which would yield a wave-shape like this:

    and that just doesn't make sense.

    so i took into account that i might be cycling even during my hours of sleep, which over a three-day period looks like this:

    when i matched this wave frequency with what i was experiencing, it fit a lot better. i'm still uncomfortable, but it helps to know why and to be able to predict the swings.

    so i'm making a full cycle on average once every 13.5 hours. i sleep for nine hours, which is partly a function of my body clock, and partly a function of my medication. when i am at either extreme of amplitude, it is difficult to fall asleep and when i am at a trough it's very difficult to get out of bed. further complicate the whole thing with hormonal cycles and it's just one big clustertangle.

    Thursday, February 19, 2009

    peggy dow

    peggy dow's is my favorite trail at bolton valley.

    if you need the refresher or have just joined us, it's off the top of the number one chair, up in the north corner. i have this thing for the elbow of peggy dow's; you come off the lift on this treed-in and level trail and then you go around the corner and it drops out from under you and it seems like all of creation or maybe just the pretty parts are laid out in front of you.

    Friday, February 13, 2009

    between haircuts

    once i lost a bet and had to get my head shaved. it was a fundraising bet; the kind you hope to lose. the price tag for my hair along with that of another colleague was $15,000.

    what wouldn't you do to your hair for $15,000? hair grows back.

    it was an interesting experience, being shaved in front of a few hundred screaming adolescents. the striking thing was how breezy it was. the next day was when i started my still-current habit of wearing little round hats. someone asked me that day if i was ashamed to be seen bald.

    "no", i said. "just cold."

    every evening i took a picture of myself, right up until the night before my next haircut.

    roll film.

    Tuesday, February 10, 2009


    my mother will buy me sporting goods, but a lot of the time she doesn't want to know what i do with it.

    yesterday on the mountain we suffered from the couple days' thaw and refreeze, but even with all that, the conditions weren't all that bad. sure, there were some hard patches where it was hard to get an edge, but even where it was scratchy there was mostly enough soft snow to dig in all right.

    and you know those chunks of ice that get thrown up by the groomer? we used to call them "death cookies". they make for bumpy gritty skiing and you KNOW you're going to have to sharpen your edges (which i am at the moment putting off). anyway, they weren't so large that i'd have called them "death cookies"; maybe they were more like "death croutons".

    but once i got acclimated, i was able to put some muscle into my turns and carve .

    all last week i kept clocking my speed (yes, i was carrying my GPSr. so i'm nerdy. i hope this is not news to you)

    -anyway, i was clocking my speed and no matter what trail i was on or what i did, i kept topping out at about thirty-seven MPH.


    never 38. so yesterday i thought that maybe i could break forty and i really put some intent behind it.

    still only 37 and change. but then i zipped up my jacket and went into a tight tuck.

    49.7 MPH!

    and i might have gotten a little faster on that run, except that i had a moment when i thought: if i fall at this speed, it's gonna HURT.

    and i straightened up just a little and caught the wind.

    i took a few more runs, but never did get that fast again. it's tricky to do, partly because when you get to the steep pitch there's always the possibility that people will be entering the trail just below you and you have to scrub a little speed until you can see.

    of course if people are there, you have to scrub a LOT of speed.

    if conditions are good tomorrow, i'll have to see if i can break 50. boy, that'd be something.

    i have to go sharpen my edges.

    Thursday, January 29, 2009

    lange bang

    lange bange, maybe? lang bang? well, the second is closer to how it's pronounced.

    do they still call it that? my ski boots are lange. my favorite pair ever were san marco, but they quit making them which doesn't surprise me since i have a hard-to-fit foot.

