Tag Archives: Fear

Trying to Make Sense of It

 

 

Our nation is changing, and it is not an easy process.  The Declaration of Independence says “all men are created equal”.  Well what about the other half of the population?  Historically, most cultures are warrior cultures, with men at war.  Soldiers need leaders, and the men leading in the war tend to rule the culture.  The role of women is to pleasure the men, do the work, and have babies.  If the women can’t do all the work, it is up to slaves, usually captured as spoils of war.

That was the system used in most of our nation’s history.  Subservient women and slaves.  Half a million men died ending slavery, but the racist legacy lives on.   But times change.  Labor shortages during wars and birth control allowed women to leave the home and go to work for wages.

These changes seem to threaten the majority of men.  The traditional method for retaining dominance over others is muscle.  White men had the power, guns, clubs, and rope to keep the freed slaves in their place.  To attempt to retain dominance over women they used the same tools along with sex to keep their power.

Women’s suffrage, the civil rights movement, and recognizing what is right are profoundly changing the power structure.  Donald Trump represents the backlash to change.  “Make America Great Again”.  Great America and Fox News with men and big money in control.  He got elected, duping millions of people with lies and fear.  The nation has deep divisions.

Recently women started exposing how they were exploited by male predators in positions of power.  The predators are gone, going, or in hiding.  Race-based power is also under attack.  A racist pedophile just lost the election in Alabama, mainly due to the votes of African Americans.  This vote will also affect the balance of power in Congress.

Trump won, yes, but he can’t stop the process of change in a society transformed.  There will be strife.  Many men will literally go to war attempting to recover their lost dominance.  They will lose because the forces of progress have the law and numbers on their side.

A side effect of the power shift in America is the continuing decline of American dominance in world politics.  The progressive movement will weaken the big stick employed since WWII to dominate the third world.  Whether China and Russia will swing their sticks to retain patriarchal dominance is the big danger.  They will face increasing internal pressure, however, to curb their international ambitions.   The people of the third world have their own ambitions, and will tend to resist outside influence.  Let’s hope they succeed.

Terror

Plains Indian horse raid

We live in an age of terrorism.  Maybe humanity has always fostered terrorism.  One Plains Indian tribe stealing horses from another tribe is an act of terror.  The Indians needed horses to hunt bison.  No horses, no eat.

Today, a single act of terror, such as running people down on the London Bridge, can have worldwide impact.  The reason?  Worldwide communication.  Media outlets compete for readers and viewers to sell advertising time.  People are fascinated by violence, probably wired in from tribalism days.  Survival depended on awareness of the bad guys in order to be able to respond to them.

The response of people in Peoria to mayhem in London is fear.  There is no rational reason for a Peoria sales clerk to be afraid because of some violence on another continent. But the violence elicits a fear response.  We are wired for it.  We tend to respond in two ways when afraid.  Flight or fight.

The fight response is to go after ISIS in Syria.  The warfare escalates, people are killed or they flee to Europe, sowing the seeds for more terror and increasing the alienation of the Islamic world.  The flight response is to pull out of the Middle East.  Let them have the place and maybe they will leave us alone.   Wait, what about Israel?  What about the oil?  Can we let them get away with it?

Yom Kippur War 1973

Regarding Israel, there is no good answer.  As long as the State of Israel is there, violence will ensue, probably for many generations.   The oil?  Alternate energy sources are already having an impact that will only increase, leaving the Paris Accords notwithstanding.  Due to fracking technology, First World dependence on Middle East oil is  decreasing daily.  Oil and the Holy Land are the main reasons the First World is interested in the place.

We can continue to fortify Israel, keeping their enemies at bay,  and the oil issue is taking care of itself, so let’s leave.  As a result, terrorism wins.  It’s an exaggeration, but the alternative seems to be nuke and pave.

There it is, the rationale for terrorism.  The Middle East Muslim world lacks the resources to drive the imperialists out by conventional means, but terror is effective.  In addition, all those virgins in heaven get to have some martyrs to attend to.

