Monday, December 16, 2019

Sidetracked 2

2/3 CONTINUED : I wrote this piece for a lovely little journal called Sidetracked.  It contains  incredible stories and beautiful photos of adventures, culture and experiences around the world.  Get the June issue and you can finish reading my story!

I am not there yet.

I am one year and a half into this new relationship with sitting.  On October of 2017, I fell while rock climbing in Yosemite National Park.  I had a rope.  I had a climbing partner.  I did not have enough gear in place and there was too much rope in the system.  I fell over 100 feet.  I had climbed the Nose on El Cap nearly a dozen times previously, from my virgin 3 day ascent to speed record ascents.  This day, my partner and I were intentionally climbing fast.  I led the first block of the route, covering nearly 1500 feet in just over 2 hours.  Fifty feet before the scheduled shift change on a feature called the Boot Flake, something happened.  My foot slipped or a hand or seemingly a combination.  My gear placements were minimal, a bolt 30 feet blow me.  This is one tactic people use for speed climbing this route in particular,  I usually have two pieces of gear tethered to me as I ascend, for some reason on this day, I was being more cavalier or naive or stupid.  I only had one in.  The distances are rough estimates.  Either way, granite zoomed upwards before my eyes as gravity took hold of my figure.  My body ricocheting off a piece of rock independent from the main cliff, named Texas Flake.  I now lay nestled in a small chimney still over a 1000 feet up the almost sheer wall.  I took the fated, “unsurvivable” fall in the most horrendous of spots probably on the entire route.   

Every morning the wheelchair beckons for closer company.  I acquiesce, I certainly don’t want to lie in bed all day.  Sitting was never my plan in life, laying down certainly doesn’t compute.   My arm position my left leg over the edge of the bed and then the right.  I sit up using the core muscles still available with a heavy push of planted hands and triceps.  The lower limbs, now considerably atrophied, dangle in a space unaware of their surroundings, temperature or that they are even attached to me.  


The spring snow melts in my town of Estes Park, the Big Thompson increases her burble.  The hum is subtle out my bedroom window but as earth revolves giving us more daylight, the sound amplifies.  Summer breezes, snow melt fades as time passes, the swollen river simmers her proclamation, gradually.  Blue skis are common every morning but inevitably some part of the mountain range will be surrounded by afternoon dark gray storm clouds, dousing torrential rains and (susceptible to) unpredictable electrical impulses shooting out of the sky.  Booming thunder bouncing from granite gendarme to granite gendarme.  The river reacts, snug banks absorbing the surging water to her best ability.  Sometimes there is a spill.  Sometimes overwhelming floods wreak havoc.   

My healing process seems similar to this earthly cycle.  My grief floats through the raging rapids, sinking in, jolting into boulders, dragging across shallow bottoms, all while trying to maintain an airway as it jostles across the unforeseen landscape in one piece. 

...................................TO BE CONTINUED..........

Thursday, August 1, 2019

Sidetracked Journal

Afternoon light dances and drifts as a warm breeze teases Ponderosa pine boughs. My backside
nestles comfortably into the sofa, warm laptop on my thighs. My feet are propped on my coffee
table. My backyard obsession, Longs Peak, is the cause of this glorious quagmire. I had just
spent four back-to-back days training around the many aspects of this 4,346m playground.
Running trailhead to summit, dangling on a rope to suss out the moves of its harder, vertical
face climbing routes, and joyously scampering its ridges and peaks. Red face, content heart.
Training for what, you might ask. Sitting, I would exclaim with a laugh.

The most efficient way for me to access a quiet mental space, gain focus on non-moving tasks like computer work or reading a book, is to twirl about physically until I have reached full-body fatigue. As the sofa warms and my legs find rest on this particular evening, I find myself sipping on wine planning the upcoming year’s slew of expeditions. Typing away, detailing new route possibilities on yellow cliffs in Madagascar, Googling images of unclimbed granite spires rising out of the freezing waters on Baffin Island, and giggling in conversation with Libby about the jungle tools we were going to need to machete our way in to
remote Chilean granite domes.

