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Life... ya gotta be doin' something...

 

2016 Adventures

Updated: 31-Dec-2016

January

There was a very heavy fog overnight, with the temperature around -20 deg C (-2 deg F), which resulted in a spectacular coating of hoar frost on everything this morning. I spent about half an hour trying to take photos of the 1 cm (half inch) thick coating of frost on the trees and bushes, but had great difficulty getting the camera to focus on the frost. Here are a couple of the best:

hoar_frost_1

Here's a close-up view of the hoar frost on the branches... a thick coating of fern-like ice crystals growing on every surface. Quite lovely!:

hoar_frost_2


Northern Harrier taking off to catch a meal in my backyard:

harrier

 

February

Went to Puerto Morelos, Mexico again this year, but it was a quite miserable trip. The flu was everywhere in the little town, waiters in restaurants were hacking and coughing, tourists were hacking and coughing. The flu spread all over town in just a couple of weeks. Some restaurants were forced to close because they didn't have enough employees able to work. I ended up catching the flu and then got a lung infection. And as if that was not enough of a mess, the weather was rather cool, cloudy, wet and windy, which made snorkeling rather dismal. Oh well.

The cool wet weather was great for the flowers:

puerto_morelos_wildflowers_1 puerto_morelos_wildflowers_2 puerto_morelos_wildflowers_3
puerto_morelos_wildflowers_4 puerto_morelos_wildflowers_5 puerto_morelos_wildflowers_6
puerto_morelos_wildflowers_7 puerto_morelos_wildflowers_8 puerto_morelos_wildflowers_9
puerto_morelos_wildflowers_10 puerto_morelos_wildflowers_11 puerto_morelos_wildflowers_12
puerto_morelos_wildflowers_13 puerto_morelos_wildflowers_14 puerto_morelos_wildflowers_15
puerto_morelos_wildflowers_16 puerto_morelos_wildflowers_17 puerto_morelos_wildflowers_18

 

This colorful snake came out of the mangrove to greet me. It seems to be a speckled racer:

speckled racer

This little fishing pier in the Puerto Morelos mangroves looks a bit scary... especially when you consider the fact that this mangrove is full of crocodiles!

shaky pier


These three pelicans seemed to be practicing synchronized diving. Perhaps for the pelican olympics? Their timing was off a little bit on this dive, but they still scored a perfect 3.0 (three fish) for their effort.

 

 

March

After consulting multiple cardiologists, it became quite apparent that I needed to have open heart surgery to replace a severely clogged aortic valve. The alternative they offered was not very good... if I don't have the surgery, I am unlikely to survive more than a few years, probably five years or less. But if I do have the surgery, there is a risk of non-trivial issues such as death or stroke. Heavy sigh.

So, after interviewing two of Colorado's best heart surgeons, I finally chose to have the surgery done by Mark Douthit at The Medical Center of the Rockies in Loveland, Colorado. (Although in retrospect, I would now recommend Dr Ammons at St Joseph's in Denver for such surgery, and would recommend avoiding Medical Center of the Rockies.)

Apprehensive me, at 5:30 AM, waiting to get prepped for surgery on March 22, a very auspicious date which I chose for my surgery to celebrate not only the new growth and returning light of springtime, but also to celebrate the birthday of an old friend who had very successful heart surgery long ago:

march_1


Me and my surgeon, just moments before being wheeled into the operating room:

march_2


The open heart surgery turned out to be quite an adventure.

I looked much happier going into surgery than when I came out:

CICU

During the first few hours after the surgery, apparently some of the surgeon's handiwork began to leak, and I lost a lot of blood while recovering in the Cardiac Intensive Care Unit. They decided to wait a while to see if my body could solve the problem without either a transfusion or further surgery. By the next day, the leak had stopped, but by then I had lost half of my blood, and they decided to just see if my body was strong enough to recover rather than take the risks involved in a transfusion (hematocrit dropped to 23% the day after surgery). I was very weak, and ended up staying in Cardiac Intensive Care for four nights (rather than the typical one night stay for most people).

And, as if that wasn't enough stuff going wrong, some debris in the blood stream, likely caused by the surgery, found it's way into one of my eyes, and produced a rather annoying (and distressing) blind spot, a small portion of my right eye vision is now just an opaque gray blob. Oh... heavy sigh.