As for the issue of the Russians involved in the Middle East, why not let them have it?  History has repeatedly proven that the people there may fight between themselves, but they will always resist invaders until they leave.  Imperialism always fails when there are enough indigenous people to resist.

In North America, there was resistance, but the Indians were hopelessly outnumbered.  In Latin America, the Spanish and Portuguese had to leave.  The English lost their empire.  Japan got whipped by picking on the wrong country.  Germany made the same mistake.

Empires can expand, but history shows they almost inevitably shrink.  The lesson seems to be to not try to build an empire.  “Why can’t we all just get along?”

Change

Where We Started

As Neil DeGrasse Tyson points out, we are made from stardust.  It takes a supernova to generate the energy to create the heavier elements.  That stuff diffuses, then gravity slowly congeals into new bodies.  Now this takes time, many millions up to billions of years.  Even geologic time is somewhat inconsequential compared to galactic time.

That’s a reason why we are so deluded with respect to time.  For children, the weeks leading up to Christmas can seem like forever.  It’s no time at all.  However, sometimes when I sit in meditation, time seems to stand still and I get jumpy.  In truth, our lifetimes are meaningless when viewed from even the nearest galaxy to our Milky Way.

The message in this?  Chill, already.  The therapist I saw for my ADD had me put a sticker saying NBD on the dash of my pickup.  No Big Deal.  Universes come and go in the blink of Kali’s eye, and we are obsessed with He Who Must Not Be Named’s tweets.

What is important is what we do with this tiny minute we are here.  I am attempting to connect with that eternal universe I tend to ignore most of the time.  Going back to the roots.  Well, the roots are made from stardust.

My brain gets oxygen and food these days, so it goes into action, what it evolved to do.  The action is thinking.  Thoughts arise, mull around, and pass to something else.  We are physically safe most of the time, so it isn’t really necessary to be on alert all the time.  The saber-toothed tigers are gone.

So, my task is to stop thinking so much, and just be space and stardust.  It’s where we came from and where we are going, so why not just be with that?  When I am able to let the clutter go,  I am more in harmony with the changing universe, not my nearly ceaseless churning of the noise I absorbed yesterday.  What arises, fleetingly, is equanimity and serenity.

In the long run we are all dead, so what’s the big deal?  Maybe we need catacombs, ossuaries we visit regularly to remind ourselves of the impermanence of it all.  I would like ho hold Nietzsche’s skull in my hands.  So much for the Ubermensch.

Can’t we all just get along?  If I remember something, I wand to remember yesterday’s sunset and look forward to the breeze in my face as I walk out of the coffee shop.  Oops, there I am thinking about the future, not enjoying the nice people in the coffee shop.

 

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Skin Cancer

Squamous Cell Skin Cancer

Squamous Cell Skin Cancer

When I noticed a little place on my cheek not healing, I made the appointment, but I thought, no big deal.  When I got home from the dermatologist’s and took the band-aid off, it suddenly became a big deal.  She gave me the choice of having a some stitches or just letting it heal with a scar.  The stitches meant another trip to have them out, so I said leave it alone.  I have lots of zit scars, so another scar was, again, no big deal. 

I have a hole in my face.  It is almost the size of a dime and is a deep sucker.  Seeing the crater was a shock.  I saw all the scars on my coworker’s face and didn’t make much of them, but they were on him, not me.  This is a big deal. 

My reaction to having cancer, even though it is relatively less dangerous, is colored by my experience with cancer in my circle of people.  My mother died of mis-diagnosed cancer and took a long time to die.  Other family members have had cancer.  My sister-in-law has just recovered from stage four abdominal cancer with the help of chemo and medical marijuana.  It’s pretty well documented that marijuana kills cancer cells. 

I have lost some high school classmates to cancer.  I was best man for one of them, and another died just a few weeks ago.  The scar on my psyche is from my mother’s death.  I was young, she was just in her late forties, and was an ordeal filled with denial.   