How quickly the simple things can disappear.  The daydream subsides as sound and light shift my focus to real time, real places. The room is warm. I am shivering, buried beneath a down comforter. There is a wheelchair by my bedside.  It has been there every day now for over a year.
My mood is learned indifference even with the persistent hum and electrical burning in the
lower half of my body. Perhaps I should feel something approaching love for this antiquated and neglected device that only just allows me to roll about a house, a paved lake, or out to dinner.

I am not there yet....

TO BE CONTINUED : I wrote this piece for a lovely little journal called Sidetracked.  It contains  incredible stories and beautiful photos of adventures, culture and experiences around the world.  Get the current issue and you can finish reading my story! 

Saturday, May 25, 2019

Where are you now?

Stories of my smile, stories of my frown.

I haven't written in awhile.  I have been working on an article for a beautiful publication Sidetrackedso while I have been writing in my days it has been mostly editing.  This morning I needed to journal but I am traveling in Bend, OR and did not bring my journal.  We will see where this goes.....

I traveled quite a bit before my injury.  While I did live and work in Estes Park steadily mid-April to the end of the September, I still found myself flying to somewhere else almost once a month.  July was probably the only month I didn't leave Estes Park for years. Crazy to think about.  It didn't seem so exhausting back then, sometimes if I worked a clinic over my days off with the Park and had a later flight home with work at 7am the next morning, I would be tired but it was easier to recoup.  Running in the mountains, averaging 30-60 miles a week was normal.

After injury I find I am pooped.  There is more planning involved, constant burning in my legs and the effort of this smaller muscle group that supports my mobility.  Arms!

.......Well, per usual I got distracted.  It's a week later from the paragraphs above.  It a was a lovely week in Bend but back to some emotion here in Estes.  Trying to sort patience and contentedness.  When will I have either of those qualities?

I arrived in Bend, stoked to spend a week of nordic skiing and hanging with a rad new (to me) community of people.  Instead I had drifting thoughts of, I just want to be home.  I know this thought comes from being tired of travel.  Of wanting to build a house, grow food, have dinner with a loved one, conversation and adventure with loved ones.

While I enjoy that I have a vast community of friends and pen pals, always have.  I think I was striving before my injury to settle a little bit.  Not settle in trying hard but try hard in different endeavors.  I knew how to climb, how to run, how to avoid conflict by being cool or being avoidant with my needs but I longed to tackle the emotional or communicative sides that I needed to work on.  I needed help and support with those endeavors.  I didn't know how or wasn't brave enough to ask for help nor was the timing right for some to offer.  I made small efforts but ultimately relied on what I was used to....solving myself or avoiding through physical activity.

This trip had a rise up of my past work, intentions to be a better human. To learn.  To grow. 
I had an immediate reaction of "I don't want to be here".  Thoughts drifted to why not?  What do I want?  What would make me feel content?  Physical activity is ingrained in my being, so is time outside.  I think connecting to a community is also.  My desire to have a partner and play and friends and travel and piano and movies and ocean and night sky and bailey's and wine and cheese and a sore body pervades.  I do want it all :)  I am different but I am the same.


I guess in this rant, I wonder what have I learned in this life altering injury?  How am I better?  When Andrew died it was the most devastating life experience for me.  When Annie died, when Chad...when Hayden.  When things are traumatic we learn, we grieve in a variety of ways over an indeterminate amount of time but do we change?

How can I still enjoy playing outdoors and curious adventure, pushing the body while also sharing some experiences with friends and a romantic partnership?   How do I share Quinn but with more patience for my emotions and those of others.   Appreciate individual goals and compassion for individual differences.  Appreciating that every partner, every relationship (friends or lovers) will be challenging and amazing at the same time.  Life is work, constant unpredictable, painful, joyous work.