My sister took me to the surgery, and she stayed with me for about 6 hours in Intensive Care after the surgery, although I have no recollection of her being there, or of most of the things that she tells me I did during that recovery period. She said that even with all the tubes, hoses and wires hooked to me, I would abruptly sit up, look around the room and start talking about all kinds of stuff. But, then at one point I opened my eyes (with a grateful sense of wonder and delight), looked around the room, and simply announced: "I am alive!" And that I do remember!

I can certainly understand if that does not seem to be much of an epiphany, because every fool clearly knows that they are alive. But this was something entirely different. I'm not even sure if I can explain it.... It arose not merely from observation, or learning, but it arose from a deep inner sense of gratitude and wonder. It was a total change of viewpoint. It was not a thought from the intellect, it was a message of wonder and awe from depths of the heart. Out beyond all concern for the mundane events of life, out beyond all clinging or resisting, out beyond all manner of thinking, there is the awesome wonder of life itself and our corresponding gratitude for the opportunity. Wow, what a treat it is to have this gift of life!

The biggest personal change that I've noticed since the surgery is a sense of wonder at the beauty of everything, the beauty of people, the beauty of nature. Over the weekend, the snow began to fall, and I found tears in my eyes as I gazed out into the beauty. And there I sat, crying at the beauty of a snowstorm!

I was released from the hospital, severely anemic from the blood loss, after a total of 6 nights. Arrrgg. Heavy sigh. This experience was not like the brochure! But at least I'm alive!


April

Didn't take any photos in April, I was totally occupied with recovering from last month's heart surgery, which created a variety of problems that I never expected.

After being home for only three days after the heart surgery, yet another pesky problem arrived in the form of Atrial Flutter, where the atria of the heart were wildly beating at around 260 beats per minute continuously, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Needless to say, that is not good, and the heart was not very efficient in that condition, making me feel even more tired. The surgeon's office gave me some drugs to try to help control the heart rate, but the medications were largely ineffective (and in the long run apparently caused considerable loss of muscle mass in the heart).

The surgeon said that sometimes the Atrial Flutter will stop on its own, but in my case it has not. So, all I can do is try as best I can  to recover from this unfortunate mess.

I am grateful to all who have helped me during this great adventure, and to those who sent get-well cards. The kindness, good wishes and prayers have truly been a blessing in my life.

 

May

I bought a new camera, a Lumix ZS60, to play with while this heart heals from the surgery.

Blue Heron looking for a meal along the irrigation ditch behind my house:

blue heron


A few early wildflowers and bushes beginning to bloom around Lake McIntosh:

may_wildflowers_1 may_wildflowers_2 may_wildflowers_3
may_wildflowers_4 may_wildflowers_5 may_wildflowers_6
may_wildflowers_7 may_wildflowers_8 may_wildflowers_9


Another Blue Heron, this one taking off at Lake McIntosh, about a mile from my home:

blue_heron_departing

Not really doing in very much in May because my heart is still in Atrial Flutter, with the atria flapping away at 260 to 280 beats per minute, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and even walking for just a few minutes at 1 mph makes me feel terrible. Nonetheless, I am enjoying the new camera.

I've lived a life of good health for the most part, and as a result have no doubt failed to fully comprehend the challenges and difficulties which other people encounter with their health issues. So, this whole process of recovery from surgery has made me much more aware of what it's like to have an uncooperative body and to be faced with challenges which are greater than one's own self and/or greater than what the medical trade knows how to treat. This isn't anything that I can fix, nor can I find any doctors who can fix it. It brought me back to faith... faith in Nature, faith in the body's God-given healing abilities. What a blessing! This continues to be a very humbling process!


June

Saw this lovely pelican on little Lake McIntosh near my home. I'm always amazed and amused that pelicans come to Colorado! In this image, I especially like the suggestion of a heart shape that the the neck and beak make with the reflection:

pelican_2


This process of recovery from the heart surgery has been very challenging and also quite interesting. I have been longing to be "like I was". But since I'm essentially coming back from the dead, being reborn, why oh why do I keep trying to just get back to who I already was before the surgery? I've already done that! Why not become something much better? I surely need to set my sights a bit higher!