In recent years trips to the dermatologist are regular, every six months or year, depending on those scaly patches on my face.  My own denial is never taking enough precautions in the sun.    I grew up when we didn’t really know better, and sunburn was an annual event.  I drove an open sports car in the mountains, making my face red.  I always had sunscreen around, but hardly ever put it on.  Most of my hats cover my bald head and shade my eyes, but the rest of my face is out there.  No longer. 

Sunscreen and hats with a wide brim are the new cool.  Well, not really, I have never viewed myself as cool.  One of my rationales for not wearing good hats is because I am always losing the damn things.  I take it off and walk away.  Also, what am I supposed to do in winter?  The sun shines here and reflects off snow, but a wide brim hat?  Do I have to start wearing Stetsons? 

Here I am rambling on about hats.  The reality is, I’m scared.  I know squamous cell cancer properly treated is seldom dangerous, but I am still dealing with my mother’s cancer fifty years later, and this little event has triggered it once more.  One of my maxims is to not worry about things I have no control over.  The question is, can I have control over this?  I have a lot of letting go to do.

At the Crossroads in 2016

This is a guest post by my wife, Carol Leavenworth.

At the Crossroads in 2016

By Carol Leavenworth, LPC

Most of the time I try to ignore politics.  But this year the presidential campaign has become so bizarre that I’ve been watching with a kind of morbid fascination.  How did we get here?  How could a man like Donald Trump possibly have become a serious candidate for President of our country?

 As a Jungian therapist, I have to ask myself how I and other politically liberal people may have unconsciously contributed to Trump’s success.  Observing the contrast that emerged from last month’s political conventions between the Democrats’ positive vision for the future and Republicans’ negative and pessimistic view, I think I have begun to understand why these two wildly disparate standpoints appeal to such vast numbers of Americans.

Garden of Eden

Garden of Eden

As a psychotherapist I know that the loss of the fundamental safety and comfort that we enjoyed while we were held in our mothers’ wombs is a universal human experience.  At birth we are thrust into a world of uncertainty and fear where our needs will never again be met instantaneously and our very survival is not necessarily assured.  And life continues to become ever more precarious from there. The story of the expulsion from the Garden of Eden reflects this experience. 

Life outside The Garden is filled with danger and risk.  Growth is impossible unless we embrace this reality.  We must leave our mother’s side and venture out into the world – to school, to work, to new homes that we create for ourselves.  That most of us do this pretty well doesn’t mean we are always comfortable with our lives or that we necessary feel all that safe. 

But we want to be.  A primary motive driving us throughout adulthood is to find the lost wholeness, safety and comfort that some small part of each of us vaguely remembers from the far distant past.

In tough scary times like these, this drive is even stronger.  To allay our fears and satisfy deep needs to feel safe and whole we are inevitably drawn to leaders who  encourage us to lay down our burdens and give over our struggle to a strong parent figure who will make it better for us.  This is a profoundly human impulse, and today Donald Trump is the man who is appealing to that impulse.

 Well good, you might say.  Why not let him do it?  The difficulty here is that it won’t work.  We can’t resolve life’s important challenges by giving in to shadowy fears and returning to old dependencies.  Going back will not help.  In fact whenever we act on these regressive impulses, we risk ending up worse off than before.  Think back on your own life.  Most if not all of us can find instances in our own personal histories when we’ve chosen what we thought was the safe road only to find ourselves with more problems than ever.

But if we can’t go back, what will work? 

It was First Lady Michelle Obama speaking at the Democratic Convention who reminded me of the viable and healing way through dark times.  Her remarks swept away the negative and pessimistic mindset that I had fallen into as I watched the nightly news reports throughout the winter and spring.  Hearing her, I recalled to myself the truths that I try to impart to others in my work as a psychotherapist.  It is the choices we make from our best selves that are the ones that enable us to move forward in resolving life problems, big and small. Even more importantly these are the choices that build the inner capacities and strengths that will ultimately bring each of us to a new experience of the abiding wholeness and safety that can arise only from within.  We heal ourselves and the world in the process of creating, developing and expressing our best selves.