    ...which means any boot that fits me perfectly doesn't sell so well.

    anyway, lange bang is what they call those bruises on the front of your shins; lange boots used to come up high and they were torsionally very stiff, hence the bruises. lange makes more comfortable boots these days but if it's early in your season and you're skiing a little aggressively, you still get it.

    it's one of my favorite bruises.

    we got seventeen inches of snow so they were deliriously happy up on the mountain and opened up all of the lifts even though it was midweek. which meant i got to ski peggy dow's, probably my all-time favorite. the view from the elbow of peggy dow's is a big favortie of mine, too, and now that i have a newer, smaller camera i'm bringing it along, so if i get ambitious i'll post pictures of that view as the season goes on.

    i'm also experimenting with taking video while skiing, which makes me a little nervous, but i'd like to get just one video of one good run. i think it'd be cool.

    right now i can't get a nice level picture.

    it's cold on the number one chair (what the "new" people call the wilderness chair), and it is, i think, the slowest chair on the mountain. it's certainly one of the oldest chairs, and it's stuck waaaay over on the left side, the only chair that serves ricker mountain. when you're out there you're way out there, and they don't blow snow up there so you get what you get.

    if you want to see it, here's the trail map, and here's the satellite image:

    View Larger Map

    it's contemplative on that chair. i get to think of a lot of things: art, music, lyrics. i have this recurring fantasy that comes unbidden right about at lift tower nineteen; never you mind.

    today it was just about there a young man came flying off of that rock in the middle of the trail just as outlaw empties out under the lift.

    we could hear him hit, and it was a pretty spectacular fall, with lots of post-impact flying but someone on the lift asked him if he was hurt and he said only his pride was injured, but that it was AWESOME.

    and it is, too. the lift is also a place of prayer for me.

    praise be to God, who watches the sparrow
    God, who makes flourish every green leaf
    teach me to love and make me to follow
    hold me in joy and comfort my grief.

    Wednesday, January 28, 2009


    i was going to go skiing today, but better to go tomorrow.

    that was quite a snowstorm. i know it snowed all day, but there was very little accumulation because the wind drove the snow away to wherever it gets caught up, i guess.

    the wind drove so hard today that it was a little breezy sitting at my desk, and yes, i have my storms down. not that my windows are all that energy efficient. at one point this afternoon the snow blew right in and onto the sill.

    Tuesday, January 20, 2009

    most promising

    ok, so i know everyone else is talking about president obama.

    but i was watching the inauguration today (and i got to see a LOT of the coverage, because i don't have a job anymore...)

    anyway, i'm watching the coverage and i am loving the marine band. i notice particularly that the director has programed all music i like, which is unusual. and there's something vaguely familiar about the director in the way he moves.

    a long time ago i stood on a stage with a kid named mike colburn as we accepted an award presented by our state's music educators for most promising senior going on in the field of music education.

    it was unprecedented for the award to be given to two students, but for some reason they felt that we both should have the honor. it meant a lot to me.

    turns out that he's colonel michael j. colburn, director of the president's own marine band.

    i'm a washed-out has-been.

    it's easy to see how he got from "most promising" to there, but how did i get from "most promising" to here?

    he has one of the coolest jobs in the whole world, a job once held by JOHN PHILIP SOUSA! and he looks so distinguished in that cool nineteenth-century style uniform and it boggles my mind that i knew him when.

    and it pains me that my career is over.

    and then i think about an old yearbook photo; if you're of a certain place and of a certain age you know the one. i'm standing with another promising young musician. he might have been great, too, but he's been dead fifteen, maybe twenty years. that kid died of AIDS; he was the first person i knew to do so. he got it early on, before they even knew what it was.

    i remember hearing the first news story about the mysterious strain of KS. it had to have been a wednesday night because i was on my way home from my lesson in st. a and for some reason i pulled off the interstate at exit 18 to listen.

    yeah, exit 18. the interstate exits that mattered: 10, 11, 13, 18, 19. the geography of my life.

    promise is a tricky, elusive thing.

    Monday, January 12, 2009

    baby, it's cold outside

    i have a geocache in richford that's near a monument to a survey crew that froze to death up on sutton mountain. i'm only thinking of it because last month i almost froze to death in avery's gore.

    on new year's eve i wrote about it to my friends, and i'm posting it here with a little editing:



    some of you know this story or part of it already. i want you all to have the full account because you were all in my thoughts up on the mountain.

