Monday, February 25, 2013

Urban Selunking and Roman festivals

I oft seem in a time warp, not the groovy trip to the 70’s but once the haze of pain, exercise, recovery or sleeping 24+ hours, finding it to be a week later. So, in recap, for Valentines Day, Lupercalia: the Roman festival of fertility kept on Feb 14th. That Festival is notable as the day Mark Anthony (of Mark Anthony and Cleopatra fame) ran naked through the streets proclaiming Julius Caesar as god and striking women with a whip made out of bull balls (it was like catching the flowers from the bride; if you get hit by the whip you are likely to get pregnant soon).

No whips were used in THIS household for Feb. 14th, I did however get Linda a West Coast Native art mug for work and helped buy a hoodie designed by Tony Hunt. Love is proclaimed in variety, isn’t it?

Then it was off to the shops to buy half price chocolate. Not quite a good a haul as Xmas when I scored on toblerone and marzepan, but got a decent sale priced chocolate.

This weekend Linda made Swedish Meatballs with rice. Hers were made of beef, NOT horsemeat, as has been found to be the case with IKEA. I always did wonder why the meals were so inexpensive.

We also went to the University of Victoria Library to look at the native art collection on the third floor. Limited traditional art prints from Davidson, Hunt to Henry Roy Vickers.

I took a left out of the library building to show Cheryl and Linda the Tunnels under the Science building, which run under the grass and walkways as well as two further university buildings.  Sadly I brought no camera, but the first sign you see is a large ‘Radiation’ and ‘Radioactive’ sign. The ceiling is stacked and lined with pipes carrying all sorts of fun stuff. Which is why the outside of the Science Building has a ‘free air’ pump for bicycles on the side, next to a small sign. The tunnels are still used as labs with lots of ‘if light is on laser is firing’ and ‘hazardous materials’ signs across from a hazmet shower.  It used to handy, when raining or snowing, to be able to go from the library to the science building then take the underground tunnel most of the way across campus. Of course, the flickering lights and sparse grad students holding beakers and wearing goggles peering out of labs just added to the fun.

That was my urban spelunking for the day. Though Linda and I used to use the tunnels and spans in Winnipeg to get from one end of downtown all the way to the Science Museum. We even used to practice dancing there on the weekend, when we both wanted to get away from housemates as well as the snow. The malls were empty so hey, lots of places to dance….until a guard came out and told us they had been watching us all the time on the monitors. Oops.

Have you been anywhere interesting in Urban Spelunking?

Monday, February 18, 2013

Bright moon: cold, dark night.

It was good to get out of the apartment. The sky was blue but by 8:00 pm, the air was cold, and as we went on the trail along the beach cliffs it got colder. Far below, on the beach, a bonfire was going amidst the stacked driftwood timber.

In a secluded fold with a hedgerow on one side and cliff on the other, the trail led towards the moon.

The red glows are not predators but the many beacons warning the landing float planes, “Please don’t crash into my condo!” The shot was with a tripod on 10.5 seconds exposure. I had hoped for a clear sky to take a 30 second shot in order to capture stars too faint for the eye. Alas, the clouds crept in.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Spectacle Lake 'Accessible' trail (isn't) but great green of nature

Just down the road and up the mountain, Linda wanted to take me to Spectacle Lake, as she had heard it was a 2 km ‘Wheelchair Accessible’ trail. We had high hopes.

It was overcast, as seems standard the last few months, with snow on the sides of the trail and ice on the lake.

We parked in the gravel and stone parking lot and followed the old road to a boat launch, fishing and picnic area, once you climbed down the long slope of exposed bedrock. It was not wheelchair accessible. The picnic tables were at the bottom of the climb down from the bedrock.

But the road was wide, and lead to a nice overlook of the lake (covered in ice). Linda is on the bedrock overlooking the lake, with crows were nesting in the trees across. As you can see, this outlook, going out past bedrock, is not accessible either.

But the trail was still good and trees, second and third growth thick, had branches covered in moss, creating a green overhang and surrounding ever green to walk or wheel through.

Twice in the first kilometer there were bridges. One had arm rests on both sides, while this one, with an impressive downhill leading to it, and steeper uphill leading away had the left side exposed encouraging careful wheeling

Along the way ‘nursery trees’ had fallen, perhaps twenty to fifty years ago, in some cases leaving almost no wood, while a more recent fall like this was covered with tiny ferns (use the leaf to compare), already breaking down the hard wood.

We continued but as each tenth of a kilometer went on, the narrower and more up and down the trail became, with roots, then rocks as obstacles. After the first kilometer I should have turned back, but I didn’t, convincing myself it would get better.

