Wednesday, August 10, 2016

A Wicked Impressive Woman!

A Wicked Impressive Woman!
Copyright 2016 by Lori-Ann Willey

I’ve always been a sap. If someone cries, I’m teary-eyed with them. If someone is in pain, I’m cringing and holding my breath, too. It is just the way I’m wired, I guess. So, when I tuned on my laptop this morning and saw an article that read, Paralyzed Woman Hikes Appalachian Trail, I gasped in disbelief. I wondered the validity of the story, but nonetheless, I found myself sitting in front of my laptop with the story opened for reading. I’m such a sap for such inspirational, against all odds kind of stories.

My first question, other than wondering if the story was real or not, were questions like: How can she do that? She must have human aides helping her? Does she carry her own pack? How paralyzed is paralyzed? Those questions still go unanswered, but I figured if I followed her journey, I’d have my answers. 

Thankfully, I reminded myself that paralyzed is not the same as being a paraplegic. A paraplegic is what Paul is. Paraplegia is the loss of muscle function in the lower half of the body, including both legs. Paralyzed is partly or whole incapable of movement. Once I got that sorted out inside my head, I had a better “visual”, so to speak, but that didn’t matter. I was, and still am, very impressed with the woman I am about to introduce.

Ohio resident, Stacy Kozel is not only the subject of this entry, but she is A Wicked Impressive Woman, too! Two years ago, Lupus left Ms. Kozel paralyzed from the waist down. Despite no feelings in her legs, in 2014, with braces attached, she navigated Mt. Katahdin! That, is an impressive accomplishment! Now, with new style braces, she is hiking the entire Appalachian Trail. If you don’t already know, the trail starts in the state of Georgia and ends upon our beloved Mt. Katahdin in Maine. The same mountain that I photograph almost daily.

“My goal is to bring awareness to these braces and hopefully get more people out of wheelchairs and out exploring the world,” she wrote. “When insurance companies deny people due to ‘it is not necessary’, I hope my story will prove the opposite.” - Stacy Kozel

Reading those words sank my heart. I could relate in an able-bodied kind of way, and Paul can relate in a disabled-body kind of way. Paul is in a wheelchair, and he has Lupus, too. Thankfully, his lupus is in remission, but all his other medical issues are not. His daily life is a struggle with chronic symptoms. My daily struggle is watching him suffer with it all. Like always, instantly, my “Mommy Nurture Mode” kicked in while reading her story.

Little does Stacy admit in the article; her story brings more awareness than of those braces that she wears. Her story is one of determination, self-fulfillment, encouragement, stamina, and inspiration to name just a few words of awe off the top of my head. Her story triggers a wide array of emotions within me, too. I’ve seen the struggle in Paul and automatically felt her struggle. Empathy is both a blessing and a curse for me.

After reading through the article (Linked below), I felt the need to make sure you all know her story. Stacy is a perfect example of all that I “preach” to many. Life is filled with obstacles, but if we dig deep enough, hard enough, and for long enough, we can find a way to overcome, or at least, make the best of any situation. It may not be in a traditional manner, but does that matter? No. No matter the ability, or disability, with a determined mindset, you’ll be surprised just how much is possible in any given situation.

Like us, Stacy posts her story publicly. I can’t speak for her, but our story is an “open book”, so to speak. One phrase we’ve used many times is, if we can do it, so can you. Our struggles with Paul’s health and living off the grid make us stronger in a lot of ways. Some of you may think we are bonkers, but I, for one, understand Ms. Kozel’s mindset and I applaud it greatly! Her story, like so many, touched this sappy heart of mine. I feel it would be wrong of me to keep it to myself and not share it with you. Though her Appalachian journey will officially end at the summit of Mt. Katahdin, her overall journey is just getting started, and I have a feeling this won’t be the last time we read her name!

Hats off to you, Stacy!

Share this Inept Blog entry so others can follow and offer Stacy support, too!

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Sunday, July 31, 2016

Where Did Bernie Go?

Where Did Bernie Go?
Copyright 2016 by Lori-Ann Willey

DISCLOSURE - These are my personal thoughts and opinions. No one has to agree or disagree. I simply ask that you show the same respect that I show you. Thank you.

DNC = Democratic National Convention
RNC = Republican National Convention

"Poor Bernie", and I meant it when I said that many days ago. However, since then, I’ve had somewhat a change of heart. I watched and heard Bernie’s passion magnify through the microphone during his speeches over the past few months. He was very passionate about his beliefs, and he had many supporters that believed in his passion as well. The man said all along that the political system is rigged. Donald Trump insists the same, as did a few other candidates.

WikiLeaks proved that both men, who were the most ardent in their accusations, are correct. The system IS rigged, or at least to a certain extent. I think it quite ironic, that yet another email system, was broken into, and not just recently, but at least for the past year or so. That, on top of the “loss” of so many of Mrs. Clinton’s emails, it appears that the hacker(s) may have been perpetrated, not by Americans, but by another country -a communistic country at that. 

Honestly, at first, after the WikiLeaks, I felt bad for Mr. Sanders and his supporters. Though I did not support all that he stood for, I could see why he won over so many of our American’s. He had passion. The same type of passion that Mr. Trump displays. Though some may disagree, to me, their styles were quite similar …their words, not so much. Either way, in today’s world, it seems if someone has passion then that means they must be “angry”. Both Mr. Sanders and Mr. Trump were/are both considered “angry” people. Why, because they display passion? Stop the labels!