    God is great and merciful.

    it was the longest night of the year, and possibly the longest night of my life.

    last saturday my friends crashco and dj and i decided to go geocaching in the Northeast Kingdom. there's a challenge out that involves visiting caches in all 251 towns of vermont, along with the four gores. dj and crashco and i only had a handful of towns left, all up in the NEK. if you know anything about the geography of vermont, this will not surprise you. the NEK is remote and wild.

    we planned kind of a marathon day, starting with a hike for crashco in hardwick and finishing with four hikes after sundown: warren gore, avery's gore, warner's grant, and holland. only the hike at avery's gore was anticipated to be steep or long. in order for you to find a cache in avery's gore, you have to first be in avery's gore.

    there aren't any roads in avery's gore. its official population is zero. to BE in avery's gore, you have to hike uphill a couple of miles from the nearest road. even long lake seems well-connected and cosmopolitan by comparison.

    we know about this kind of hiking; we often hike at night, and we often hike in the cold. we know how to dress for it, how to move safely. we know how to check for signs of frostbite and hypothermia and we know that if anyone in the party is in trouble, we turn around and go home.

    we were dressed for it properly, and we'd eaten enough. i wasn't maybe fully hydrated, but when i'm out in cold weather i am habitually a little under-hydrated simply because at ten below zero it's a project to drop flaps to pee.

    sometimes even when you're properly equipped and properly prepared you still crap out.

    i rolled craps.

    we got our caches in norton, ferdinand, bloomfield, lewis and we came to the trailhead for the hike into warren gore. it was a short moderate hike on a wide-open logging road and what struck me was the staggering beauty of the "great big stars" flung out wide over us. my hands were cold and they hurt quite a lot for the first few minutes going up but it was a simple thing, walking, and soon enough my circulation got going enough for me to be comfortable, going with an easy gait.

    at the cache we all looked at our GPS receivers and noticed that the next cache, the one in avery's gore, was closer to where we were at the moment than it is to the trailhead from which we were to begin that hike. we explored for a few minutes the possibility that our logging road might take us there, and even the possibility of a bushwhack. it was open woods and wouldn't have been too hard walking we thought, but even though we didn't want to give up our elevation gains we decided not to chance the unknown and the possibility of unseen obstacles.

    we went back down to the truck, drove down the road a couple of miles, and found the recommended trailhead for the avery's gore cache. we started on up the trail.

    many of you know that i have been feeling my losses very sharply this year; i've been traveling as much to run from the pain of all that as i have been running toward the pleasure of living on the road. it was exactly this kind of travel that brought me into awareness of the presence of a living God, and so it is this kind of travel that reminds me of that presence, that discovery. it is my comfort when all else fails. you may know that this past october when i lost my footing at the richmond church and began to think of leaving it, it was the long journey that gave me safe harbor.

    i don't really want to go deep into that story; let's just say that it was my anger with other people that was making it difficult for me to come properly into the presence of God.

    the key concept here is salvation as it depends upon forgiveness. every day i pray to be a bigger person than i am, the kind of person who could and would forgive, but i can't quite reach yet. evan and amy, you must know by now why exactly i came into your company, and i want you to know that my time with you was transformative for me. i can feel it moving in my soul but it has yet to bear fruit.

    i'm a work in progress.

    i remember the first day i walked with the knowledge of the living and present God; everywhere i went, i went with the prayer that i could make every breath a prayer and every step a prayer, and never forget how or why.

    so it's not all that unusual for me to pray as i walk, but i remember going up that mountain praying that whatever happened, i would still feel myself in God's hand. and i continued that prayer to be bigger than i am, to be able to forgive.

    that's the funny thing, you know? God has been so insistent, so specific about all sorts of things about which i'm just supposed to get over myself and forgive. somehow i'm also given the heart to do it, to want to do it, and God has been strangely silent on the topic of forgiving these two things.

    so the three of us are heading up the trail into avery's gore. the time is 2115. the public version of this story can be found here, and if you're looking for an annotated map of where we were, it can be found here. the public version of the story includes some details that aren't included here in the introspective version, and you can read there (with a little following of some links) what crashco and dj have to say about it as well.

