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Monday, February 27, 2012

Survivors


Snow, finally, on Saturday. About five inches, enough to coat the back meadow and the hills above. After feeding the two cats who live in the garage and brushing a hard crust of snow from the satellite dish, I strapped on my snowshoes for the first time this winter.

Crossing the meadow, I saw the confused tracks of the dozens of turkeys that live on our place and use it as a causeway from adjoining properties. Up at the gravel road we built to our future home site, I saw the paw prints of our neighbor's Australian shepherd, Duke, and then the boot prints of our neighbor Dave Pielaet and his girlfriend, Theresa. And then, as I neared a lone pine at the head of the road's switchback, I heard a sound I'd never heard before in the valley. It came from the hills to the west, starting low and rising higher as the howl pierced the cold, thick air. I've heard plenty of coyotes through the years, and this was no coyote. And it wasn't the blue tick hound that lives south of us. I believe it was a wolf, perhaps the first in our valley for years. A survivor of packs that no doubt roamed our area before civilization swept in. It howled twice, and then - nothing.

I waited a few beats, then moved on, down past the ruin of the old homesteader's barn, across a small bridge I'd built last summer over Anna Spring, and along the ATV trail I'd cut and cleared the same summer. Hopping across the spring further south, I doubled back to where that trail met a long hill that goes back up to the home site. There, at the junction, I saw another survivor - a small fir tree I'd transplanted three years ago from the middle of a walking trail to an open space in front of a row of hawthorn trees. The little fir was covered with snow, the weight bending its thin branches nearly to the ground. I swept off the snow with the basket of a snowshoeing pole, and the branches sprang up and quivered with life. The little fir was fine, a bit deer-nibbled, but still fine, better than the first year when the top was chewed off.

As I crested the hill and clumped to the home site, fresh snow started blowing in from the south, pushing me down the road and then coating the front of my sweatshirt as I turned the switchback toward home and a hot cup of tea.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Tour de Cure

This has been a tough winter for cycling. Rain, snow, slush, and yesterday more snow. That's the way it's been here in northern Idaho the past couple of winters. Just a day on the bike now and then - with enough layers and winter gear to still feel my fingers and toes by the end of the ride. My motivation is, to put it mildly, low.

But a couple of weeks ago, while visiting my diabetes counselor, I saw a poster for the Tour de Cure, scheduled for May 20. According to the American Diabetes Association, more than 50,000 riders will be on their bikes to raise money and awareness for research toward a cure for diabetes. Now I had my motivation.

I became a Type 1 diabetic in summer 2010 after two years of trying to figure out what was going wrong with my pancreas. A pancreatic pseudocyst in 2008 that burst while being drained (followed by sepsis); a diagnosis of organized pancreatic necrosis from Virginia Mason Clinic in Seattle, accompanied by three drains and stents; and finally a full Whipple procedure in July 2010 after a series of blackouts from severe anemia and blood loss. Every now and then I run into someone who knows what a Whipple is, and congratulates me on being alive. During 8 hours on the operating table, my surgeon, Ed Detar, removed my spleen, pancreas and 2/3 of my stomach, and rerouted various vital organs. Instant diabetic. Fortunately, my years of cycling had given my heart and lungs the strength to survive the surgery, though Dr. Detar said he nearly lost me four times during the procedure.

I got back to cycling as soon as I could, riding the Centennial Trail east to Coeur d'Alene, Idaho and west toward Spokane, Washington, and hitting the winding, undulating back roads behind Liberty Lake, Washington. Though with a break to have a couple of bile duct stents removed to treat jaundice and early sepsis from bacterial backup into my blood system.

So, I now have a goal - the Tour de Cure. Part of the deal is helping to raise funds in support of the ADA. I've never liked asking people for money, but now I'm invested in diabetes. I posted information about the TdC on my Facebook page and e-mailed some folk in my contact list. To my surprise and delight, more than $850 has been contributed by my friends from New Jersey, Wyoming, Idaho, and Washington. Thanks, guys. As soon as this current snowfall clears, I'll be on the road training for the 2012 Spokane Tour de Cure.