It is very sad and unfortunate that the self-proclaimed “outsider”, Mr. Sanders, was shoved out the system as he was. Who helped push him out? The same DNC committee that is supposed to be unbiased to all Democratic Presidential hopefuls. Case in point, a corrupt system. It is not just the chairwoman, Debbie Wasserman Schultz who was at fault, I guess there were emails from several others within the committee as well. Emails about religion, race, etc. I find it all a huge disgrace to all Americans, not just Mr. Sanders and his supporters, though they were directly targeted.

What somewhat confuses me, is that I found myself surprised that Mr. Sanders left the Presidential race so quickly and easily as he did. He knew the system was corrupt. He had proof. The world had proof, but he did not continue to fight against the corrupt system. Instead, he caved and left the presidential race. I have to wonder just what “someone” held over his head that he did not want exposed?

What I don’t understand either, is that after learning that he was indeed pushed (helped) out the door by corruptness, he turned his support to Mrs. Clinton, an obvious favorite in the DNC Committee. He supported Mrs. Clinton despite knowing that she hired Senator Debbie Wasserman Schultz as an honorary chairman of her 50-State program. She is the same Senator Schultz that was fired from the DNC Committee for corruptness against Mr. Sanders himself! Not to mention the 250 Sanders Delegates that walked away from the convention that evening. For some reason, he is a more gracious, more forgiving, more accepting, and a ‘bigger man’ than I would be. It would be interesting to learn just why he stepped down so easily. I thought he was against all the corruption? I thought he was passionate in his beliefs?

When, in a public arena, with media attending, Mr. Sanders asked his supporters to turn their support to Mrs. Clinton. As expected, his supporters outraged. They had every right to be angry. For months, Bernie reminded about the corruptness, now, he asked them to support it …to be a part of it? I’d be outraged if I were asked to be a part of a corrupt system, too!

If Mr. Bernie Sanders chose not to stand up against a corrupt system, how can he stand up for his supporters? I can understand, somewhat, Bernie’s stance, ‘for a better cause’, for a “unified party”, blah, blah, blah, but to condone the corruptness he so adamantly scorned? Maybe, I just don’t get it. 

Then, if that was not shocking enough, a few days later, Mr. Sanders reclaimed his Independence title again? So, he actually left the Democratic Party after literally handing over all his votes to Mrs. Clinton? To me, that is a wicked sell-out of all his supporters. They had a very good reason to be upset. What a slap in the face! I say that and I wasn’t even one of his handed-off supporters.

I have questions …a lot of them. What actually took place “behind the scenes” is anyone’s guess, but eventually, the truth will come emerge. I heard some of his supporters speculate that maybe Bernie was diagnosed with an illness. Maybe he was threatened. Maybe he was paid off. Maybe, like Mr. Trump states, he was tired. The maybes could go on forever, and it is not fair for any of us to suggest any one of them as fact. Maybe, we will never know. I guess it doesn’t matter much now anyways. Bernie left the race, left his supporters, and then, left the Democratic Party. In the end, Mr. Sanders chose what he considers, the better of two evils, Clinton over Trump. That seemed to be his bottom line. 

The word “defeat” is not one that is readily available in my vocabulary. So, a supporter of Mr. Sanders or not, I am greatly disappointed. 

Like so many of you, I stand for what is right, moral and just. So many brave men and women died, and will continue to die for the sake of our freedom and constitutional rights. That (our) freedom does not always come in a pretty bag or from coddling words. Nor does it stem from lies so easily sewn by some, or by their cover ups. That freedom comes from not only the delivery of the cold, harsh facts but from trusted words of courage and encouragement to seek change, to have the yearning that all are held accountable for upholding the laws of our great Constitution. Not to mention moral guidelines. The fact that no one person, or persons, no matter whom they are, is exempt from the laws is supposed to govern each and every one of us the same. No Mattah, No Mattah! 

Democracy means equality and fairness. It means we all have a voice and we should all use that voice to help this country more forward to better days. It is, however, not a permission to use corruption to scheme ahead in the world. Unfortunately, that kind of stuff is what democracy represents to so many people. The mentality of too many is, “If I can get away with it, I will, and if I can’t, then I will lie”. Democracy is a great thing when morals are considered! I have a voice. You have a voice. We all have a voice. We all have a right to use those voices and make choices, yes, but not for selfish reasons, but for the good of all. Not to slander each other or to see who can be the most degrading and get the loudest applause for those words! That is how I think anyways. 

With all that said, if I were a Mr. Sanders fan when he gave his votes away to Mrs. Clinton, I would have been upset that he dictated my vote for me. That was wrong. Instead, in his speech, he should have encouraged his supporters to vote with their hearts and mind, but he didn’t. I mean, he already gave his votes away, therefore dictating their choice for them. I didn’t like that, but maybe you see it differently than I do.

I understand Mr. Trump’s passion. I understood Mr. Sander’s passion, too. So many American’s are mistaking PASSION as anger and that frustrates me. Is that a fair assumption to make? No. It isn’t. Passion to me is determination and a heartfelt want to do better, to be better, to exceed expectations of yourself and of others. For, if this country, our Flag, as well as our citizens and non-citizens, are not worth the fight, or the passion, then what is? Who is? It is not an I nation, but a We nation. 

