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I have been writing more and more frequently in the last few days and so I know it’s time to share a bit. This is my usual pattern. Write, fumble..write, wonder how one can have writers’ block when one isn’t really a writer?? scratch, write more, stumble, feel a bit of flow, laugh at the crummy stuff I’ve come up with… and then in one fell swoop write something I feel I can share. It’s like a quick exhalation of real coherent thought… although this is subjective!!
The rest of it, all those little pieces of writing-excess, they are good and important and all that, but for me, the thought that hits home has a specific feel. I might compare it to the feeling you get when you swing the club and know, right away, that it’s a good one… maybe it doesn’t quite get you that hole-in-one, but it’s fairly straight and it’s not going to hurt anyone. It’ll go as far as your experience, strength, and equipment will allow.
And so I plan to make this a short post….
My last few months living down in a valley and working up on a mountain have been everything I had hoped for and so much more! It’s been refreshing, fun, social, and rewarding to work outside again. My snowboard and I have made good friends. I might not know thirty words for snow, but I know that “variable conditions” mean many different things to many different people and that the whole feel of the mountain can change in a matter of twenty minutes or twenty centimeters..
The season is coming to a very quick close. As I find myself in another period of transition.
I’ve also come to realize that as I settle down into routine and into living in one place for more than a few months, that the vastness of “new and different” aren’t lost – instead they change. I might see the same scenery day-in and day-out; speak the same language; align myself with those old familiar social norms; it’s all so the same. But really everyday is unique. There’s a richness in routine. The layers of the people we meet, the decisions we make – it’s fascinating and it keeps the spark alive. I’m especially impressed by my friends.
I don’t want to sound like an over-indulgent parent, but my friends are amazing! They make hard decisions, follow-through even when the going gets tough, and have the gumption to admit when they’re wrong.
They are funny when it’s appropriate and hilarious when it’s not.
They stand strong, ask for help, melt a bit, reorganize, restructure, change their friends’ kid’s diapers and down an 8-pack of Lucky in the sun when they have to. I have friends that run marathons, start new lives in foreign countries, and deliver new lives without even melting a bit!
I could go on and on, but I think I mentioned this being a short entry?
It’s been quite a ride. The forecast continues to call for variable conditions, with a 50% chance of melting.
The Swiss experience cannot be complete without an up-close and personal glimpse of the mystical, magical Matterhorn. Luckily you don’t have to be a mountaineer to appreciate the astounding beauty of the (second) highest mountain in the Swiss Alps. It’s obvious that this 4478m monolith has indeed caught the attention of the world … there is a chocolate bar based on it’s shape. Do you know which one?
We arrived in Zermatt, the small village at the base of the Matterhorn, early in the day. The train was full but not uncomfortable. There were less young people than I thought there would be, but then I considered how expensive Zermatt must be (picture Whistler in a really expensive country and you’ve got the idea), and then I understood that although it’s a very popular place, it’s not necessarily on the “backpacking circuit”.
With the money we were saving by camping and bringing our own groceries, well we could maybe pick up some souvenirs… I had my eye on one of the watches in the stores selling for $42,000 and change.
So we found our camp spot and it was as basic as they come. Actually it was sort of just a field…maybe even more like a yard, with a fence around it. The sign “Camp Ground” actually had 5 stars engraved on the bottom, yet NONE of them were filled in. Our accommodation was “no star”!! It was perfect enough. We set off to explore. There are dozens of hikes from Zermatt. We pointed ourselves upward and walked for a couple of hours. How we enjoyed the graceful views of the Matterhorn in the dying daylight; the sun hitting the surrounding peaks and glaciers was exactly perfect.
The second day we set off early. With our nice strong, dark café warming our tummies, we sprung off the dark, cool valley floor and climbed until we found sunlight in which to eat our morning feast. Glaciers and mountains, wooly sheep, small derelict cabins, and the sound of roosters announcing another day (and helicopters starting their scenic tours) were a great accompaniment to our bread and cheese. We completed the 18km circuit of the Höhenweg Höhbalmen in about six hours.
The trail was quite busy, but we had some spectacular views and were able to take a rest in the valley (the Höhbalmen). I was convinced that Heidi was going to come bounding over the next hill. This was exactly how I have picture walking in the alps.
There sure is a lot of time to think when one is climbing a mountain – or even traversing across it. This is quite a feeling.
My mind wanders and analyzes on a constant basis; this is true of most of us. We relive events, and delve into new ideas all the time….all the time. There’s that certain beautiful point during any extended activity, were the mind suddenly relaxes.
Ahhhh…. It’s nice to get to a point where you’re just concentrating on the next step.. or the wild flower at your feet, or the fact that there are dozens of butterflies landing beside you; on you. The first marmot is spotted, and then you search the rocky hills above for more. You watch the mountains creating clouds in the clear blue sky and your thoughts get bigger – they get perspective – they put you in your place. There’s nothing like the grandeur of mother nature to make you realize how small you are. It’s wonderful, and Switzerland is full of it.