A few days ago, when my heart rate was pounding out of control, beating like crazy due to atrial flutter, I went for a calming ride through the countryside, and when I got back home, these lines came to me, which attempt to summarize the feeling of that little journey along some delightful Colorado back roads:


Gazing across the verdant farm fields
in the long rays of
late afternoon amber sunlight
when without warning or fanfare
a sense of companionship
nay
a sense of oneness
with the waving grasses, the grazing cattle
the emerging wildflowers, the buzzing bees
the rippling waters, the gravel road
the trees, the birds
the earth, the sky
no self, no "other"
just a sense of wonder
at what is.

All of this, all of us
on an endless journey of becoming
(becoming this, becoming that)
a tapestry of transformation
amorphous, ephemeral
each moment a new creation
each moment anew.

Now that it has been 12 weeks since the heart surgery, and this Atrial Flutter still persists, it's time to try a procedure called Electro-Cardioversion to see if they can stop the Atrial Flutter. They couldn't do this procedure sooner because the heart, aorta and ribs needed time to heal before doing this procedure in which they basically electrocuted me using a defib machine to see if the heart would happen to restart in the proper rhythm... which it did! Yea! Now the Atrial Flutter is gone, hopefully forever. So, now I can begin to get some exercise, after three months of doing very little.


July

A Western Grebe, a fresh water diving bird, which seemed to spend more of its time underwater than on the surface...I especially enjoy the glowing red eye!

grebe


This was amusing. Fish herding! The pelican would swim toward the heron, and when a sufficient number of fish had been herded, they would both begin gulping them down. Then the pelican would swim away, wait a few moments and then do it all over again.

herding_1


Cute little Sandpiper. I just liked this pleasant composition:

sandpiper_1


What a treat! A family of Bald Eagles is living a couple of miles from my home, and I've been seeing them almost every day this month. What an intense gaze!

eagle_july_1


Soaring over the water, looking for brunch:

eagle_july_2


Looks like this Bald Eagle is panting in the heat of the day:

eagle_july_3

 

Yippee! My heart rate difficulties have now settled down enough that I'm able to go on some short hikes in the mountains. This is my first hike since the heart valve surgery, a total of about 7 or 8 km (4 miles), to see the wildflowers along Long Lake, at an altitude of about 3200 m (10,500 ft):

jul_hike_1


One of the most interesting aspects of the flowers along Long Lake is the wide variety of colors of the Indian Paintbrushes. For example, here are a couple of magnificent hot pink paintbrushes:

jul_hike_2


In contrast, these paintbrushes are more of a fleshy pink color, very unique:

jul_hike_3


Some lovely arnica:

jul_hike_4


And lots more flowers... this place is like a flower garden! Here are a few more:

jul_wildflowers_1 jul_wildflowers_2 jul_wildflowers_3
jul_wildflowers_4 jul_wildflowers_5 jul_wildflowers_6
jul_wildflowers_7 jul_wildflowers_8 jul_wildflowers_9
jul_wildflowers_10 jul_wildflowers_11 jul_wildflowers_12
jul_wildflowers_13 jul_wildflowers_14 jul_wildflowers_15
jul_wildflowers_16 jul_wildflowers_17 jul_wildflowers_18
jul_wildflowers_19 jul_wildflowers_20 jul_wildflowers_21
jul_wildflowers_22 jul_wildflowers_23 jul_wildflowers_24
jul_wildflowers_25 jul_wildflowers_26 jul_wildflowers_27

 


August

Another hike in the glorious Colorado mountains! Stopped at this lovely spot for a picnic along a hiking trail, not far from Mitchell Lake in the Indian Peaks Wilderness area.

picnic_spot_1

Here are some of the first wildflowers that I've been able to meet in the mountains this month:

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aug_wildflowers_4 aug_wildflowers_5 aug_wildflowers_6
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aug_wildflowers_13 aug_wildflowers_14 aug_wildflowers_15
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aug_wildflowers_19 aug_wildflowers_20 aug_wildflowers_21
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aug_wildflowers_25 aug_wildflowers_26 aug_wildflowers_27
aug_wildflowers_28 aug_wildflowers_29 aug_wildflowers_30
aug_wildflowers_31 aug_wildflowers_32 aug_wildflowers_33
aug_wildflowers_34 aug_wildflowers_35 aug_wildflowers_36
aug_wildflowers_37 aug_wildflowers_38 aug_wildflowers_39
aug_wildflowers_40 aug_wildflowers_52 aug_wildflowers_42
aug_wildflowers_43 aug_wildflowers_44 aug_wildflowers_45
aug_wildflowers_46 aug_wildflowers_47 aug_wildflowers_48
aug_wildflowers_49 aug_wildflowers_53 aug_wildflowers_51
aug_wildflowers_55 aug_wildflowers_59 aug_wildflowers_56
aug_wildflowers_61 aug_wildflowers_58aug_wildflowers_64
aug_wildflowers_60 aug_wildflowers_61 aug_wildflowers_63