Crossroads

Crossroads

The enormous divide that we see between the two major candidates for President tells us that we have arrived at a great crossroads.  Eight years ago we made a courageous decision to elect the first African American man to the Presidency.  He pulled us back from the brink of worldwide economic ruin and brought us here to the time when we are asked to make the even more courageous decision to elect a smart, politically savvy, seasoned and progressive woman to be our President. 

Hillary Clinton points us to a future where we face the challenges that confront us head on rather than building walls and hiding behind them.  She invites us all to work together to secure our futures.   She affirms that none of the tasks before us can be solved by one person or one group.   She does not promise to take care of us.  She promises to lead us.  And she asks us to dig deep once again and act from our best selves.

When we do, we help the world and we help ourselves.  Acting on our best selves out in the world feeds our souls and contributes to the long and difficult task of rebuilding the inner wholeness that is the true goal of our searching hearts.

 

 

 

What’s Going On?

His Yellowness

His Yellowness

Here we are in one of the most bizarre presidential campaigns in a land marked by bizarre politics.  In many cases, the underlying reason for the periodic upheavals is race.  Yankee slavers hauled terrified captives to a strange land where they were put to work on plantations.  The plantation-owning Southern aristocracy dominated the agrarian south.  Farming in the north was mostly small family farms.  Industrial cities grew and a diverse economy grew in contrast to southern agrarianism.   

Black people were looked on as inferior and deserved their servitude.  The divided country compromised and made a black person worth 3/5th of a white in the Constitution, that standard of democracy.  The race problem became the dominant issue in the nineteenth century and remains so today.  

The split has always been marked by violence.  The tragedy of the Civil War continued after the war with Jim Crow making his mark across the country.  Some change came with the great migration of African-Americans from the rural south to the urban north.  Race turmoil came with the migration.  The civil rights era focused on the south, but the racial divide is as deep in the north as in the north.  Race violence seems to be nationwide.   

I was stationed in Alabama when I was in the Army in the early 1960s.  I was shocked by the segregation.  I was more shocked by the segregation in Chicago.  The African-Americans moved north to find opportunity.  Some found opportunity, but Jim Crow moved north with them.  Things are now changing.  We have an African-American President who made his home in Chicago.  Black people have more opportunity now than at any other time, but it is not enough.   

The divides remain.  White cops shooting blacks, blacks shooting cops.  Rioting comes in cycles, mostly when the weather is hot.  Poor people don’t have air conditioning.  Much of the hysteria around race violence is fueled by television news.  “If it bleeds, it leads”.  People watch these relatively isolated incidents and feel it is happening just down the street.  Chicago’s south side is something of an aberration; gang violence reinforced by a corrupt police department.  After all, we are talking about Cook County with its rich history of corruption and crime. 

The black neighborhoods are a different place.  Being stopped for driving while black is no joke.  It is a means of race-based repression.  The lynchings have not really stopped; the racist bully cops who are a small part of every police department have assumed the role.  No longer is it a rope, it’s a nine millimeter handgun in the hands of a rogue police officer. 

All this brings me to the Republicans.  Our national economy is changing.  Many working class people are politically conservative, wanting more stability in a changing economy that is leaving them behind.  Good paying industrial jobs are drying up.   

A good example is here in Denver.  Gates Rubber is gone, the production moved out of the country.  The former Gates factory which used to dominate South Denver is being replaced with expensive apartment complexes.  Today, the jobs are in offices and restaurants.  The office people move into the apartments, the poorly paid workers move to decaying suburbs or cram themselves into tiny apartments on Capitol Hill. 

There is one growing industry here, marijuana.  Jobs are being created and rents for warehouses for grow operations are going up.  The warehouses were built for thriving small businesses doing light manufacturing and supporting the construction industry.  The Great Recession created by our friends who run things from lower Manhattan killed many of those small businesses.  The working class lost out again. 

