Friday, June 19, 2009

Lessons from Fence Wrecking

This past week I've been spending some time wrecking fences up here at RMBL. The old fences, while picturesque in places, are thoroughly falling down in others. Nowhere do they do much any more to keep the cows, expected in July, out of the townsite. So down they must come. It is highly satisfying work. Not only did I get to take any aggression I had out on rotton logs, but, even more important since I can't seem to drum up much aggression up here, I got to see progress, and an end point.

As I worked today, I thought of some of the life lessons that can be learned and relearned when one is doing something like fence wrecking:
  1. If you focus on one pole at a time, before you know it you've done a whole section.
  2. Work with the forces of nature when possible. Gravity is your friend.
  3. The right tool can make a big difference.
  4. Watch the experts. They know what they're doing.
  5. Sometimes getting the right angle works better than force.
  6. If someone offers to help, say yes!
  7. A little bit of rest goes a long way.
  8. Plan ahead or you might have to move the whole pile.
  9. You'd be surprised at the load you can carry if you have your balance right.
  10. Share your snack!

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Rocky Mountains Week 2

Judd Falls, which is a LOT bigger and scarier than this picture looks!

Gothic Mountain through aspens up Copper Creek trail.

This guy was right by the road.

Sneak preview of the Maroon Bells wilderness, from Copper Lake trail.

Avalanche damage up valley from Gothic.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Critters and Tracks

In addition to the deer which have become a routine part of the day, I have been fortunate to see some other critters around here too. This first guy got my attention late at night by chewing on the back door of the cabin! When I opened the door, he just looked right up at me like "Whut?" then turned slowly and ambled off.

Just outside the dining hall I was graced with a view of this red-headed woodpecker.

This is the road just below the cabin, after a rain. Can you make out tracks for human, deer, mountain bike and car? If not, sorry for the lousy pic!

Sunday, June 14, 2009

What makes a great place to write?

Here I am in the picturesque Rocky Mtns of Colorado. When friends heard I was coming here, they said, “Oh, what a great place to write!” A quiet cabin, a rushing river, alpine beauty, no phone or family to distract me. Nine thousand feet, up where the air is clear. Sounds idyllic, doesn’t it? And yet the words don’t just flow out of me after all. No effortless inspiration blowing in with the mountain breeze. It got me thinking.

What makes a great place to write? Yesterday while I was wrecking fences I realized two things. One, wrecking fences is a great activity to do when you need to think. You know how some people say their best ideas come to them in the shower? I believe it’s the same phenomenon. Wrecking fences, like washing your bod, is an activity that takes a fair amount of immediate concentration. Much of my brain was occupied with crowbar angles, logs, piles, lifting, hauling etc. I had to be aware of what I was doing right then and there, or I could get hurt. This doesn’t leave much brain for anything else, but it does leave some, and I think that’s when and why creative breakthroughs can happen. Your mind is so focused on one activity that the usual chatter is suppressed, diminished. What’s left over is a clear channel through which insights may pass.

The insight that passed through the brain channel that fence wrecking opened was that internal environment is much more important than external environment. Some people have their writing spot, specially set up just the way they like it, and that’s where they write. Others write on napkins, at the soccer field, in their semi truck after a day of driving. I think the one thing successful writers have in common is that, regardless of their physical setup, their internal environment is focused, calm, and alert. How you arrange that internal environment is the key to your success. Myself, I find that doing something physical first (like my current favorite, fence wrecking) seems to knock the kinks out, blow the dust off, clear my mind.

The third realization, which came to me later, for the zillionth time, is that I learn the same lessons over and over. Knowledge comes in layers, and the deeper layers carry echoes of those above them. I have had both of the above thoughts before, in different renditions. They still felt like realizations this time around. I laugh as I peel this layer, recognizing it again, wondering if I’ll ever really fully understand anything.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Gothic, Colorado

I am so happy to be back in Gothic, CO, home of the Rocky Mountain Biological Laboratory. This year I am fortunate to have two whole weeks here! My role is medical advisor, which means I speak at orientation for staff and again for students, about the health hazards of life at 9000 ft in the Colorado Rockies, and how to stay healthy. When I'm not doing that, I'm updating their medical supplies, enjoying the incredible beauty, or wrecking fences!

Work Day at RMBL. It rained and snowed all day, but the intrepid fence-wreckers were not fazed! Here I am with crowbar in hand, happily demolishing the old buck and rail fence to make room for a new one.

These two greeted me outside my cabin in the early morning. Mama and yearling.

Fog on Gothic Mtn.

I never tire of this view of Avery Peak from my front porch.

Friday, June 05, 2009

Back to the Rockies!

This is a resurrected post from the same time last year. I'm headed back to the Rockies this weekend! I'll expect to have fresh photos and outlooks next week. And heat in the cabin this year!

I'm so pleased to be back in Gothic, Colorado, at 9,500 ft elevation. Spring has barely begun here, as you can see. Lots of snow still on the mountains, and water pouring off all over the place. What a difference from the 90 degree high desert I left in Albuquerque!
My official role here this year is minimal as far as doctoring goes, so I'm excited to get a lot of writing work done. More pics coming, as soon as I get new batteries to replace the ones that froze last night (along with the milk in the fridge and my toes in my sleeping bag!) Fortunately, the groundsperson Robyn connected my gas tank today and there's a wall heater, so hopefully I'll be cozy tonight. If the heater doesn't work, I'll sleep with my camera to preserve the batteries!

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

More Disability Stories

I'm accumulating quite the collection of memories. A few from the last weeks stand out.

Patient #1. Woman in her 30's who drank so much alcohol in one sitting that it messed up her blood electrolytes which messed up her heart rhythm and she had a cardiac arrest. She was resuscitated but meanwhile lost blood to her brain resulting in brain damage. She now has virtually no short-term memory, can't be left alone or she'll get lost or burn down the house, can't work. Cheerful and half here, she is a victim of her own poor choices.

Patient #2. Man in his 50's who has done heavy work all his life, resulting in accumulated wear and tear to the point where he can't move without pain in his back, hands, knees. Deeply wishes he could still work, and cries throughout the exam, not from pain but from the frustration of not being able to work. This one hits me hard.

Patient #3. Five year old boy with muscular dystrophy. Mentally sharp as a tack, physically weak in the large muscles. When asked if he can walk, hops down from his wheelchair and careens across the room in a clumsy, enthusiastic waddle. "Sure!" he exclaims. I fall in love.

Patient #4. Young woman who was a passenger in a car going 75 on cruise control on the freeway. Over a rise and out of sight, an old truck full of rocks stalled in the middle of the road. The car slammed into the old truck, causing a rock fall in addition to a 75 mph dead stop. Thankfully, she and her 6 month old in utero child survived, although her face and jaw will never look the same. Life can change in a split second.

The Authors of "50 Ways" Interview on KCHF TV

50 Ways to Leave Your 40s TV interview with Phoenix' Pat McMahon