Mr. Sanders turned to the idea of a ‘greater cause’ -to have another Democrat in the White House. What happened to your fight against corruption? You fought hard to expose it, to rid it, now you support it? Huh? For the sake of “unification” of the Democratic party? Staunch is staunch, but that is just it. Bernie is NOT staunch enough to keep that Democrat party label after turning over his own supporters! Especially not if he so quickly adopted the Independence label again. So, why dictate your votes to the Democratic party? Do you despise, or fear, Trump that much? Is it because he, too, is an “outsider”, just not as much of an outsider as you say you were? Or is it because he does not have the political experience you do? Sometimes, lack of experience is a HUGE advantage, not a disadvantage. Lack of experience does NOT mean lack of effort or knowledge. Don’t so quickly dismiss that underdog until he, or she, dismisses themselves first.

My hope is that all the Mr. Sanders supporters actually realize WHY he so quickly adopted the Independence party again while still supporting the Democrats and the same ol’ system. By doing that, what is he REALLY saying? Is it, his own way of saying, “Don’t vote Democrat or Republican”? I don’t know the man, but that is what I take out of his quickness to claim Independent party. Again, I’m not a politician or political analyzer, but, I do have my own opinions and ponderings just as you do, but I bet a lot of self-proclaimed experts will jump all over this writing and tell me just how ignorant I am. Case in Point once again.

Back to the DNC Committee scandal for a moment. One woman at the DNC rally actually kept her hands, as if tied, behind her back and put a piece of tape over her mouth that read, "Silenced". She was upset that the Bernie Delegates went through the DNC attendees and told them to tone down the “Boo’s” when Mrs. Clinton’s name was mentioned. They were also told not to spew "Lock her up”. I understand the show of integrity, but where was that integrity when Bernie supporters had all those riots that went awry? Where was his dignity then, when he should have put a stop to it all, or at least tried? Aside from that, Mr. Sanders supporters were not only silenced, but they were cheated by the DNC committee. If that was not bad enough, their leader asked them to vote for corruption that helped push him out of the race, too? 

Are you saying, Mr. Sanders, that you do not want your supporters heard unless they agreed to support Mrs. Clinton? To not have a voice of their own? To not fight for you? Do as I say and do as I do? I am not a pawn of any political party, and if I were a Bernie supporter, I’d be quite upset. I believe that the act of silencing the supporters, for integrity purposes or not, lost him a great deal of respect in other ways, too. It is all a political game, and I’m afraid that Mr. Sanders is just another example of that. I guess, in a way, I can appreciate that, but in so many ways, I don’t. It just goes to show the corruptness all around. Yes, I am constantly shaking my head over this entire presidential campaign. I just don’t understand the moral aspects of their doings thus far. Maybe, I never will.

Don’t worry, I will voice my unhappiness about Mr. Trump and Mrs. Clinton, too, but neither will be today.

Friday, July 15, 2016

Appreciate Everything. Then, Appreciate More.

Copyright 2016 by Lori-Ann Willey

MORNING ROUTINE

This morning was just one of those days when the rewards of our lifestyle were paid in full. The current world events only further encourage the topic of appreciation. Every time there is a tragic event, grand scale or not, we all have that sense of appreciation …relief, if you will, that whatever happened, did not happen to you or a loved one. That is natural. Unfortunately, we need tragedy to appreciate good fortune. Sad as that may seem, it is true.

When I awoke this morning, I realized the day had already started without me. Disappointed that I had slept past sunrise, I let out a long, slow sigh. I had missed the dawning of a new day that I so enjoy …the blackness that ever so slowly reveals such brightness and beauty around our small camouflaged camp nestled at the edge of this beautiful, cold-water lake. Paul was sleeping so soundly, that I watched, and then, waited for that shallow rise and fall of his chest. Only then, would I allow myself to slither stealth-like from the bed and out of the bedroom with ease.

After making my bladdah-gladdah, I walked toward the front side of the camp, flipped the wall switch to the up position, and then, turned on my laptop before I walked to the sliding glass door. That is my daily routine day in and day out. After I looked around for critters in waiting, I grabbed a couple of peanuts and slipped them into shirt. I needed two hands to operate the camera. The clouds over the mountain were unique this morning and they grabbed my attention. Before I snapped my second picture, a chippy trotted my way. Instinctively, I reached inside my top and pulled out two peanuts for the critter. While he took his time wetting them before he shoved each into his cheeks, I took the time to rub behind his tiny little ears with my fingertips.

While coffee “perked”, I was surprised that Paul was up and ready to face the day, too. I wondered if he realized what time it was. Neither is used to him up that early, but I always like when he is more vertical than horizontal for sure. Together, we enjoyed our first cup of coffee today. Usually, I take my time sipping the first cup, and then, wait to have my second coffee with Paul. After asking how he slept, and then, how he was feeling, I asked him about the latest France news. He told me the new death toll and then added, “more expected”. My heart sank even more. “UGH!” I spouted. “So sad”.