The white working class is angry.  Many of the jobs are gone, the opportunity for small businesses has shrunk, and immigrants seem to be taking the jobs at the bottom.  Until this year, the Republican Party has failed to capitalize on this growing disaffection.  The party’s emphasis has been to enrich the wealthy, ignore the poor, take their safety nets away, and keep the minimum wage at poverty level.  Uh, oh, here comes Mr. Trump.  It is hard to tell what he really believes, but his rhetoric has focused on returning to some past that was better for those angry people than the present.  He mocks the liberal ideals of social progress and seems to advocate a return to a dominant, imperialistic America returning to the industrial prosperity of post-World War II America when white people were firmly in control.  He also wants to remove all constraints on free-wheeling development without regard to social or environmental consequences.  More jobs. 

His own record doesn’t support his rhetoric, but the discontent he is exploiting overrules his inconsistencies.  Democrats want a well-regulated welfare state, and Republicans want to make rich people richer.  Disaffected workers are turning to a man who advocates strength, control, and more jobs by rebuilding the industrial economy that has moved to China.  No more free trade, the USA will regain former worker’s prosperity with protectionism.   

The rich will get richer, but the workers will regain what was lost in the shift to a global economy. Trump and Putin will share the spoils of the new nationalism.  Europe can muddle along, but the rest of the world is there to be shared by the U.S. and Russia. 

The voting bloc Trump tapped into was enough to get him nominated, but he will probably lose to Ms. Clinton.  Her problem is much the same as the old Republicans.   She is a reformer who has always worked for those at the margins, however working class economic problems persist.  Those problems created the Trump phenomenon, and solutions are hard to come by.  The Obamas promote college for everyone, but who is going to do the work?   There needs to be some way to build a good life for the workers.  How?  This is the twenty first century dilemma.

 

Shaking and Baking

As you are aware if you are a regular reader of my ravings, I am a geology buff.  I like the Big Picture, mid-ocean rifts and rises, tectonic plates shoving one another around, places where the hot insides spout out of the ground, mountains rising and being worn away, and the oceans becoming ever more salty.  Most of the time, all this is a slow process, but sometimes all hell breaks loose.   

San Andreas Fault

San Andreas Fault

Just look at that photo of the San Andreas Fault.  Things are clearly on the move and the land is being torn apart.  The Pacific Plate is sliding northward along the North American Plate.  Pasadena will one day be next to Anchorage.  Don’t wait up for it, though.  The Pacific coast of North America is one of the most seismically active regions on the Ring of Fire surrounding the Pacific Ocean.  It shakes, it blows, it smokes, it flows.   

Places like that make nice places to live.  Most of the time.  There is the ocean, lots of pretty landscapes with beautiful mountains nearby,  and places to grow things.  Just look at the Seattle-Tacoma area.  Bays, inlets, rivers, islands, and a big old mountain to look at.  It is easy to forget that mountain is a large volcano just biding it’s time until it lets loose again.  

Mount Rainier. Close to Town

Mount Rainier. Close to Town

If Rainier resembles Mt. St. Helens in the way it erupts, there might be some warning.  What we won’t know is how big, exactly when, and for how long.  There is a lot going on in that area.  Boeing, Microsoft, REI, millions of people, and Starbucks are a few examples.  If a swarm of magnitude four earthquakes begin, what to do?  Shut everything down and evacuate?  Where will everyone go?  What about looting and plundering?  What if it doesn’t erupt for months, if ever?   

Pyroclastic flows of very hot, wet, chunky stuff have flowed off that mountain all the way to the ocean.  The old cliche says “It is not if, but when.”  We just do not know when.  So, life along the Pacific Rim is always something of a gamble.  I have felt small earthquakes and looked into the crater of a Volcano in Costa Rica, a lovely, green, paradise.  Earthquakes destroy roads and railroads, volcanos bury villages, and life goes on.   

Irazu, Costa Rica

Irazu, Costa Rica

Small, poor Costa Rica is one thing, the Seattle-Tacoma area, or Los Angeles, or Portland, or Eugene, or San Francisco are entirely different matters.  No amount of preparation can take into account all the things which might happen.  Prediction is in its infancy.  Mt. St. Helens in hindsight gave lots of warning, but the disaster was huge in a relatively isolated area.  When Rainier or Mt. Hood let go the disaster will be in a heavily populated area with just a few ways out. 