Maybe I am learning that all we can do is be patient with the emotion or experience as it is now.  It won't last, we can plan we can expect but a multi direction change is in store at any moment.  What does all that planning and expectation of ourselves of others bring us?

Be gracious.  Be present.

Hard to do at times.


Tuesday, March 12, 2019

---Looking Back---

Staring at the mountain that in 12 hours time I would loose my ability to walk, climb, many things, gaining.... ?
I have some drafts in my blog site that are unpublished.  Below is one from late in March 2013.  I am writing about two close friends from Estes who were in a mountain accident, one died, one came away barely with many injuries.  2013 held a lot of sorrow and loss.  Dave and Lisa, then Rick and WHAM...Andrew and Annie.  Sometimes re-reading my thoughts are they are the same even now.  Even older blogs, like the Peter Pan one are interesting.  I WAS working on myself but what was I doing about it?  What a I doing about it now?  Conversations about risk, change, failure, ambitions, and engrained habits of who we are.  I need to do some more journaling....sitting.  HA!  
______________________________________________________________________________March 2013
During this annual week of wandering I am reminded of my fortunate existence, ponder my ambitions (well, I have been doing that a lot this last year anyway), and usually sleep until my bladder cannot possibly rest any longer.  This year, the sleep was different, almost non-existent.  An uneasiness about friends, relationships, and well, just a feeling of something amiss.  Similar to my experience in the Baja a month ago, words fall short in accurately describing the emotion or experience.  

The van loaded with seventh graders, Dustin (my co-guide) and I drove out of the Grand Gulch Primitive area after 6 days of exploring canyons, ruins, and minds.  I turned my phone on near Moab, Utah.  Beep after beep, twenty-something texts in total after only 4 days without service.  Something was most certainly off. 

“Avalanche..injured”....”have you heard?”...”injuries include...” ....”funeral arrangements” ....I dropped the phone upon reading the last message.  I gazed forward, lost, the red canyons seemingly closing in on the van yet disappearing all the same.   The road just was, as it seemed I was.    

I am not attempting to say something profound, merely feeling a strong urge to write.  Death, regardless of circumstances, creates multitudes of emotion and I need a release.  

We are here now, no past, no future, no hope, no fantasies.  
Just here now and how quickly now can be taken away.  

I feel my heart heavy for a good friend, her personal injuries and the pain of imagining the situation dealt with head on.  My eyes moisten for the loss of a lovely man, and sorrow for his lovely wife and two beautiful young children.  My chest flutters as our small town community unites in these stressful times.  Love, everywhere love.  Love now.  LOVE NOW.  

This past year keeps pointing at living now, loving now, appreciating now, kindness, selflessness.  As always I feel slow in my development as a person.  Obviously we should be kind to everyone, have patience, try hard, love like we mean it, give because we love giving and making others happy.

We adventure because it fills our soul..........


Monday, January 21, 2019

once in a lifetime

Frank's beer of choice for San Diego Saturday afternoon. :)
Summer of 2013 while on an expedition in Greenland, I lost a friend and I lost a love, Annie Rooney and Andrew Barnes.
I spent the remainder of that year distracting myself with climbing and traveling.  I dove into the Bugaboos, the desert and journeyed to the far away Torres Valley in Southern Patagonia for the first time.  I put up first ascents, I ran a few triathlons and even managed to make it to the summit of Fitz Roy.  I thought if I exerted myself physically it would quite the chatter in the mind, the tears in my eyes and the heaviness in my heart.  It seemed to work.

After spreading Andrews ashes and giving a little summit dance on top Fitz Roy with Jens, Sam, Luke, Clay and Chad, we all made for a descent into town with plans to fill our bellies with beer and empanadas.

Chad took his last breath on that mountain, not far from the summit where we had all just been.

I returned home even more confused.  How and why did these incredible humans leave us so abruptly?  So young, capable and incredible.