    we know how long it took previous visitors to get to the cache before the snow fell, and we know approximately our comparable speed. we expect to spend a little over two hours getting to the cache, and an hour or so to come down. we consider the snow depth and quality and decide against snowshoes.

    it's slow going on that trail, partly because i don't move all that fast, partly because we're being careful, and partly because we know better than to work up a sweat in this kind of weather. we stop for safety checks along the way. at the safety checks you assess yourself for signs of hypothermia or frostbite, and you share your conclusions with your companions. if there are any problems, or if you don't all agree on the assessments, the hike is over and you head back.

    at the third safety check we were just below the crest of the hill. i was warm and dry. i even scrunched my shoulders up, checking to see if my bra was damp from sweat. we were all set to go.

    even though there was nothing apparently wrong, i remember asking God to guide and protect me.

    things changed fast.

    as we crested the hill we were no longer sheltered by the slope and although there wasn't much wind, it was more wind than we'd had so far. i zipped up my hood to cover the bottom part of my face, just to cut down on the amount of exposed skin i had, and reduce my risk of frostbite. we lost the trail, which wasn't that big a deal since we knew where we were and the terrain from here to the cache was level. since the weather was clear we knew we could follow our tracks back if we needed to, and we all had turned on breadcrumbs on our GPSrs.

    they call it "breadcrumbs" when you're recording your tracks; it enables you to return to your start point by the same way you came. you can follow your tracks, or you can make a beeline for your start point, which of course you have waypointed.

    losing the trail here wasn't the bad thing; the bad thing was that we had come out on a logging landing and all around us there were piles of cut branches. that's hard enough to walk through when you can see it, but there was just enough drifted snow to cover, and so every step had the possibility of letting you posthole in as deep as your hip.

    our pace had slowed to a crawl, and now extracting ourselves from holes every few steps meant we had much more contact with the snow and therefore more exposure to cold.

    i don't know if we fought through that for ten minutes or twenty minutes, because however long it was it felt like forever even though it wasn't more than a couple hundred feet, and we were just about across it when our path was crossed by a guy on a snowmobile. he didn't slow down or even seem to notice us, but i remember wondering how much money he would want to ferry us back down.

    we come out onto groomed snowmobile trail, and the terrain is flat, so even though i now feel a little cold, we think that maybe getting moving again will warm me. i know better than to make this assessment on my own, so i'm talking with dj about it as i'm thinking. at this point i am only just a little bit cold, and it is well within reasonable expectation that i will warm up, but for some reason i tell dj that if i die up here he should call barbara.

    "instead of your family?" he asks.

    no, just that she will know how to go about some things that my family will not. i don't explain it to him very much.

    and there's a thing that i want. it could just as easily be done for me while i'm still alive, but i don't want to go to my grave without it. it's the kind of thing that needs to be done for me, if that makes any sense at all to you. and i know that if i don't live to see it done, barbara will realize it and make sure it gets taken care of.

    so as we walk i'm thinking about that, but i'm not telling dj. for a few moments i have this crazy thought that dj will be able to do this one thing for me, that he will somehow understand.

    i always feel as if my time for dying is soon, even though things that should kill me never do. it's paradoxical; i have both a sense of my own frailty AND of my indestructibility. i don't know if my time really is short, or whether i'm just supposed to live as if it's short. i know that when my number is up, it's up. i've fallen off a forty-foot ladder. i've been struck by lightning. i've been run over by a truck, and all without harm. one of these days my number will come up. the omniscient narrator from the future know that it doesn't come up this day, but so far in the story it's anybody's guess.

    we walk about a quarter of a mile. it doesn't take us very long, but i begin to realize that i'm too cold. my toes and fingers are still warm, but my butt is numb, which is worrying. i tell dj this, and we walk a little farther.

    at this point, you should know, we are maybe only two hundred and fifty feet from the cache. crashco has gone out ahead to look for it., because now we know that we're not going to have much time to waste looking. we have come so far only to have to turn around, and i'm thinking that in view of the length of the return trip, an extra five minutes isn't going to make much of a difference.