Soon there were vertical gaps, rocks to step up and even more elevation gain before a brief rest: though now we were half way up the trunk height of the trees. Yes, that six inches wide of non-moss covered sharp rock edges is 'trail'. Woah, look at those trees ENTIRELY below us now: Some elevation gain.

I kept on until I couldn’t keep on anymore. And though it might have been only .3 or .4 of a kilometer to go, there was no choice but to go back the way already come. The only advantage was knowing that the path was going to get wider and easier as we backtracked.

It was nice….till it turned into a sinktrap. Was Linda’s info wrong? No. The official site states: “..an easy hiking trail that winds around the lake for more than 2 kilometers. Much of this trail system is wheelchair accessible.” As the trail goes in a circle, ‘much’ isn’t good enough. I would charitably say that ‘some’ of the trail is wheelchair accessible, perhaps .9 out of 2.2 km. For example, see the roots and trail narrowing every few feet to inches? This is on the 'really good' and 'easy' .5 km of the trail. For manual or power chair, that is not 'easy', unless you have an ATV for a powerchair. In the USA, land of the Disability Act, the National Park would label this as 'inaccessible' - as the do for Hoh's Hall of Moss'.

Spectacle Lake is not an ‘easy’ trail but 'medium'. I would not recommend the trail for those with heart problems, RA, MS, and advise caution for those using prosthetics. The trail is not graded or filled. It was covered with snow in parts. Parts require balancing on one leg with full body lift of up to 1.5 feet, often on wet rock. It is popular with joggers as it is short and gives a strong cardio workout.

The trail is not currently accessible for more than the first third of the 2.2 km, nor are the facilities accessible. I wish, for world disability day or ‘recognition of Canadian Human Rights Day’ for the Premier, the head of Parks BC, and the local mayor to sit in those hospital transfer wheelchairs with plastic wheels (the ones they always seem to get into for photo ops during fundraisers or for promoting wheelchair sports) and enjoy this ‘accessible’ trail.

Perhaps then they could figure out the problem with having a circle trail around a lake where ‘much’ of the trail can be used (like the M25 where ‘much’ of it does not have traffic cones reducing lanes and creating eight, twelve or twenty hour gridlock).

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

I am not sick, I am dying.

I’m not sick anymore. I’m dying.

This is not a statement from a close call or two, but from minute to minute, day to day experience. And worse, these are supposed to be the 'good months', not summer, when I get little sleep and my body autonomic system goes haywire.

There are still good hours, and sometimes a day that is something more than ‘endured.’ The physical side is paid for by doing what produces best results, regardless of the high cost in pain; fatigue and fewer hours of consciousness per week.

I have dreamed for years about a vacation, but even it if magically comes this year, after spring, it will come too late. I am selling what I can with Amazon and Ebay, without knowing if I have to earn enough for me, or Linda and I both. And Easter just 5.5 weeks away.

Just putting some DVD’s on Ebay is something I have tried and failed for months. It is hard not to have my spirit crushed knowing that any of the general population can achieve in 15 minutes what would take me two days of effort to achieve. Caregivers don’t end conversations, they simply walk out of the room, secure in the knowledge that I cannot follow.

I work on staying alive, and, on the bad days, saving a sliver of sanity and good manners, and the good days, working toward the goals of educating myself, reaching out to others in blogs, postcards and packages and inching towards Sakura-con.

I've thought about contacting that group for adults with less than a year to live. But I think I left it too late for Sakura-con. And while there are lots of 'pressing' medical type concerns, I can't think of any noble 'wishes.' I have it better than some, much much worse than most, both in care and the way the disease progresses. If it was cancer, it would be spreading everywhere. So most goals are about that day, that week, and hopes of a train trip, a trip up island. Going in the van while Linda picks up bread is exciting, vivid travel.

A prolonged connection of bad days, tied together with the fatigue days which follow them, have left me silent online the last weeks. I did manage to send out a handful of packages – gifts and cards. I plan, I desire. Last week I had 14 announced plans (where I indicate a day or several in advance what I would like to do: watch a show with Linda in the living room, go out in the wheelchair, see the sunshine). I achieved 1 of the 14 announced plans and 1 of my 17 silent goals.

I have a great lust for living. All the more because I am aware of how restricted I am. If Linda forgets to turn on the intercom, I have no way to communicate with her, and spend the evening alone, separated by frailty, and tech we can’t afford. How can people not be aware of the blessing in the smell of rain, of walking, of the ability to enter a shop, to eat and drink, enjoying the taste?