I returned to Colorado but not for long.  I didn't feel settled.   I went on a road trip spring of 2014, calling it my Precious People Tour.  I visited friends and family in the west.  Some of the stops were to rock climb and visit friends in those special places, mostly single pitch shenanigans in Indian Creek and Joshua tree, Index and Skaha.  Primarily, I wanted to spend time with people that melted my heart---- past and present.  Good friends from climbing community, Andrew friends that were "family," and those friends that had nothing to do with climbing or perpetual movement.  It was special.  I cried (as I have a tendency to do).  Hugs were shared (asses were groped I am sure).  Laughs and memories illuminated campfires.  Andrew's ashes dusted deserts and pines and ocean and snowy summits.
Libby and I on a Lake Mead bike tour, Matt photo.

 I was single.  I was capable.  I thought I was sorting my heart, my desires, my intentions.  At the end of that road trip I got a call from Rocky Mountain National Park offering my dream job of a climbing ranger.  I had applied for 3 years.  Hell yes!
I took the job.  I met a man (on my trip, bathrooms of Indian Creek we joked).  I fell in love again.  My life was swelling with good things.

Things deflated.  Quickly.  Relationship.Legs.Work.Simple life.

Death and hardship affects us all differently.  It has lasting affects, usually learning through sadness results in actual learning and growth.  I ran into the mountains, I surrounded myself with people I loved.  Now, as I sit...I realize that instead of looking inward I distracted outwardly.  The title of my blog is :look up stand still breath: for god's sake.  I was trying to remind myself to slow down because I knew movement seemed to work but didn't actually allow things to sink.

Here we are now,  I have sliced through to deeper layer.  More work.  More hardship, without the ease of movement.  Its mind-boggling.  It is hard.  I know I will get there.  I know it takes time.

I write all this because five years have past.  I think about Andrew, Chad, Lara, Annie, Tim, Jason, Marc, Ryan, Hayden, Inge, Neils, Jonny, Micah, Bean, Kyle, Scott, Carlyle, David, Bernadette, Alina, Anna, Quinn...... (so many more).  Lives have ended.  Health has changed.  I am on the road again, in the same westward direction visiting many of some of the same folks.  Instead of climbing and running through the land, I am more of an observer.  Different lens, same motivations.  To see the world, to heal the heart, to give and receive love.  I know our learning and growth is slow, contingent upon experience and sometimes there is just a way to the world out of our control but how can I do better?  How can I listen, learn and grow without attachment or judgment?  Who was I before and what are my expectations of myself or others that this is so challenging? 

Maybe you are already there?

all tow, no hands.  Power assist for the steep uphills and speed checking Matt on the downhills.  

Monday, January 7, 2019

Take yourself into the wormhole........PLEASE!

you can see how skinny the legs are....quadzilla's gone.

I was driving up today (now a week ago) from my weekly "Denver Day" extravaganza.  I still do Physical Therapy at Craig.  If I have time in my day, lately I have been adding onto my schedule a "walking" session in an Exoskeleton.

Today, I "walked". 

After wards I had a CT scan, blood work and some other finishing work for a clinical trial I started participating in while I was still an inpatient at Craig.  The study gives either a placebo or a drug they think might help slow down the impending Osteoporosis that us Spinal Cord Injury folk are plagued with. 
We sit. 
Our muscles don't squeeze the bone.  Two things that go against our bones natural tendency to rejuvenate.  Today.  I learned that one year out, I have lost 25% bone density in my knees and upwards of 30% in my pelvis.  The 30% could be more.  My right side shows, during a DEXA scan, that it is considerably.....fucked up.  Either the machine wasn't reading appropriately because of a Heterotopic Ossification that I acquired March 1 of this year (blood clot).  The suggested inaccurate reading could be because my proximal femur has this lovely baseball sized mass.  An extra and inappropriate growth of bone in my soft tissue.  It butts up right to my pelvis.  In the DEXA it looks like it is touching would explain the crunching crepitus sound in my hip joint when I bend over at the waist (while sitting in my chair or on the ground).  It also could explain why in the last 2 months my right hip has been popping, like when you crack your finger knuckles. 
A loud and unpleasant, unnerving sound. 