With much debate inside my head, I decided to dip into town this morning. Paul ordered me a new style full-faced snorkel mask, because the one I have started leaking last summer. A leaking mask is not so fun when water seeps quickly around the nostrils! Although he rarely goes swimming, himself, I encouraged him to spend the extra money and buy a mask, too … “just in case”. I will always encourage him to be more active if he can. I’m always ready with that “boot”.

THE DEBATE

The trip into town was not as dreaded as it usually is. Knowing Paul wasn’t going to travel with me today, I left with a small box in hand. “I’m going to stop to pick blossoms on the way back through”, is what I told him, but his mind was on other more important things, so I do not believe he heard me, though I know he saw the box. I knew that if I was gone longer than he expected, then he’d figure it out or message me via phone to make sure all was OK.

COLLECTING FIREWEED

I stopped a few times on the way to town and studied the tiny patches of fireweed as I saw them. I not only wanted the fireweed blossoms, but navigation had to be easy and safe, too. My travel speed upon return was a faster one, because I already knew where I could stop and gather blossoms and where I couldn’t. I stopped at one spot, but upon approach by foot, I realized the blossoms stood on the other side of a poison ivy patch. Before that ivy patch was a large area of ripe wild strawberries, too! Upon closer inspection, I saw moose tracks that traveled through all three areas. As much as I wanted to pick a pint of ripened wild berries, that ivy oil would spread onto the plants as the moose trampled through. It was not worth the risk.

A MOOOSIE VISITOR

Further down the road, I came to the only jewelweed patch that was easily accessible. I only needed about a cup of blossoms, but I would pick as many as I could easily reach. While picking, I heard a moose approach to my left. The first thing I did was assess the air current. I grinned when it was from a direction that would not alert the moose of my human scent. Even still, the ground upon which I stood was soft from the recent rains so I took full advantage of that softness. Quickly, yet subtle-like, I worked my foot to loosen the soil in hopes to mask my scent a bit more in case the air currents shifted.

That decision was debatable, because, on the one hand, I wanted to mask my scent, but on the other hand, I know that wild animals, are attracted to freshly scuffed soil. I didn’t want to discourage the beast’s approach, but I did not want it stepping on my feet either. If the beast could not smell my human scent, maybe the smell of freshly dug soil would filter through the bull or cow’s nostrils and it would approach the area with a bit of caution. No matter what, there is always an element of surprise and unpredictability. Plainly put, one just never knows. My safest bet was to return to the truck and watch from there, but I wasn’t finished picking the blossoms yet. Therefore, like I have a habit of doing, I justified my decision to stay put.

It wasn’t long before the beautiful cow moose came into view about 30 feet from where I stood. I knew I was on a downslope and there was a mound between us, but as it was, I was head deep and nearly hidden. Luckily for me, the mound between the beast and I was covered by three to four-foot plants of a different type. The cow stopped at the edge of the woods with just her chest, neck, and head in view of me. Obviously, she had spotted me and didn’t think I was much of a threat to her. Still, I continued my blossom picking as I craned my head to see if she had a little calf to protect. If she did, it was either too small to see or it was hidden behind her bulkiness.

The cow stood motionless. I watched her ears. They stood tall. I tried to see the back of her neck. The hair laid beautifully flat. Her head remained in a normal curious posture. After about a minute, we deemed each other as no immediate threat. My box full. I had more than enough for jelly-making. To collect more would mean I would have to take a few steps in her direction and that was something I was not willing to do. Calf or no calf, I was not going to ruin her trust.

Before turning around, I asked, “Do you have a baby with you?” Then, without pause, I asked another question, “Am I picking your snacks, or are you just passing through?” She did not seem alarmed at my human voice, body shape, or slow movement. I wondered if the fresh scent of dirt at my feet confused her. She did not answer my questions, but she did twitch her ears in acknowledgment as I spoke. At that distance, I watched intently for any subtle change in her body language, and I listened very closely for any faint frog-like chirp sounds of warning to her baby if one was indeed near her. I was confident that it was safe to walk away. Every few seconds or more, I turned my head to the right just enough to see that she stayed put. After a few steps, I turned my head when I heard her hefty body snap a few limbs in movement. She had turned around just as I had. I was quite disappointed that I did not have either my phone or little camera in my pockets at the time. The pants I wore to town have loose shallow pockets and it was safer to keep my “toys” inside the truck and not lost somewhere in the thick plant growth.

THE SNAPPER

Further down the road, I saw a basketball sized snapper walking the road in the opposite direction. I stopped beside him and spoke. Surprisingly, the turtle did not withdraw its body parts into its shell. Instead, when I greeted him, he turned his head in my direction and stared at me. Unfortunately, that is the only interaction he’d grant me today. When he started to scurry away, I took the hint and coasted a few feet before I gently used the accelerator. Respect and appreciation go both ways.

THE SWIM RETRIEVAL

Once at camp, Paul inspected the snorkel masks and deemed them not damaged. He agreed that steak bombs sounded like a good lunch, so it was not long before I had the veggies chopped and cooking in a cast iron skillet. When lunch was ready to scoop into buns, Paul noticed something white floating in the water on the other side of the dam. Even with binoculars, he could not tell what the object was. Lunch, hot and ready didn’t matter. I knew that whatever it was, it was up to me to play fetch. At first, Paul thought it was trash, and then, thought maybe it looked like a fish, but when I looked, it looked like a dead duck floating on its back with one foot partially sticking out of the water. The lake was wavy, so it was not an easy view even with binoculars.