    almost immediately the numbness spreads. i slap my butt, my outer thighs. i can't feel it on the surface. we pass a little house next to the trail, which makes me feel hopeful. and very quickly i can't feel my inner thighs. then i go numb at my squishy bits. i'm having some trouble putting one foot in front of the other. i'm having trouble aiming my feet.

    you're not supposed to have to think about aiming your feet.

    and your squishy bits are supposed to be the warmest part of you, so i took this to be a very bad sign. i caught up to my boys at the cache location, but then went back a little to have a look at the little house and i realized that i had just down a thing you should never do: wander away from the group with out telling anyone. it isn't very far, but it's not a good idea and i think that maybe i'm losing judgment.

    i go back and i say "boys, we either have to break into that little house or we have to build a fire."

    the time is now around midnight.

    immediately they give up the search and now we're scouring the outside of the house, looking for a way in. crashco finds a second-story window and a ladder which becomes important later but for now it's no good.

    there's no way in without breaking a window, so we figure that we'll build a fire. there's a woodpile outside, and we're in the woods, so we'll be able to find kindling,and dj has a spare notebook, so there's tinder, and HE HAS A LIGHTER. i find a piece of stovepipe, which i figure will make a good platform and chimney for our fledgling fire. it's the last useful thing i'm able to do.

    dj and craschco get busy building the fire and gathering wood, and i stand useless, afraid to move too much, afraid to handle cold objects for fear i'll lose feeling in my hands. the fire leaps up, bright and warm and dj keeps going off into the woods, gathering wood, coming back and tending the fire.

    crashco goes up on the ladder to call their wives, not so much to tell them not to worry, because worrying at this point is definitely in order, but to tell them where we are at least, and what to expect.

    crashco asks if there's anyone he should call for me.

    no. nobody is expecting me at home. nobody will notice i'm missing until tomorrow or the next day, and there's no point worrying my family now, when they cannot help.

    our plan for the moment is to warm me up at the fire and then reassess whether or not i can make the trip down. we realize pretty quickly that if i leave this fire, i will die. so crashco goes back up on the ladder and calls 911.

    the time is now 0100.

    at this point i begin to pray in earnest, and i begin also to think of you each in your turn. i want to call you all and tell you to pray for us, but there's no use waking you up, and there's no use wasting the batteries on the only cell phone we have with us that gets reception in this place.

    earlier in the day we had been passing through lyndonville, next to the cemetery and i was thinking of the many hours as a child i spent in that cemetery, making notes and taking pictures; there was a grouping of old graves in the back corner that interested me and i spent hours and hours of my free time at summer camp in the town clerk's office, researching those people.

    the cemetery was also the place where doug thornton took us all out one night at midnight by the full moon and we stood on a little knoll around the tallest marker there and we listened to him recite the cremation of sam mcgee, which you can find here.

    my friends and i had been laughing about it earlier because i quoted it when the boys were getting in and out of the car and i was not; they stood with the doors open, letting out the heat.

    nothing about the poem seemed funny at this point.

    crashco gives very specific information to the 911 dispatcher in williston. he gives her our coordinates, and he tells her that we are at this house on the south shore of unknown pond, right on the groomed snowmobile trail. he tells her not to let the team come up on the trail we came on; it would not be snowmobile-friendly even without all the brushpiles.

    dj found some pieces of corrugated roofing, and crashco had a space blanket that he was working on unfolding. they used those and the tarp from the woodpile to construct a kind of makeshift shelter around me to reflect the fire's heat and to keep the wind out. it still wasn't all that warm, but it made a difference.

    every small thing makes a huge difference out there. if you wear gaiters (i do), not only do you have protection from snow working its way into your boots, but you have an extra layer of protection from cold. they keep your feet warmer, especially if, like mine, they come down like spats over the top of your boot. and waterproofing; periodically i clean and re-treat my boots with an excellent wax-based waterproofing. between that and the gaiters, it means that snow doesn't stick to your boots, and you have less contact with the snow and you stay warmer.