Currently there are lots of earthquakes in the oil field regions of Texas, Oklahoma, and surrounding areas.  I wouldn’t worry too much if I lived there, the odds of a Big One are fairly small.  St. Louis and Salt Lake are at more risk.  The West Coast is the big danger zone.  The earth will keep moving, the plates will continue to slide.  Eruptions and quakes will continue to happen.  My solution?  Don’t live there.  What is your plan?

Guns

gunsI am from Western Colorado-outdoor sportsman central.  Hunting big game, small game, ducks and geese, most any things that moves was a way of life.  I grew up around guns as my father hunted and fished.  I hunted as well, but fishing never appealed to me-too boring. 

I was always fascinated by guns.  I liked the mechanical precision, the looks, the way they felt in my hands.  There was, of course, another set of reasons for my fascination.

Guns are for killing.  When hunting, I was repelled and attracted to the act of killing. I would walk along hunting rabbits thinking “Why am I here, I don’t like the killing?”.  As soon as a rabbit jumped, the gun came up and I was shooting.  More than once I have sold all my guns, swearing off them, only to find myself in a gun shop. 

In Army basic training I became welded to the famous old M1 Garand rifle.  I still like the damn things, although I haven’t bought one as a civilian.  In Germany I got an M14, much like the M1, but holding 20 rounds instead of eight.   

.50 Caliber Machine Gun

.50 Caliber Machine Gun

When I got promoted I was given the responsibility for a .50 caliber Browning machine gun.  Completely assembled it weighs about 120 pounds and fires a cartridge about six inches long, with a bullet half an inch in diameter.  We went to Wildflecken, Germany, the traditional invasion route for eastern invaders, to shoot the thing across a canyon.  It sure was fun.  It sure did give me a significant hearing loss. 

The real reason for my fascination with guns, however, is fear.  I have been afraid for my safety for as long as I can remember.  The cause?  Probably some abuse I experienced at a young age.  I remember making a tent out of a card table and blankets in the living room when I was home alone.  I would get under there with my .22 rifle and dream about driving the invaders away.     

The gun magazines used to be mostly about hunting arms, now they are filled with articles about protecting your home from hostile invaders.  That is right down my alley, even though I live in a safe neighborhood and have never experienced any need for protecting myself with a gun for 73 years.  This is a big cognitive disconnect in my life.  I think the strategy is to not read that stuff.

To deal with my fear I am now using a mindful meditation technique.  I meditate watching my breath.  When any fear-related thoughts arise, I notice them, name them “fear, fear”, and watch them fade.  I also have the fear thoughts arise at other times, as when driving.  I say a short prayer, sometimes several times, until the fear thought fades.  I do this many times during the day.  It works. The thoughts leave, and they are not recurring with the same frequency.  I feel better, and have more energy for useful things.  I am not doing this to seek enlightenment, I am doing it to rid myself of wasteful thinking so I can focus on the good.

Rattlesnake Canyon

Dramatic

Dramatic

Rattlesnake Canyon is near Fruita, Colorado, where I grew up.  My friends and I  ran all over the hills north and west of the Colorado National Monument, but I had never been to

Rattlesnake Canyon.  It is a bit too far for kids on foot.  We got into the canyons just east of the canyon, now part of the Black Ridge Wilderness, but I did not know about the arches in Rattlesnake Canyon.

Close to town, the canyon is a bit tough to get to.  The Pollock Canyon trailhead near the river means an overnight backpack to do justice to the country.  The other route follows Black Ridge west from the Glade Park Store, and is for 4×4 vehicles or Subarus you are willing to bash around.  From the trailhead it is about four miles on the trail if you take the shortcut.

I have rambled around the Colorado Plateau off and on all my life.  From the Grand Canyon to Dinosaur and from the Grand Hogback to the Wasatch, the plateau offers some

Rattlesnake Canyon

Rattlesnake Canyon

of the most magnificent country anywhere.  Rattlesnake Canyon is up there with the best.  Arches has more arches, and there are bigger canyons (not that many), but Rattlesnake has it all.  The real bonuses are that it is close and not cluttered up with people.  With the exception of Grand Canyon, most anywhere else offered some solitude at one ime.  No longer.  Thirty miles from Grand Junction, with a competent high clearance vehicle you can be in wilderness in view of Fruita.

