Sunday, June 22, 2008

A central Oregon bouquet

I went on my last bike ride for awhile yesterday, cruising easily along the bucolic Metolius River where the old summer cabins along the bank are occupied with seasonal guests. The campgrounds are full and the wonderful scent
of wood fires float across the road. I'm in no hurry as I want to savor this day and contemplate what lies ahead with my knee surgeries. It's strange to be at peace with the constant dull pain that now does not subside even when I'm on the bike like it used to. Change is coming.
I carried my Canon point-and shoot camera in the hope of making a couple of pictures. On the gradual ascent out of the Camp Sherman basin the wildflowers became increasingly abundant and colorful. Central Oregon is in the midst of a wildflower bloom that has not been seen in many years. The long winter and
schizophrenic spring have given back in a fantastic spread of Lupine, Indian Paintbrush, Monkeyflower, sunflowers and a myriad of other tiny species. As I was nearing the top of the final hill before the last five miles from home I spotted a large spread of lupine in an area where a controlled burn happened a couple of years ago. I went back this morning with Diane to photograph the scene. It occurred to me that I was walking through gift of flowers before the surgery. I prefer that to a bouquet in a hospital room. By the time I'm mobile again the bloom will be gone. In time I will be able to hike into the wilderness to see more of the beauty of this area. For now, the wildflower field will sustain me.

There is one big downside to this surgery event: I will have little to photograph or write about. I cannot imagine that anyone really cares
to hear very much about molybdenum/plastic knees, physical therapy and rehabilitation or the countless number of sports programs and old movies I'll watch. Actually, I am looking forward to watching the Tour de France, Wimbeldon and the Olympics. That's a fair line-up of acceptable television options. I'll also entertain weird and off-beat suggestions from those who just can't pass up the opportunity to poke fun at a stationary target.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

How did I get here?

One year ago I began this blog as my personal method of deciphering what "retirement" is all about. I had no grand design or preconceived notion about what I would show or say to anyone who might have the slightest passing interest. As this blog evolved I realized that there were people out there who would read the blog if it was thoughtful,
conscientious and combined with documentary photography. So, that being said, this posting takes an abrupt inward turn; it is about me, rather than what's around me. One week from now my life will never be the same. Actually, every day is like that but the subtle daily changes everyone's lives are barely noticed. Back to my point: On June 23rd I will have the first of two total knee joint replacement surgeries. Degeneratve arthritis in both knees has progresses to the point where the procedure is imperative. That a solution is available and is done regularly with a high success rate is incredible. I wince at the thought of the predicament people were in 10 or 20 years ago or longer. Did they just finally give up, sit in a wheelchair or suffer silently until they died of something else?
Modern medicine is my version of a miracle. I have been reflecting for a long
time about what occurred to bring me to this moment when I am willing and eager to let a surgeon essentially amputate my leg, remove the knee joint and insert a titanium replacement. I went back through some old photographs of me (there aren't all that many) because I know I have led a exuberant and energetic life. Perhaps I

should have acted on the advice of a physical therapist in my college days who said that I should not be a runner because I had such lousy knees and flat feet. My favorite quote rings in my head, "the years teach what the days can never know." Yet, I don't regret a minute of the places I've been and the great people who were there with me at the time. The photographs I've chosen represent periods in my physical life. (1) an instructor in the Colorado Outward Bound School, summer 1972; photographing the EA Ranch in North Park. Colorado, the homestead of my long-time friend Ed Howard, summer 1974; at the Kentucky Derby Balloon festival, May 1977; running around Lake Union in Seattle during a trip to cover the University of Kentucky men's basketball team in the Final Four, March 1984; the last day of the ascent of El Capitan in Yosemite National Park when I was photographing Mark Wellman, the first paraplegic climber to make the summit; completing my second (and last) Markleeville Death Ride, a one-day, 15,000' of elevation gain over during a 130 mile cycling event, July 2005. What comforts me is that the last of the disciplines I've enjoyed (cycling, mountaineering, climbing, running, skiing, and a rigorous professional life) cycling is what saved me from the operating table for at least five years. I kept my quadriceps strong which supported the knee joints, allowing me to continue working and riding. I rode to live, to work, to eat, to rest and ride again. I did save the best for last. It was hard to give up running yet an obvious decision when knee pain overtakes the will to put on the shoes and head out to the road. Cycling was more than a substitute; it became a passion. Cycling was the only time I could actually be pain free, at least in the knees. Completing centuries was easier than walking a half-mile. I have one job now for the rest of 2008. Rehab. Everything else is behind me now. The home projects are done, Allison is here and working. Our plan which began almost four years ago is still real and happening, day by day. I am totally ready of for the next phase of "moving on."

Saturday, June 07, 2008

We'll not pass this way again.

June, 1964. I graduated from North High School at a ceremony at the Denver Auditorium. Fast forward to June 6, 2008 and the commencement tradition continues. Allison graduates from C.K. McClatchy High School at a ceremony at the Sacramento Memorial Auditorium. Forty-four years in the interim with all the life of ups and downs that the commencement
speeches predicted. The valedictory addresses stay on the same theme and the passing of time will enforce the wave of changes that the speakers ask the Class of 2008 to embrace. I realize this is the final high school graduation ceremony for my children I'll attend with so many memories attached. My sons, Jesse
and Josh graduated from schools in Louisville, Kentucky years ago and I have photographs of those times. There are no pictures from my 1964 ceremony so I only have fading memories of that day. I recall my group of friends I went out with after the event. Steve Holmes, Mike Mapelli, Dave Wendelin and Gene Heinemeyer. We bought some beer, went out to golf course and
sat on the 15th green, looked at the stars and laughed about all the crazy things we'd done. We were chased off by a guard and all went home. I never saw any of them again. Allison was surrounded by her cadre of friends and calling others she can't find in the crowd on her cell phone. Parents and friends are constantly snapping group of seniors who may never be this close again. The gravity of the moment and the relentless change that all of the
seniors will experience is not being considered. The good-byes begin one hug at a time. One of the speakers said that he was looking forward to reunions in 20 and 40 years to see how his classmates managed their lives. He's got it right. The end of high school is the beginning of adult life. Yea, there is still college, mainly supported by parents, but the shift toward independency begins, for most, after the senior year in high school. I remember leaving two days after graduation for the summer to attend an rigorous instructor training course at the Colorado Outward Bound School. I stayed on there to work in course support and logistics and then came back to Denver two days before entering the University of Colorado at Boulder. I never missed high school like Allison will. I only looked back at my high school days at the 10, 20 and 40 year reunions and at each succeeding one it was clear that the only journey that I could fully connect with was my own. As a parent I can only watch and sometimes advise and bring my perspective to Jesse, Josh and Allison who are also "moving on."