I grabbed my camera and tried to zoom in on the object, but still, no identification. With camera in hand, I walked to the end of the dock, but even from there, the wind and waves continued to conceal the object. There was no hesitation. I told Paul I was going “in”. As I grabbed my snorkel fins, Paul yelled down, “Grab the net while you are there.” My thoughts were, “Huh? I’ll drown trying to swim with that thing!”, but still, I grabbed it in passing just the same, and then, called out, “You’ll have to take my camera really quick because whatever it is, it is moving pretty fast.” He met me at the top of the stairs and with a quick hand off of the camera, I was fast-footing it to our beachy area. Entering the water there meant a longer swim, but it was by far a safer way to enter the water. The net has a name. We call it the “The Nancy Net”. (The Nancy Net is a tangle-free rubber net that measures about 18”x20” on a six-foot metal pole. We call it a Nancy Net because we bought it from the owners of Two Rivers Canoe and Tackle. The owners are husband and wife. People call him, “The Bear”. Nancy is his wife and both are friends of ours. Nancy is the one who introduced us to the rubber net. Therefore, “The Nancy Net” was born).

I was in the water with fins on my feet in no time. With the “Nancy Net” in one hand and my underwater camera tucked into the top part of my suit, my swim was clumsy. Only then was I thankful for help the winds and waves gave. Paul hollered that he would wait at the end of the dock and take the net after I scooped the debris from the water. For that, I was especially thankful, because I had no idea how I was going to swim against those waves.

After about 20 feet in the water, my back started to spasm something awful. I told myself that I was on a mission …and I was already in the water so I was not going to turn back. Luckily, I was able to initiate relief by reaching with my free hand and putting pressure upon the spasm while I drifted to a nearby submerged rock. There, I rested upon my belly and let my body go limp as I continued to put pressure upon the decreasing muscle spasm. Soon, I was swimming again. The object was further away, but “catch-up-to-able” at least. By then, we both had concluded that it was probably a dead fish, but neither could tell just what kind. As I approached, I will be honest and tell you that I thought about the snapping turtle we saw next to the boat this morning. It was probably the same one that Paul saw a few feet further out last evening, but we can’t be sure. The snapper this morning was hunting baby ducks! That was quite impressive to watch. He failed, but it didn’t mean that this “fish” wasn’t a baby duck either.

Believe it or not, I still could not identify the floating object until I used the net and brought it closer for a photo. I told Paul, “It’s a dead fall fish, I think”, but as I handed the net handle to Paul, he said it was a sucker. His view was obviously better than mine. Either way, it was dead and either way, I had it in a net. I told Paul, “I’ll put it in my compost”, but he already knew my intent. He is funny like that. He knows my love for making compost, and when we have “company” visiting, he will make sure to announce that anything biodegradable goes into the compost pail. I have to laugh at that because it took a LONG time to get him into the habit of composting such things. Now, it is fun to hear him preach the same lecture to others.

Dripping wet, I brought the fish to my latest compost pile, dug a hole to the bottom and deposited the fish before covering it back up. However, in the process, I noticed a big chunk was bitten off near the base of the tail fin. No doubt, our Mr. Turtle had already taken a bite. Upon returning to camp, Paul had made my sandwiches. I thanked him for his help and in return, he thanked me for cooking lunch.

APPRECIATE MORE

When I sat down to eat, it was just after 12pm. My day was already complete. Today is just one of those days when you take in all the ugliness in the world, and find a way to appreciate your life even more. I am always so truly amazed that just when I think I cannot feel any more appreciation, more sneaks in and leaves me in awe. As with love, appreciation has no limits. It is up to us to realize it. See it. Feel it, and then, find our own way to share it. That is why this lengthy blog entry. I wanted to share my appreciation of everything I was able to see, do, and feel today.

With all the yuckies in the world today, find a way to appreciate life any way you can, and then, find a way to appreciate it even more.


Tuesday, July 12, 2016

While My Coffee "Perked"...

Copyright 2016 by Lori-Ann Willey

While My Coffee “Perked”, I Stepped Outside into the fresh, cool mid-July morning air.

This morning, with a few peanuts in my hand, I stood barefoot on the wet deck as Bebe, the red squirrel, danced around my cold feet. He hoped for a peanut and I hoped not to disappoint his wants.  When his four feet stepped upon mine, I was not surprised that they were very cold and wet, too.   I grinned, bent over and greeted the little guy with an anxious, yet warm, “G’d Mawnin’, Bebe!”  It was then that my body no longer felt as cold as it had a few seconds before.  In an instant, my heart warmed more quickly than the heart of the scrooge-like Grinch (How the Grinch Stole Christmas) did on that very cold Christmas day.  My mind no longer thought about the cold deck boards or the chilled morning air. The young squirrel brought instant warmth, just as my foot, my voice, and that peanut probably brought him warmth, too.