“There is no real pattern for this whole healing process. At every turn I find a new way to address a feeling or thought. It must be one of the most reflective times in my life. Learning new, honest and organic ways to sift through my emotions is an art-form that takes time and effort. I’m lucky to have these beautiful surrounding and people around me, to make it all a little easier.”
This is a paragraph that resonates with me. I take it from a post I wrote back in June (Down Time) and it is still relevant. I had just been released from the hospital and I’m sure the healing I was referring to had very little to do with my kidney.
As I get ready to fly to Vietnam, I have taken a few moments to skim through some of my older posts. It’s interesting to see how this journey has progressed. I have to admit: I don’t remember writing all that much of it. Once out there, the words have done their intended duty – they have punched the healing time-card. Looking back is something I don’t think I’ll make a habit of. ..not yet, at least.
After Tonga, I had a week or so in Melbourne. Catching up with old friends and making new ones – I kept busy and managed to meet some people heading west along the Great Ocean Road. Beautiful! The twelve apostles are a highlight. We had decent weather and it was entirely too cold to swim, but we did attempt whale-watching from the shores of Warnambool.
Adelaide is probably best described as delightful and easy; a planned-city makes for straight-forward navigation. The museum and art gallery were good hideouts during the rain. As the weather got better I made my way north to stay with a fabulous family. I spent time reading in front of the fire (pure luxury) and then got a chance to ride through the hills on the back of a bike! With the promise of more French food and good conversation, I will definitely be making another stop in South Australia. Thanks friends!
Although Perth found me in my seventh time-zone in little less than a month, arriving here feels as close to coming home as I think possible. My plans to make a couple of small trips down south – they fell by the wayside as soon as I arrived. It’s too easy to be in beautiful North Beach, with my friends and my pseudo-routines…albeit I am in a tent in the backyard…but its home-like…in a breezy sort of way.
Western Australia is a place that is close to my heart. I think it’s interesting to look back on my last visit here, five months in the past. I was at a very, noticeably different place. As I gently peruse my current headspace, I can see the lengths at which I’ve travelled to get here…time zones notwithstanding.
“A wise man should consider that health is the greatest of human blessings, and learn how by his own thought to derive benefit from his illnesses.”
Melbourne is in the running for one of my favourite cities in the country. It’s beautiful and culturally-varied. I couldn’t help but notice that people are pretty darn friendly there as well (including my hosts, who were personally responsible for me enjoying a deliciously diverse menu and eating the very best I have in months – thank you Lynch family).
Not only are the cafes and restaurants dynamic and never-ending, but the city’s hospitals ain’t so bad either. Actually that implies I’ve seen more than one, but really, one hospital tends to fill the quota, wouldn’t you think?
I wasn’t really, seriously sick, but my kidneys had decided to let themselves be known to me. I had to get it all sorted out by spending the night hooked up to an IV. The medical system here is very similar to Canada, and because I was in noticeable pain they got me through administration quite quickly – and then doled out morphine with similar speed. I felt very well taken care of (thanks morphine!) and in general I’m quite okay with hospitals; comfortable enough with how it all works and what to expect… I know I’m an expert because I was able to get the gown on with only minimal assistance and a short question and answer period….
It was the first time I had been in any sort of medical facility since Kevin’s illness and it was emotionally hard for me. It brought back so many memories. Being in the fevered-pain I was in, not having all my defenses intact, it got a little tough there for a while. As the pain slowly subsided and I knew I wouldn’t have to stay a second night, I actually started to delve into the memories of our journey through the medical system these past couple of years. What a journey it was.
The tests and the appointments. The chemotherapy, radiation, steroids, anti-inflammatory drugs, anti-convulsants. The CT scans and MRIs and ECGs. We had appointments everyday for a while there. Ambulance rides, stretchers, wheelchairs, walkers. We had handle bars and poles and railings, so much equipment for normal, everyday activities. Physiotherapists, nurses, oncologists, GPs, home-care and finally hospice. There were a minimum of six hospitals that we became all too familiar with. We were proficient in a field that no one should even have to think about.
This is a sad trip down memory lane. I’m sorry if it’s hard for some of you to read. These are the thoughts that I explored while lying in that hospital bed, and when I faced some of it head-on again, it became a little easier to deal with.
There is no real pattern for this whole healing process. At every turn I find a new way to address a feeling or thought. It must be one of the most reflective times in my life. Learning new, honest and organic ways to sift through my emotions is an art-form that takes time and effort. I’m lucky to have both these beautiful surrounding, and the amazing people around me; it makes it all a little easier.
I know that my body needed the rest (and the medicine) and when I felt well enough to be discharged I was able to head back to a very comfortable home where I was made to feel welcome and at ease. This was invaluable, and really, if I had to be sick, I’m glad I was where I was. A little down-time has refreshed me in new ways.