What would have been an eight or nine on my pain scale last year is now a two. And on a ‘decent’ day my pain level is at four. It isn’t pretty. It isn’t dignified. “I am not female or male, I am not Elizabeth but meat.” this I said after some hours on a day that was horrific. Not so much gore, but the brutality of being aware only of the pain and the body which traps me in with it. Linda says she doesn’t know how she would be able to ‘handle’ it. I think, at that level, it is handling me.

I lust for a crow, a pigeon, a hummingbird, the scent of something which doesn’t bring nausea, to see the ocean, the mountains. To have choice: I long, I crave a life with choice.

“I’m going out,” Linda will call out and she is gone. I want to say that. I want to live that. But it takes four hours to get ready to go out in my current state, and only if I have prepared the day before also. I struggle from envy of grocery shopping, or cooking. Now, I exhaust myself in attempts to survive, to continue, and so trips out to exercise end with two days of nights too painful to sleep. It drains the choice out of it.

Before, I was dying slowly, making sure I didn’t end up a statistic due to neglecting something I should be doing. Now it is like a cloud around me, I breath it in and out, this dying. Maybe it is the pain, or the loss, or the lack of stability and control.

I am desperate. I know no other word: desperate straits. Desperate for a voice, a visit, an email, a note in this sea of silent thoughts. I am desperate for friends. Desperate for something, anything on those bad pain days to take 25-40% off, either from listening to a lively visitor to some particularly good DVD series. I can’t watch the intellectual stuff on bad pain days; just the bip-bop-pop of quick action, set up every seven minutes for a commercial break. The BBC and Swedish or Japanese series for days when I am not bound in a pain haze, to remind me that there are wonderful clever people in the world, and in rare books and telly, they talk to me.

I wish I could be pleasant. And I will try to blog more about the small things that might interest you, or have interested me. But it has been getting bad more and more for months. Maybe there was pride, but when I sit right now, my hair uncombed, and myself unwashed for two weeks, how will pride assist me? Frequently I don’t eat because the food itself is too heavy for my hands to hold. Or worse, someone walks in and moves something, and by the time I realize it is now out of reach, they have left. And they may come back in a few hours, or not at all. I have sat in INDY more than once for 25 hours because I was took weak to get up unassisted, and Linda went to bed, forgetting to come by to say good night. Or sat beside rotting food because caregivers assumed someone else would take it away and I sit for eight hours waiting for a caregiver than has been cancelled. This is not 'bad', it is 'normal', life does get 'worse' (still somewhat confused on VIHA's 'Since you aren't getting showers, we are telling the workers not to shower or bath you' policy).

Having a string of days where there is something to drink, and being remembered, even some basic advance communication: those are the salad days.

I keep fighting: but having so many dreams and plans smashed each week upon week increases the nightmares and the fear. Every time I lose something else, or go to do something I could have done before, but now cannot, I love living even more.

Monday, February 04, 2013

Day the Penny Died

Woke up to find out that our Canadian Penny is now defunct. As of now retailers will round up or down unless paying by debit. The bank will not issue pennies anymore. This is due to budget cuts as each Penny costs 1.6 cents to make due to copper/zinc prices (sometimes making a copper penny up to 4 cents in worth).

The only bafflement is how can the Treasury afford to change the face of the quarter so often (eight more this year), making Olympic Quarters and province quarters, etc as there are 510 types of commemorative quarters. And lest you think whoever designs there is ‘hip’ to fashion, the winter Olympics quarters had the Paralympics represented by a single quarter: wheelchair curling.
Lets face it, low on 'cool' compared to snowboarding, figure skating or speed skating, thus it isn’t quite as collectable.
Oh wait, AFTER the Olympics finished they made a quarter for Sledge Hockey (anyone seen one?).

I do think the red and silver ‘Santa’ quarter is cool, simply from a design point of view.
And of the 2012 Quarters, I would like to get the 2012 Orca that is coloured blue in Native Design (6 million produced).


The Canadian Mint also puts out colourized quarters on Canada Day to attract younger collectors. And in 2011 they started doing special sets for Births, Toothfairies, Birthdays and such.

"Look Janey, the toothfairy kept your tooth and left this lovely collectors set from the Royal Canadian Mint." Hmmm, doesn't really rock it for me.

Japanese tradition is to throw them on the roof to help your teeth grow in straight (same tradition in Togo and Sri Lanka). Oddly, in France, the old tradition is money for tooth under pillow, but that is traded by a mouse that crawls under your pillow at night (from 17th century La Bonne Petite Souris). I think telling me at age seven that a mouse was coming in bed would have kept me up all night with a hammer.

Bye-bye Canadian penny, including those 14 pennies I swallowed at age three, screamed because I thought I might explode if they didn't digest and then told my Nana that a giant had come through the window and forced me to swallow them.

I even remember when the penny was 12 sided (1982-1996).