    by happy coincidence i had just put fresh waterproofing on my boots the day before. i took a mental inventory of my clothing: smartwool socks, boots, gaiters. mid-weight tights, goretex ski pants. lightweight techwick tshirt, midweight bergelene mid-layer, winter-weight bergelene overshirt, shell. bergelene glove liners, heavy-duty gloves. everything designed to keep me dry and warm.

    it's good to go over it in my mind; it keeps fear at bay. it is a reasonable voice in an unreasonable situation.

    joyce. you wouldn't know it from here, but i got your letter just before i let the house for three weeks in october. i didn't read it right away, but i saved it for a cold and lonely night. i still haven't answered it because somewhere along the way i tucked it somewhere for safekeeping and rereading later and i keep forgetting to bring it into the house. if i get down this hill i am definitely going to fish that out.

    we always said that if something went bad on one of our adventures we were prepared to spend an uncomfortable but alive night outdoors. we never intended to test this premise.

    0200 comes and goes. we don't expect to hear the rescue team yet; we know how long it takes to scramble the team when they're not home and asleep. it is perhaps worth noting that crashco is a wilderness first responder, so he knows what it takes to put everybody in the field. by this time we realize that i am not holding my own against the cold, even with the fire.

    it's a waiting game. which will find me first: rescue or death?

    i remember hearing what i still consider to be the best story i ever heard. i won't tell it to you here, but i will tell you that it involved a man who went down in a small aircraft over the north atlantic. he was an atheist and it was a point of pride for him that in his time of trial he never resorted to praying to the God in whom he did not believe.

    i didn't try to puzzle ot any conclusions, and i didn't look for any insights from it. i just remembered him, that's all.

    i thought of that terrible thanksgiving when i was part of a cold-weather search and rescue of a missing woman up near appalachian gap. i remembered the state police asking me to call her parents and have them catch the first plane up. i remember having to tell the parents that the state police didn't think we were looking for a living person. i remembered how we found her, cold but alive, how she had gone into the woods with a copy of jack london's to build a fire.

    i tried not to think about it.

    and i prayed.

    you maybe have heard me cry in pain. you maybe have heard the yelp that escapes me when pain sneaks up on me. i can't begin to properly tell you what this pain was like, because it was so extreme and it so completely subsumed me.

    you know that sharp pain when your hands get very cold and then start to warm up? it was like that, only it was my whole body. and it was also like blunt trauma. it was like the feeling in your veins when an IV goes bad, or when they pump in something painful. it was also like the kind of burn you get when you bump up against an iron or stove burner, a burn on the surface but also down into the flesh. each seam and zipper of my clothing was a special brand of hell, as if each of them was super-heated and pressing down hard.

    it so surprised me when i first felt it that i jumped up involuntarily, tearing at my clothes, yelling "it burns! it burns!"

    i thought for a moment that i had caught fire. it only took me a few second to realize that i wasn't really burning, and i was just going to have to get used to it.

    i could not pray to God to allow me to live or even to allow me to die, but all i could do was to tell God over and over: "i love you. you are my sovereign, my savior, my one true love."

    all this while dj keep going off to find wood that will burn hot. he finds wood, he tends the fire, he goes back out. crashco is watching me, talking to dispatch and scouting the trail, looking for the team.

    chuk. tell barbara. tell her to pray.

    if i get out of here, i am going to answer gretchen's emails, and if she calls me, i will talk to her. i was being stupid and i'm sorry.

    just before 0300 i am sure i hear the sound of machines. i can't say that it's the sound of snowmobiles, and nobody really trusts me to know what i'm hearing. crashco learns from the dispatcher that the ambulance has arrived, which is not much comfort because we know we can't get to it. we are told for the first time that help should arrive in "ten to fifteen minutes".

    we are in high spirits. bear in mind that we are only a hundred or so feet from the cache we came to find, so with the fire burning hot and help about to arrive, i tell my boys "go get that cache. i don't want to almost die for a cache we don't find."

    so they leave me for a few minutes. they find it quickly, and bring it back for me to sign. we're happy.