Made it up to magnificent Blue Lake, near Ward Colorado, about a 10 km (6 mi) hike. Altitude at the lake is around 3400 m (11,300 ft). Beautiful day! There was not a cloud in the sky.

blue_lake_1


This pesky little thief had the courage to briefly scamper into an open pocket on my backpack hunting for treats:

aug_chipmonk

 

A look back at the recovery process:

During the first three months of the recovery from the heart surgery, while bumbling up and down my little street at my 1 mph full speed, I met and chatted with neighbors, played with dogs, and surveyed the flowers and trees and birds. And in every meeting, with people or dogs or flowers, there was precious charm and beauty! It was remarkable. I was so thankful just to be alive, just being able to hobble down the street was such a precious gift! I had the opportunity to discover beauty which I would have normally just driven right past.

And even now that I can walk at normal speed, and have been able to go on a few short hikes in the mountains, I can't help but be amazed and delighted that beauty is everywhere, if only the eyes and heart will respond to it! The wonders of hiking to Blue Lake up near Brainard were marvelous to enjoy, but they had no greater intrinsic beauty than the flowers and people and sights right here in my own little neighborhood.

I've been blessed with the opportunity to go to many beautiful places, see many beautiful sights and meet many beautiful people in this lifetime, but I must admit that I generally went to such places as if it is necessary to chase after beauty, that is, to go somewhere special, somewhere else, to see that beauty. I'm certainly grateful for all of those wonderful adventures, but now, after several months of staying near home, I see much more clearly the beauty which is present here and now. And that is a blessing!! And yet another humbling lesson! Nowadays, for me, the greater focus is on seeing things just exactly as they are, right here, right now, without judgment, without clinging and without resisting... just seeing events exactly as they are, right here and now.

So, although I wouldn't have chosen these medical problems for myself (or anyone else), this recovery process has turned out to be the source of many wonderful blessings!

 

September

On my window screen, seemingly looking at me, wondering what a strange creature he (or she) has encountered:

sep_grasshopper


I know it is useless to resist, but I'm really not ready for fall to arrive yet. Nonetheless, the trees in Rocky Mountain National Park are beginning to change colors in early September.

sep_leaves_1


Beautiful Bear Lake, high in Rocky Mountain National Park:

bear_lake


Native American rock art, in Moonflower Canyon near Moab, Utah... I wonder what it says???

rock_art_1


A lovely Scarlet Gilia flower near the petroglyphs... most of the other wildflowers are long gone after the heat of the summer in Utah:

gilia_600w


I saw this little beetle happily swimming several inches below the surface in a pool of water in Moonflower Canyon. Very cute little Sunburst Diving Beetle... which appears to be flying underwater with tiny wings!

 

October


Delicate Arch, viewed from the south side, in Arches National Park:

delicate


View from the Park Place trail, in Arches National Park:

park_place


Another splendid view in Arches National Park:

three towers


Lovely fall colors along the Dolores River, in Colorado:

dolores


Fall colors in the Colorado mountains, near Wolf Creek Pass:

wolf creek

 

 

November

A spectacular sunset over the Colorado mountains with brilliant crepuscular rays, as seen from my backyard:

nov sunset


Just some old coot that I saw at Lake McIntosh:

coot


Beautiful fall afternoon at Lake McIntosh, where I take a walk nearly every day. I'm still trying to improve my cardiovascular conditioning, so I walk/jog 3 to 5 miles every day around the lake:

november McIntosh

 


December

What a great adventure, this life! I had my 70th birthday this month... wow. That is a very big number! But, despite that big number, and despite the physical annoyances of aging, this has been a marvelous adventure so far!

God willing, next year will be even better!