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Winter’s Solstice

Life is many things: experiences, adventures, joys, sorrows, horrors, serenity, chaos, gain, loss, growth, failures, and a long list more. We “progress” through life, perhaps unwillingly at times, but at least in our dimension, time is linear. We prove ourselves and we let ourselves down. And hopefully, we learn.

When life is routine and just “rolling along” it can be difficult to remember this; we tend to mentally drift forwards and backwards in time with our thoughts. But what needs to remain in the forefront of your thoughts at all times is that it is a one direction journey and you cannot – as hard as you may try – control either the speed or the completion of it. As badly as you may want to go back, you cannot. As much as you might wish to hurry up and get past something hard or difficult or trying, you cannot. And you never know when the pen has been put to paper for your personal last chapter, it can come at any time.

My take on life is certainly not revolutionary or unique; I am merely restating and paraphrasing thoughts and ideas I’ve read and heard throughout my lifetime. There were times in my life when I sought recognition and acclaim – to be remembered for… whatever. But to what end? I guess if I found the cure for cancer I’d appreciate being remembered for that, but the truth is that the desired remembrance is for having helped so many. But in my chosen line of work, I was a small cog in a massive machine that built the finest nuclear submarines in the world. There is little place for lasting remembrances there.

And that’s fine because, so what? You helped build something – good for you. Right? That’s what being remembered for at work really means – little to nothing. But was does matter? What matters is who you were, not what you were. It’s how you treated the people in your life that matters. It’s the nature of your nature that matters: kind, helpful, caring, trusting and trustworthy, honest, non-judgmental, forgiving, and responsible. Of all the epitaphs to have, perhaps “He Was a Good Guy” might be the most desirable?

I began this particular post a while back (as per my usual). Since starting it, I’ve had my annual physical. And let me tell you, aging continues to really suck! Blood pressure is elevated, cholesterol is elevated, and my damn PSA is elevated – again. It is supposed to be below 2.0. Mine crept above that point years ago and has continued a steady, but slow, climb – into the 3’s and then the 4’s and up. I had settled in the 5-6 range when it shot up to 12, and then 13, about a couple of years ago or so.

I had a biopsy (negative happily) and shortly after the levels returned into the 6’s where they stayed for 3 or 4 consecutive tests. Until last week when I rolled in with a value of 11 – twice. So… we go again with the anxiety and worry. I really, really don’t want another biopsy – that was quite unpleasant, but if I must, I must. I’ll find out what the doctor wants to do in a week. Fingers (and legs) crossed! However I won’t know what the doctor will want to do until January 2nd as he had to reschedule my appointment earlier this week.

I did manage to get out for a hike recently: my 30th hike of the year and this 13.3-miler put me over 350 trail miles for the year. I hope to get out at least two more times before the closeout of 2023. I am not sure why, but I struggled a little bit on this one – mostly my legs feeling tired and weak. Not a lot, but on one stretch of this particular hike there are a series of quite challenging elevation changes: long stretches of uphill at fairly steep angles. And since I did the hike as an out and back, I had to do them all twice – at the end of the outbound leg none the less. I usually “feel” these areas when I hike here, but really don’t ever struggle.

I suspect the root cause resides in the activities of the previous day; I wrapped Christmas presents for approx. six hours, on the floor. And that equates to a ton of bending, squatting, kneeling, getting up, getting back down, over and over again. My legs and hips were sore at the end of my wrapping marathon and still so in the morning when I got up. So I have no doubt that the previous day carries most all of the blame for my struggles on the trail!

It is a marvelous time of the year to hike from several perspectives. The leaves are all gone and the forest lays bare, skeletal even, with only the occasional evergreen remaining to obscure the views. Things normally never seen from the trail reveal themselves this time of the year: ledges, foundations and cellar holes, and other interesting things to see.

Another huge joy in hiking this time of the year is the light. With such a low sun angle as we approach the solstice, photos taken at almost anytime during the day often produce stunning results. There is an undeniably enchanting magic about the winter’s light.

But the downside, while staying on the subject of light, is how rapidly the day turns to night. In the summer, my only concern with the time of day is just about getting home when I said I would and not missing supper. But in the winter, it can be so frightfully easy to find yourself still 5 or 6 miles from the truck and the sun setting. Many of my hikes are in the 6-hour range but some of the longer hikes can hit 8 hours or more. Not planning for darkness by 4:30 can leave one hiking in the dark!

Although the light of day is short, and the temperatures are cold (at least up here in the Northeast, there is still much to be gained by getting out into the woods, into nature. Stay well dear reader!

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