After Bebe left to deposit his snack cache, I leaned over the deck rail and peered closer at the cranberry blossoms.  They rested in four large, cut-off rain barrels some six feet below where I stood.  Still as shaded as I was, the tiny blossoms seemed to radiate a subtle, yet crisp-edge glow against the darkened, wet soil from which they grew.  With a smile upon my face, I prided myself with the successful transfer from the wild.  The soil, hand-made from the collection of natural woodland debris throughout the years, further filled my heart with not only pride but thankfulness that I have the knowledge to create such things at will.  The work, no matter the biting insects, the twig punctures, scrapes, and/or all those tiny flakes of bark that find my lubricated eyeballs, is all worth the view before me.  New life.  Encouraged and nurtured.  Already, that labor seemed a lifetime ago.

With my elbows resting upon a rain-wetted beach towel, it felt cool upon touch.  The transference of heat from my body and the transfer of coldness from the towel, soon the two came to an understanding, a balance between the two, if you will. It wasn’t long before I dropped my forearms and allowed them to rest upon the towel, too.  My hands naturally clasped together for more warmth in an attempt to lessen the cold.  Chilled one too many times, my body tried to prevent the deep ache that so easily creeps into my chubby fingers. 

My body as a whole gave its first warning.  The fine, nearly invisible arm hairs stood tall, proud, and begging.  I knew that feeling all too well, but still, my eyes needed confirmation.  They always do. Instinctively, my forearms closed the gap between them while my warm palms stroked the fine hairs into a quick, but gentle submission. Our Innate instincts are self-protecting and deserving. It is that appreciation that so many overlook.  Like so many things of today …we often take our bodies for granted, too.

My morning Step Outside came to an end when the coffee buzzer sounded.

PHOTOS

WILLEY'S DAM CAMP
BOOKS

Saturday, July 9, 2016

I Can’t Lose Weight, because …

Copyright 2016 by Lori-Ann Willey

I’ve been meaning to write this blog entry for a long while now, and every time I think of it, I giggle bigly inside myself.    People who know me quite well have heard, what they call an “evil laugh”, and then, hear me spout those very same words, “I can’t lose weight because …” (followed by an example or two).  Some of you may call my examples as nothing more than “excuses”.  Both would be correct.  And, yes, I did say that with a smirk.

Though the title sounds a bit ridiculous, in all honesty, I really could stand to lose about a 100 pounds …and my body would probably thank me for doing just that.  I really don’t mind being “this size” at all.  Quite honestly, my weight comes in relatively handy at times.  My size not only comes from the love of food, but from my lifestyle, too.  I’ll attempt to explain why I just can’t lose 100 pounds and why I don’t want to.

Some of you are already shaking your heads with such grumbling thoughts as, “I don’t want to read about diets and exercise”.  I don’t blame you.  Me either.   Others, knowing some of my injuries in the past and my childish and playful ways, will probably chuckle and think, “How is she going to spin THIS around?”

It is no secret that I have an appointment with a neurosurgeon on August 1st.  It’ll be then, that he will go over my back history and MRI readings and reports, too.    With that appointment just a few weeks away, I have an envelope sitting next to me that houses nine sheets of paperwork for me to read, fill out, and probably send back well before my appointment date, but I have not gotten that far yet to know for sure.

I have had a few back injuries over the years, but only sought medical attention for the one that happened in the winter of 2010.  I figure I go to the doctors with Paul often enough to avoid them for myself if I can.  Even then, I have to be prodded pretty hard before I make an appointment. I’m not going to get into how I have injured my back in the past, because I have already written about a couple of those injuries in previous blogs, books, or postings on social media.  Besides, this is about another topic -my weight.

When updating family on my back a couple of weeks ago, I told them, “He’ll (Dr. Weitman) probably tell me to lose 50 pounds and then come back to see him in 6 months.”  The room laughed, and then agreed that I was probably quite correct with that assumption.  Then, I started to go into why I could not lose much weight.  I was quick to agree that I would be willing to lose those 50 pounds, but that would be about all I’d be willing to give. 

For those of you who may not know, I am a 50-year old woman married to a disabled man who spends much of his time in a wheelchair. We have a house on the grid that is two hours away from our camp.   However, we choose to spend most of our time at our camp off the grid in the Maine wilderness.  So much of our time is spent here, in fact, that I say, “We live here”.  Camp is located eight miles from pavement.  Travel to camp is via logging roads that are maintained only if the logging companies in the area are using them.  During the winter time, those roads become official ITS (Snowmobile Only) trails.   We have snowmobiles and a couple of side-by-side cabbed and tracked 4-wheelers that we register as snowmobiles.  That is the extent of our winter travel in and out of camp …what I call, “the 16-mile loop”.

My weight comes in very handy with our off the grid lifestyle.  I pride myself in being a strong, determined woman, and part of that strength is my weight.  I need my weight almost as much as I need my strength and determination.  Here are examples why I appreciate my weight, and why sometimes, I wished I was even heavier than I am.