    they put the cache back. crashco goes out to scout for the team, and he comes back to tell us he hears them. he also brings the heartbreaking news that they're not close by, they appear to be on the wrong trail, and they seem to be headed away from us.

    the dispatcher tell him that the team is lost. they have gone back down to try another approach. the dispatcher in williston tells him that the team has attempted to reach us by way of the trail we took to get in, the trail that crashco specifically told them not to take. we learn that the dispatcher in derby line didn't think that was important enough information to pass on.

    we are aware that sometimes dispatch won't pass on information that they don't understand or can't confirm, but we are of a mind that they could have passed it on as unsubstantiated information FROM US and let the team draw their own conclusions.

    by 0400 i am passing in and out of consciousness. i remain upright for the most part, but i keep blacking out and then coming to.

    beause of the windbreak and my need to be where the heat was, i also had to be where i was breathing in smoke. i sat in the windbreak until i had to come up choking for air. warm poison, or fresh freezing air. both painful. both deadly. it's like coming up from drowing, over and over, gasping for a breath and then diving down again.

    cough, choke, splutter, retch.

    and darkness. blessed, quiet, painless darkness. the mercy of God.

    and i'm awake again. i come to, and i realize that even unconscious, i have been praying. i know it because i wake up in the middle of prayer.

    and darkness again.

    i wake up, and i'm singing weakly, word by slow painful word. i am halfway through "come thou fount of every blessing".

    i go in and out. carol, i think, would call this a "powerful witness".

    dj tends to the fire, reaching right in and grabbing hold of burning bits if he needs to move them. he is purposeful and ceaselessly moving. as the night wears on he has to go farther and farther from the fire in order to find wood.

    i realize that it is the longest night of the year. really, not metaphorically, although it's certainly that as well. i think of andrea, whom i had wished a bright and blessed yule, to whom i had said that i hoped as the days grew longer that the light would grow within her also.

    i thought of amy and little gregory and the whole band of them, knowing that they'e be waking soon and wanting more than anything to ask them to pray.

    i thought of karen, who had been there to turn the med lock and let the painful meds flow into my veins, and how her kindness made it just that much easier to bear.

    and linda, in her new studies. i call out to her in the night.

    the darkness enfolded me and each of you was with me, like in the old chinese story where a man survives his night on the mountain because he can see in the distance a fire lit for him by a friend.

    around 0600 i became lucid again. crashco and dj and i were sharing our outrage over the dispatcher's failure to relay the important information, and the stupidity of the question: "what color is the house?"

    what color is the house? you wouldn't notice the color any more than you would notice three people and a large fire on the front lawn, especially in the darkness. the omniscient narrator from the future knows that it is the ONLY house up there. you can see it on the satellite photos. it's house colored.

    we learn from the williston dispatcher that the machine sounds i'd heard around 0300 had been the team trying to cut through the brushpiles with a chainsaw. they had turned back only about a quarter mile from us.

    crashco goes off on a rant about the delorme atlas, and how if you have one, you can see exactly where we are and how to get to us. being mad about this is a nice enough diversion for a little while and it probably saves me as much as any other thing; it puts a little life back in me even though i can tell my core temperature is still dropping.

    i joke about running a pool to guess how low my core temperature is, but three people won't really support a pool and i look up and notice that the sky is turning that steel grey of cold mornings and at 0700 we hear the sled.

    the team is happy to see us and surprised to find me still alive. i'm surprised by it myself.

    they don't waste a second, but they half walk, half carry me over to the sled and lay me down in it. they open my clothes and lay in hot packs before bundling me up and strapping me down.

    it's a rough ride, bumpy and very painful but i am so glad to be on my way out i don't care. the EMT riding with me keeps apologizing, saying "i'm sorry for the bumpy ride darlin', but we can't spare any ponies." he tells the driver to go as fast as he can. he's a very large, gentle man, and in that time i love him as much as i love anybody.

    they put me in the truck, and nobody's ever started an IV on me in an ambulance, but they have to try. it is interesting hearing them call for a second truck for my boys; they don't think they'll need transport, but they call for every hot pack available to be brought.