Ah, the sense of space.  I live in the city and it is impossible to have a sense of space, even with Mt. Evans looking down at you.  From those canyon rims the expanse opens my mind.  Grand Mesa, the Bookcliffs, and the Roan Cliffs rim the Grand Valley, quite a scene by itself.

The canyon walls are Wingate sandstone capped by harder Kayenta sandstone.  That cap rock forms a bench with the Entrada sandstone (slickrock) set back from the rim.  Rim Rock Drive in the Monument is mostly on that bench, and the trail to Rattlesnake drops down on the bench and curves around the canyon rim to the arches.  The arches are in the slickrock, ancient sand dunes turned to stone.  It is easy to see the rounded dunes in the rock.  Erosion works its way into the cliffs following the curve of the dunes, forming alcoves.  As the alcoves erode farther, sometimes the back of the alcove drops out, leaving an arch.  I saw six of them. Arches in Colorado, the second largest concentration in the country, maybe the world.

About that trail.  I got away from Denver at 6:00 AM, not my best time of day.  I filled my water bottle and left it on the kitchen counter.  I didn’t realize it until I was at the trailhead at about 1:30 PM.  I am also out of shape, my exercise restricted by a couple of broken ribs for five weeks.  Have I mentioned that I am 72 years old and impulsive?  I looked at the sign, 3 1/2 miles.  It was only 90 degrees or so, a piece of cake.

First Arch. Where I climbed up the rock through the arch.

First Arch. Where I climbed up the rock through the arch.

I covered about half of the trail when I realized I was getting a bit dry.  “Keep going, I can drink later”.  The arches were a progression along the bench and close to the trail.  With that row of arches on one side and that magnificent canyon with 400 foot sheer walls branching into side canyons on the other side, I was literally staggered by the beauty.   Well maybe the stagger was because I was tired and thirsty.  I caught up to a party of six people at the last arch, known as First Arch.  At First Arch was the sign saying End of Trail.  I didn’t know that, and by that time I was stopping to rest fairly often, so while resting I watched the party climb up the slickrock through the arch.  I knew the trailhead was only about 1/2 mile from the arch.  So, it was climb up the rock through that impressive arch or backtrack 3 1/2 miles.  I climbed.

I have done a lot of sandstone climbing, and used to be pretty good at it.  That was when I wasn’t 72, tired, getting sore, and thirsty.  I climbed anyway.  I would do about 20 feet, catch my breath, figure out my next moves, and climb again.  The proper way to climb that stuff is on your feet even if it is steep.  Feet have more traction than denim, and the work is easier than trying to slither up.  I slithered.  I was too weak to trust myself trying to walk up those steep slopes.

The rock has curves, little depressions, some tiny ridges, notches, and hollows to give one a way up.  I tried to pick the easiest route, but it was still pretty steep.  My knees paid the price, getting some good scrapes.  Up on the rim, that last half mile was tough.  It was uphill, but not too bad.  I stopped twice and flopped down in the shade for a few minutes while walking slowly back to the truck.

There was about 1/4 of a cup of coffee in the truck that sure tasted good.  I was lightheaded and pretty wobbly during the drive out.  I stopped at the Visitor Center in the Park and drank water for a while.  I got a motel room in Fruita about 6:00 PM, didn’t eat dinner, and drank water until lights out about 9:30.

Sunday morning I had breakfast, drank water, and took the scenic route back to Denver.  I drank water and went up Plateau Creek to Collbran, went over Grand Mesa to Paonia where I had lunch and drank water, then over McClure Pass to Glenwood and home on I-70.  I was fully rehydrated by Monday.