GETTING STUCK -  There have been times when the road way is too icy to climb a small, steep hill.  My weight comes in handy when I can get out, stand on the tailgate and have Paul ease the truck from the slippery spot. My weight in the back allows us to move forward, backwards …and sideways, too.  So far, my weight is about right for those situations.
A couple of years ago, we actually got stuck trying to climb a freshly plowed snowbank with one of the tracked wheelers.  The trail out to town crossed another logging road that had been freshly plowed.  The snowmobile groomers hadn’t groomed the trails yet, so that snowbank was as tall as the rooftop of “The Beast” itself.  As we approached, I told Paul that I didn’t think we’d make it over, but he insisted we would.  Guess who was right?  Yep.  
Once on top, we sank. Both sets of tracks were off the ground, both doors were pressed closed by the snow, and there we sat, literally teetering on top of the snowbank.  To make it worse, due to the snow depth that winter, the plow “winged” back the snowbanks.   The “trail” and new snowbank was filled with huge chunks of boulder-sized compacted ice/snow chunks that rested beneath the new fluffy snow.   Thankfully, after a great deal of effort, I was able to push my door open enough to squeeze through.  Ok, so then is when I wished I weighed less.  I’ll give the doctor that one. 
I stood thigh deep atop the snowbank and hoped that with weighted pressure I could help tip the beast in one direction or the other. I mean, we were literally teetering, so why not give that a try?  That idea was futile to say the least.  Shoveling didn’t help either.  After I accidently slid down the snowbank on my butt, I made sure Paul knew when I was about to step onto the extended hitch so he would have the tracks already or ready to spin when they hit the ground. When he was ready, I climbed on top of the hitch and stood with all my weight.  The Beast bobbed a bit, but the tracks still hovered in mid-air. I had no choice but to trust the latches of the tailgate door and lean hard.    I was not heavy enough!  I needed more weight.  I bounced up and down to the point I thought the tailgate would cut me in half.  With each bounce (and it really did remind me of riding a see-saw) the back tracks came closer and closer to the ground until they finally touched enough for Paul to try to back up while the tracks touched the ground for a second or two.  There is more to that story, but here is not the time.
THE HITCHES -  We own several different kinds of tow behind trailers.  Though we like to keep both the hitch receivers and the balls lubricated, while sitting for months on end, they still “catch”.  There have been times when I have to stand and bounce on one or the other to help aid in the release or attachment.  It is the releasing process is when I wished I weighed a couple hundred pounds more than I already do!
THE BOAT DANCE -  I’m not a fan of dancing, per se, but if we adventure up a certain shallow stream, the boat “dance” comes in very handy.  We’ve had family members that have also learned the boat dance over the years, too. Their weight, light or heavy are needed in addition to my own.  The stream I reference has a bottom that is mostly sand that shifts with the currents.  Because the stream runs off the mountain, the bottom is always shifting and is like a sand dune that changes quickly in the winds.
Often, my “job” is to do the boat dance and each dance starts in the very middle of the boat.  With pontoons that float in shallow waters anyways, a step in either direction helps lift the boat sometimes just enough to float over some very shallow-shallow areas. Sometimes, a big step is needed.  Sometimes a little step is needed.  Then, there are times when my body is literally hanging over the edge of the boat.  Of course, sometimes, then, too, I wished I weighed more …especially when we come to a halt …otherwise known as “We’re stuck!”  You’ll have to read my books to learn more about the boat dance if you are interested in learning of some of our experiences up that stream or doing the boat dance.
SNOWMOBILING -  As stated before, Paul is disabled and uses a wheelchair much of the time.  It is not easy for him to walk in the snow or to use any machine that takes more than a little effort. Stuff like that is my “job”.  Another reason why I need my strength.  When riding on a sled with Paul, even if he drives, steering is not easy for him, but if he is feeling up to the task, I do not discourage him from feeling that bit of independence.  However, that means, I do a lot of leaning into the corners to help him out a bit.  My weight comes in very handy then, too.
ICE SHACK -  There are times when moving the ice shack, that it gets stuck in deep unseen slush pockets upon the lake.  That is where both my strength and weight come in quite nicely.  I can push like hell and once the shack starts to budge, my weight is literally pushed onto the walls giving that added push.  I know that sounds crazy, but trust me.  Weight is not just an upright gravity thing. It is a great force when needed, too.
HELPING PAUL UP -  When Paul sits or lays on the ground to work on something, I am often needed to help him stand again. Trust me, when his body says enough is enough, he is pretty much dead weight.  By pressing my foot against his, I use it as leverage to pull Paul into a sitting or standing position whenever needed.  Most times he can help, but as mentioned above, other times, he is “dead weight” and it takes all my strength and body weight to get him upright again.  This means that once he is in motion, I often lean backwards and use my weight as added strength.  I also hope that I am quick enough to keep him balanced once upright, too!  Often times, I am thankful for my weight.
There are other examples, but this is a blog entry and not a book. Besides, those are the most common reasons that I wanted to mention.  Though, those situations are real and quite regular, I have convinced myself that I cannot become a Skinny Mini.  Each time I use my weight to help us do tasks, get certain things done, or just to get ourselves out of a “pickle”, I laugh and say, “See, I can’t lose weight!”

Factual is the above as they are perfect examples of how convenient it is to be a heavier set woman.  I’m not one for show, or pride myself by wearing a certain size or style clothing.  I am a realist. I love my lifestyle. I love being able to “rescue” us in the time of need (so far), and I love the taste of food, too.   Though, it would do me good to lose 50 pounds on my own without waiting for a possible suggestion from a doctor-doc, I’ll wait and see what HE has to say.  That’s my thought process and I’m sticking with it.