    they strip off my clothes all the while noting what very good gear i have, and how properly i'm dressed for the weather. they feel every layer, and declare each one in turn to be too cold. it's all hot packs and warm blankets but nothing feels warm to me and they still can't get an IV started, so they just roll the truck.

    jean-pierre is very nice and i like him just fine, but one thing i notice is that he is not praying while he works on me. i miss that feeling powerful much.

    in the ER they still can't get an IV started, but they put me under a forced-air blanket, which beside being interesting to look at is toasty warm. after an hour of warming my core temperature is still south of 96 by a wide margin and they still can't get an IV in.

    it's hard to get an IV in me if i'm fully warmed, fully hydrated, a nd i've prepped the site with an emla patch.

    they try more than a dozen times, in all sorts of places. they even go for the knuckle over my index finger. that's very painful. i ask if they couldn't try the inside of that finger, where i have no feeling anyway, but there's no vein there.

    i want to know what the big deal is, and why they can't just give me a cup of tea and be done with it. the nurse is careful to explain that even though i'm here in the ER, i'm still at risk of dying; being that cold for that long makes your system kind of brittle. your elecrtolytes go out of balance, shivering takes its toll on the muscles. you're at risk of systemic failure.

    so what will they do, i want to know, if they can't get an IV started?

    well, they'll lavage me. they'll put tubes where they can and pump warm water into anyplace that'll hold it.

    that don't sound so good to me.

    at 0930 i ask for my friends to call the church, since it's sunday morning, to ask the congregation to pray.

    there's no answer.

    somewhere between the one thing and the other my urine tests (they still can't even draw a little bit of blood) come back clean and they decide to let me have the hot tea. they bring me tea and two kinds of broth and hot chocolate and they let me know i'm expected to drink all of it.

    fine. it's lovely.

    every hospital has that one IV nurse who can get blood out of anybody; that's who they send. she looks at the failed spots, the blown vein, the pricks and the bruises adn she says "anybody ever try your feet?" well, no, they haven't. she hunts a little, ties me off, and preps a spot.

    'this is going to hurt", she says.
    "more than when they go over the knuckle?"
    she thinks for a moment. "no. about as much."
    "ok, then."

    she sticks me once and i barely feel it. she gets ten ccs right off. later crashco will say that she should have done both feet, so i'd have a full set of stigmata.

    he's funny.

    my bloodwork comes back clean, too, which is an apparent surprise to everybody. the doctor comes by to make sure i understand that i should stay inside at least until the next weekend. he wants to be ABSOLUTELY SURE that i understand that if i get chilled in the next few days that it will very probably be fatal.

    it's been all hot food and lots of naps for me. for a few days i cried very easily. in quiet moments i'm still haunted by those hours of darkness and pain and i go over and over in my head how i might let that work in me, how i might use it to get over myself and forgive. one of you sends me an email asking how i will thank the God who loves me so much, which hits me like a two-by-four in the face.

    everything i have in me, every story, every song i come across instructs and informs me that it really does come down to forgiveness, but even through all of that i still can't quite reach and the only conclusion i come to is that i'm not meant to reach just yet. it's not that i'm permitted to give it up; i will still pray to be a better person tomorrow than i was today. i will still pray to be the kind of person who would forgive those two things; the kind of person who can and does forgive them, but for now i'll try to accept that the time will come when it comes and that maybe the holding of it, as painful as it is will present me with some tool or opportunity that i can use later.

    tonight many of my friends, including dj and crashco, are gathered around a bonfire in a forest somewhere to see in the new year. i couldn't join them; it feels too much like that other, much less festive fire. but tomorrow we'll meet and together we'll go off into the NEK and finish up the two short hikes we missed. we will be the first to complete the challenge.

    before my illness and all my losses of the last year or so, i had been strong and resourceful, quick to meet the challenges and often the first one to the finish line. it was hard being just an also-ran, and harder not even taking a start a lot of the time.

    to go with my friends and be the first across that line together means that there's recovery from every darkness, every coldness. i'm going to get to stand and claim my place in the sun.

    so may it be with you.


    Related Posts with Thumbnails