August 22, 2019

Seasons, a gift of paddlesports

The different seasons and their message of the passage of time can be melancholy for us mortals, unless we consider them in the light of paddling whitewater in the glorious Southeastern United States.

Fall beckons us even now in the heat of August.  The place we practice rolling on the Cahaba is newly covered in leaves.  The air seems less humid.  And already I can feel the Nantahala in autumn; the Hiwassee in fall colors, the Ocoee in October crispness.  Campfires, wet gear hung to dry (it never does), cold beers and tall tales of the river adventures of the past, and of the day; plans to make new river stories the next day.   Football scores.  Guitars by the fire.  Fleece.  Cold air, warm sleeping bag. Warm socks.  Clear sky; meteor showers, milky way.

Winter, drysuit weather; December in Alabama the local water is coming up; the air is cool,  but the water is still somewhat warm.  We can even have 70F degree weather days in January; but we wear our drysuits for safety.  The Mulberry Fork and the Locust Fork of the Warrior River are the familiar backyard runs.  At higher water there are challenging spots in each.   The Alabama creeks arise -  Little River Canyon, crown jewel of Alabama;  South Sauty and Town creeks, Kelly creek; Calvert Prong; many others.  They range from class II-III to class V.  The trees are bare; sometimes icicles cover the rock walls.  In February it can be in the 30F range and the water is brilliant; it feels like little knife cuts as it splashes.  Everything, everything! is intense; the muted grey colors are even intense.  We slide off of wet rocks; we bash and tear down rock stairs on the creeks, and then again, run deep waves and troughs on high water Locust.  

Spring, fecund, soaked, saturated, greys turning to green and everything is running; sometimes too high, we call it high-water skunked; then again, rarely run options are available.  Water is still chilly; but getting warmer.  We can get away with wearing drytops and shorts, and maybe step up and run things we might feel a bit intimidated to do; but it's local water, the best water.  The riverbanks are crazy with things growing but they're not yet choked with blackberry thorns and rhodo.  We roll and roll and roll.  We celebrate having all the water, every day it makes us yearn for it as we go to work instead.  We surf ourselves silly.   Life is amazing.  

Summer, my favorite season, though the local water is gone; the heat is upon us and we have to drive to the dam release runs for whitewater.  But they are excellent destinations; and there is nothing better to me than the full sun, and the river.  Ocoee in shorts and a splash top.  Hiwassee with bald eagles, wave surfing, and kids learning to boat. Playboats.  Sunblock, Deet and sandals.  Summer is also the season for the annual Week of Rivers event near the Nantahala.   Smoky mountain love.  My heart's home.

August 21, 2019

Nighttime bugs

Tonight, the katydids are calling.  The cicadas were earlier in the evening.  
I love to hear these calls.   I love summer here in the South.

August 20, 2019

I love this song, too...

Good advice about end of life preparation

As my sister is in hospice care I can attest with experience that this article is spot on.

I like the “Niagara Falls trajectory”: To live as well as possible for as long as possible, followed by a rapid final decline.  It even has a pun in it.
I have a few thoughts to add from my experiences. There are going to be lots of surprises.  "Surprises" means, by their very nature, you can't prepare for them; but maybe I will be able to spare you a few dear reader.  
The system of password protected websites that we have now, is a nightmare for someone with cognitive issues, and for their loved ones who must untangle the mess.  Make a list of current passwords, or use a password manager like KeePassX, and put that information in a secure place where someone trusted can access it in need.
If you want certain things for your funeral etc., tell people.  Write it down.  Put it in your will, or with your will.  Even better, go ahead and pay for what you want now.  There are ways to do this, even with payment plans and 'themes' for your life celebration like Fiesta, Irish Wake, etc.  I'm not making this up.

Hospice is great - it can allow someone to pass away at home with their family, pets, familiar surroundings and peaceful setting.  No beeping monitors, no hospital room.   A nurse will come twice a week; a bathing nurse several times a week; they provide things like wheelchairs, oxygen, chucks and diapers; medicines are free.  But hospice does not include someone to stay with you or your loved one.  If you are the primary caregiver of someone, and you have a full-time job, you will need to find help.   If you can get volunteers, great.  There are services; they are expensive (sitting is expensive no matter what).  I found that word of mouth was a better way to hire sitters.  I have been fortunate in this way to find outstanding, wonderful people for care.  You'll need to gather a bunch of people, available for times when a sitter might be sick or have to take the day or night off.  And know that you, yourself will always be the backup sitter. 

Hospice will send someone to stay with a patient for a couple of hours if needed.  But that person cannot assist the patient to the bathroom, or dispense medicine, or really do anything but be there.

Oncology teams are heroic, amazing people.  But they can be so focused on trying to treat the disease that they may not focus on quality of life vs. longevity.  So you must do that.  Be your own advocate, or be the advocate for the person you are primary caregiver for.  Tell the people who may end up being your advocate what your wishes are, now while you can be clear about it.  Make a living will.

Get rid of stuff, now.  Seriously.  Do not burden your family with a bunch of stuff they have no idea what to do with.   If you have things you wish to pass on to others, put that in your will.  If you just want to make sure your nice pottery collection doesn't end up in an estate sale with $2 price tags on it, label things with information about what you paid for it, who the artist who made it is, and when you bought it. 

I was sitting on the bank of the Middle Fork of the Salmon river in Idaho last year, with my toes in the water in that glorious, cell phone and internet free wilderness, and I realized that I want to make the rest of my life resemble that moment as much as I can, while I can.  So while I may joke about living in a van down by the river, that is really where I hope to one day be.  My stuff, as little of it as I can manage to own, stashed in a cabin, and my boat on a river, many rivers, somewhere, every day I can do it.
Scene from the Middle Fork of the Salmon river in Idaho

What is your life dream?  Your retirement dream?

There's more, and I may end up archiving this post after a while, it's hard to write about.  But then again it may help someone, I don't know.