So that was my day.  Emotionally a little draining.  The healthy athletic person doesn't want bones that are just shriveling up so fast.  I liked taking care of my body.  Too bad my mind wasn't on the same page a year ago. 

There are things on my list of "To-Do" that have been there for awhile.  People reach out....I get busy with shit and don't respond.   I also have a hard time FINDING your message, as most are on Facebook or Instagram and the search tool won't let me find you with "key words" of our conversation.  PHOOEY.  

I am also terrible at asking for help, when I clearly could use some.  SO.....HERE WE GO!!!!  I could use some help with random tasks.....

1.) I have been trying to call for a second opinion on my Spine.  I have a bone chip in my dura (at least from my vague memory and doctors conversations within the first couple of weeks.)  Why wasn't removed on initial surgery?  Is that causing nerve pain? Suggestions of second opinions I can reach out to?

2.) Help with the house building process.  Advice mostly, if you have experience on loan process for land/building, rolling it over.... hiring a contractor, recycled materials, design? 

3.) Hip pads for biking.  I don't need butt pads but pads on my hips!!  Company who makes?

5.) Out of order but remembering.... CAD people, Welding peeps, scheming peeps!!! 

Scheming 2 rigs;

a.) To climb the First Flatiron. A light weight contraction that firmly holds the legs in a vertical—meaning not much bend in my hips, almost like a slight squat position with knees slightly bent. Knee pads (or something light that protects the knees, shins and feet). Feet are in a more flexed position.  Check out @madmanpoole and his ice climbing rig.  

Perhaps a single pole or tubing better. Maybe a seat —maybe legs with firm soft cuffs that go around mid thighs and mid calf to hold leg in place?  Wheels. Like rollerblade wheels. Probably one on outside of each knee and one between feet. Or vice versus. Either way 2 somewhere for stability. Would be best to have them one way rotating (autostop mechanism) so when rolling/draggin up the cliff it turns. When paused or stop it locks and does not roll the opposite way (sending me back down wards). 

b.) Backcountry skiing. Mono ski, probably a ski with fish scales to help backward slippage when pushing uphill. Tyler has poles with skins or something on bottom. That would work or crampon claws or something that can then be quick released off and the replaced with the traditional outriggers for down hill. Basically a mono ski set up to sit in but lighter?  Legs out in front slightly bent (knees above hips better for balance, a little dump in the seat but ergonomic for skinning up. Check out @tbone_walker

4.) HELP, educating yourself.  As it helps all of US!  Yes, we are sitting but we aren't just sitting; UTI, Pressure sores, often not a contributing workerbee, a bazillion other complications racking into the healthcare system.  Imagine not being able to breath on your own, move your hands.... 
Being an advocate.  There are 250K of us in the U.S.  More each year, car accidents, disease, athletes etc...  How can we do this advocacy thing together?  Help creating longer lasting relationships with companies, researchers, funding it isn't just a one time thing, so research can keep growing, learning and pushing.... just like us :)

Getting science to collaborate ?  I am sure many are, as I am a newbie and just beginning this strong headedness on Spinal Cord Injury but there is SOOOOO much happening. 

Stem cells (need ALOT more work)  
NoGo Trap, and here too  
Epidural Stimulation (all the rage in NY times and CNN and, and, and, and but Medtronic has been making the technology for ages...needs an update.  Like Zach Morris phone compared to Iphone10!  Also some of these people had movement, "incomplete"injury, I am "complete".  What does that shit mean?  
Transcutaneous sTimulation.... non invasive...not as much hype as Epidural.
Gene Therapy (I am just delving into reading this stuff)

MOST HELPFUL FREE RESOURCE (It is simple well written and interesting.)

Cool shit thats happening; 
Yippee to our archaic modes of transportation 

Thank you.  If you have reached out to me before.  Please try me again!