Thursday, April 30, 2015

An Act of Bliss

How I Almost Touched The Sacred

   I have always felt a unique connection with animals and, until recently, had always had them in my life. Cats, dogs, hamsters and even pigeons have shared space with me  throughout the years. That is, until now. You see, since Ansel, our German Shepard mix died some years back, there has been a black void in my world. Our life style no longer made it practical to have another dog and my wife, sad to say, is highly allergic to cats. So, I went without and lived with the emptiness......until a few days ago.
   I don't know why, but I had never had among my animal family a guinea pig. So, it was a pleasant event when I went down to Illinois to spend some time with two of my grand kids who happen to have a pet guinea pig named Katie. Mostly white with some brown markings and piercing black eyes, Katie seemed immediately comfortable on my chest and lap. I don't know if was the texture of my fleece jacket or if she just sensed that I was a safe and kindred soul. At first she sniffed a bit and, when she settled down, I began to stroke her rich fur coat. Down her back and around the base of her ears, over and over I moved my hand as I slowly began to sink into a calm revelry.
   I have read how stroking a pet has health benefits and I have seen how visiting animals can  produce a magical joy in nursing home residents. Most of all, I remembered how I used to lay on the floor next to Ansel while stroking his fur, looked into his eyes and talked to him about my life. He would look back into my eyes and just listen, like any good therapist. The deep calm that I had experienced then began to revisit me as I sat in silence and stroked Katie. Then, something happened that I did not know was possible. Katie began to purr. 
   I didn't know until I read about it later that guinea pigs often purr when content. Moreover, she began to chirp. Over and over, a sound reportedly made when guinea pigs are in an altered state. It was magical. I stroked, she chirped and purred while I sunk deeper and deeper into a meditative state that did not seem of this world.
   Nothing could have possible been more blissful. At the time I was prepared to spend eternity there stroking Katie while going into a deep trance. So we sat for a while and, as the sun outside the window worked itself to where it was to announce the end of the day, Katie peed all over my shirt.

Paddle safe...

Saturday, April 25, 2015

I am On My Last Leg

On My Last Leg

And Now To Take Care Of It

   My life (and, I believe, yours) is full of life-changing events that contribute to the rich texture of our existence. Such an event happened to me , somewhat late in life, when a fragment of a lumbar disc broke off, cut a nerve and left my left leg weakened. Suddenly I was unable to continue many of my passions including running (I had a 3:30 marathon in my fifties), sail boating (a beautiful 42' cutter) and Judo (I was a black belt and actively competing and teaching). A period of sadness and self pity followed as I sought out an activity to replace what I had lost.
   Somehow, I ended up at Rutabaga Paddle Shop in Madison and took a 6-hour intro to sea kayaking class from a man I have come to know as my mentor, my friend, and JB. It was instant love. My background of decades sailing on Lake Michigan, Judo and SCUBA all came together. I found it easy to learn what was to become my new passion (which, when I became a certified instructor, married well with my other passion: teaching).
   Jump ahead a bunch of years to last month. I am on Lake Michigan in one of my kayaks when I develop a pain in my right upper thigh. Driving home, the pain was even there when I moved my foot from the accelerator to the brake. In spite of my medical background and having taught college level anatomy, I was uncertain about what had happened. There had been no sudden injury. After poking myself, resting and trying to paddle again (on 3 occasions), I finally sought out the help of a profession for which I have great respect: Physical Therapy.
   It took Sarah 4 minutes to diagnose psoas tendinitis (Psoas: Latin: sore as....never mind). She gave me PT, showed me stretches I had never seen and told me to stay away from my kayaks. I was concerned. Hey, teaching session was only weeks away, and I wanted to be there. I did go on line to partsforthebody/youwish.heavanehlpme but to no avail. Apparently they were no longer making parts for a model as old as me. Bummer. So I followed Sarah's orders, did my exercises and reported back for my next appointment.
   Good news. Sarah saw great improvement and gave the clearance for a gentle test paddle. Hurrah! I put my Cetus MV out on the lawn, sat in it and gently edged the boat. I rotated. I pressed on the pegs. No pain. Within the hour I was in the boat and on the lake...and it was heaven. I did a gentle 40 minute paddle, called it a day and counted my blessings.
   I do not believe in stretching cold muscles. That's why I warm up with a slow paddle and then stretch in the boat (something that I realize beginners cannot do). I cannot, however, conceive of a way to stretch my sore-ass muscle while aboard and have taken to doing so daily at home. 
   Hey. My time on the water is precious and depends on my last good leg. So, I plan to take care of it.
Paddle safe