I didn't see a rattlesnake in Rattlesnake Canyon

I didn’t see a rattlesnake in Rattlesnake Canyon

After a few minor incidents in the backcountry over the years, I have developed several rules to follow when Out There.  Take water.  Take enough water for the other persons you come across who didn’t bring enough water.  Be in shape.  Research where you are going so you know what to expect.  Have a map. Carry the ten essentials in case you get into trouble.  Tell people where you are going.  You really should not go alone.  I broke every rule.

What the fuck is wrong with me?  I know.  I am an impulsive ADD.  When I got to the trailhead and saw I had no water I should have driven out.  But, I wouldn’t have this story to tell.  What I did do right was pace myself, not panic, and take my time getting out.  It is just that my brain didn’t kick in until three hours too late.

 

Motorcycles

Kawasaki KLR 650

Kawasaki KLR 650

I have owned and ridden three motorcycles.  I like motorcycles. They are as close to flying as one can get on land.  There are challenges, such as trying to stay upright on two wheels. I know people who have never been down on their bikes.  I once fell over right by the front door of the biggest motorcycle accessory shop in Denver.  It trapped my leg and some guy had to lift it off me.  I bet he is still telling that story.

I have crashed on city streets, on a paved canyon road (sand), in parking lots, and an uncountable number of times in the dirt.  Two of my motorcycles were what is now called dual sport; they are able to be used on the street and in the dirt.  They aren’t top notch in either role, but some riders do things most people can’t imagine.  80 mph on the highway, and some challenging back country roads and trails.  Lots of good dual sport roads in Colorado, Utah, New Mexico, and Wyoming, where I traveled.

One of the best grew up riding on the streets of Mexico City, where you have to be good to survive.  I could keep up with him on the highway because we had the same bikes.  In the dirt, he could go places with that fairly heavy thing that I didn’t even dream of.  He and quite a few others have done 50 mountain passes in Colorado in 50 hours.  I am good for about six in a day, and hurt for two days. He also did a lot of single track trails, something I never attempted.

I liked road trips with some gravel or dirt roads thrown in.  Forest Service roads were about as gnarly as I wanted. On the asphalt, it was curves in canyons.  Fortunately, Colorado’s Front Range has lots of canyons.  There was a geological event that bumped the long bench from Conifer to its Estes Park.  That bench was once at Denver’s elevation, but got pooched up to where it is now.  We call the road the Peak to Peak Highway.

Golden Gate Canyon

Golden Gate Canyon

Go up any of the canyons from Deer Creek to the Big Thompson, ride those fast sweeping curves a ways, then down another canyon.  My favorite was Golden Gate Canyon, where I tore my posterior cruciate ligament when I hit some sand on the road.

It’s the lean, folks.  Go around a curve on two wheels and you lean.  Go faster, lean more.  Go faster, and crash.  I went fairly slow for a motorcyclist.  I still got some lean, and was able to look at the geology.  A low side crash is when the bike slides out from under you and goes off the road ahead of you.

High Side Crash

High Side Crash

A high side crash is the bad one.  The front wheel starts to slide, then gets traction.  You are flipped off and into the air, while the bike bounces along behind until it lands on you.  Both are bad, but you really do not want to high side.  Some riders get flipped into the guardrail.  Ouch.

My knee wrecking crash was a low side.  My knee was bent, the tibia-fibula stopped on the pavement while the femur went a little farther.  It really hurt.  Hurt bad. I picked the bike up and rode on until I couldn’t stand the pain and called for help.

Aside from the crashes, I loved motorcycling.  Yes, it is dangerous.  Other drivers don’t see you and turn in front of you.  You crash all by yourself.  There is a famous twisty road in North Carolina where a biker went into the bushes. Just in front of him was another motorcycle with the remains of the rider.  He went into the bushes and nobody saw a thing.

Yamaha SR 400

Yamaha SR 400

I always wore all the protective gear.  Those Harley riders who won’t wear a helmet because their balls will protect them are nuts.  Mass delusion, those Harley people.

This spring I got the itch again.  Yamaha makes a single cylinder bike that looks a lot like the classic British thumpers from the 1950s.  It isn’t fast, but sure would be a good canyon bike.  Nah.  Too old and slow myself.  I guess I will stick to four wheeling.

 

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