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Thursday, July 7, 2016

A Dirty Swim with a BIG Bull Moose

Copyright 2016 by Lori-Ann Willey

DISCLAIMER -  I do not recommend that others attempt approaching a moose.  I do not claim to be an expert, but I do have knowledge and experiences in what I do.  I am fully aware that I take the risk of getting injured, or worse, killed if something should go wrong.  However, I am very careful.  Just the same, you will read that it does not take much of a surprise for a moose to show signs of aggression in a hurry.  I KNOW the subtle of subtlest hints of warning or possible warning signs.  I also know when close enough is close enough not just for my own comfort but also for the comfort of the beast, too.  My husband and family members know that if I get hurt, I will quickly claim responsibility and will not point fingers elsewhere except at myself.  I believe in being safe and taking safety precautions, but still, wild creatures are unpredictable.  I approach with absolute and total respect and knowledge of any and all beasts.  I  learned my lesson with Mr. Bear a few years ago.


It is no secret that I thoroughly enjoy swimming in any body of water.  As a child and teenager, I always avoided the weedy areas, but as an adult, I am lured to them like a kid walking past a candy store – I just want in!  I have Paul to thank for my love for snorkeling. I had not known the difference between snorkeling and scuba diving until Paul was stationed in Hawaii.  He bought us each a snorkeling set -fins, masks, and tubes.   Once I felt comfortable breathing underwater via snorkel tube, I knew I had a life-long love for the sport.  Over 30 years later and at 50 years old, snorkeling is where my heart is and into the weeds is where you will find me.  There is where the well-camouflaged hunters (snapping turtles and big fish) wait for unsuspecting prey!  There, is also where you can find moose, too.

I have written about swimming with moose before, each experience is different, each moose is different, and the conditions are different, too.  Most attempts find me successful and though rewarding in many ways, swimming with moose is not an easy task.  I find as much comfort around the moosies as I do the waters in which they roam, but that does not mean there are not many challenges along the way.   The most difficult challenge is navigating through large areas of very densely populated lily pad plants.

As written about before, there are certain conditions that must be met before it is plausible to swim with moosies.  The sex of the beast, its size, its location, etc. are not an issue with me.   However, I will avoid swimming with a cow moose and her baby.  The biggest challenge is seeing a moose in the first place. After that, the conditions have to be favorable for a safe swim, too.   I have to be able to approach the beast. If I cannot, then, like Paul, and other “sane” people, I simply watch and observe from afar with binoculars or my camera.

Last evening started out a bit early.  The temperature was 75 degrees.  There was a light 3-5mph wind, and the sky was mostly cloudy.  When we decided to go look for moose, we hoped the warm day would lure the moose into the water for a lily pad feast while trying to avoid the biting flies, too.  Here in Maine, we tend to call the deer flies by an alternate name -Copperheads.  Copperheads elsewhere mean poisonous snakes, but I assure you, our copperheads have a ferocious bite of their own, too.  Then, of course, there is an inch-long biting fly that I grew up calling, a moose fly.  This year, those bites are causing me a bit of an allergy issue that require Benadryl.  My father always told me and my sisters, “We always called them moose flies, because wherever they are, there are usually moose”.  As an adult, I know that is not always true, but it is a great memory …and not so farfetched as people may think, as they both enjoy the same type of habitat.  It’s that necessary co-existing lifecycle thing.

Yesterday, it took us a while to find a moose, but when we reached an area “way up in” and “way at the end” and “tucked into a corner” we finally saw one standing in a couple of feet of water. That area is more bog-like than lake-like, so traveling with the boat was iffy, if do-able at all.  Due to his location, I knew there was no way to swim toward him through all that mess and shallowness.

Paul turned off the boat motor and allowed the boat to drift forward while we watched and photographed the moose from afar. I took lots of pictures.  We sat still for a long time as we appreciated his beautiful, rugged, and rectangular-shaped body.   It was good to see a moose not sickened and weakened by a massive tick invasion!  He was very black and very beautiful with an impressive velvety rack.  At the base of his jaw was a dangling bell that swayed with motion as the beast moved his head about.  He was perfect in all ways. Picturesque and majestic.

The moose had seen us coming.  He stood still, perfectly poised, and on full alert.  After a while, he apparently deemed us not a threat …at least from that distance.  Soon, he slowly walked along the shoreline.  With those long legs, only a few steps were needed to move more into the open by a few dozen feet.  When he entered the water, I knew then, that I had a chance to swim closer to the massive beast.

Paul raised the boat motor and used the quiet electric motor to inch closer.   He told me that he’d try to get up to the lily pad mass, but did not want to get the motor propeller blades entangled in the thick weeds.  I agreed.  We were still quite a distance away, but Paul slowly closed the gap while I had my camera to my eye peering through a zoom lens and continued to read the beasts body language while at the same time I snapped dozens of photos.  Accurate assessment of not only the moose, its location, and the dense lily pad blanket between us and the beast, but I also had to assess my own abilities, too.   Was my back being nice enough to attempt the challenging and laborious swim through all those plants?  I needed to be smart and safe.  As much as I hated to, I had to be honest with myself …and honest with Paul, too.  I deemed the slow, gentle swim would soothe and massage my sciatica.  It wasn't long before I realized that I had already justified the attempt while still being honest.  It was a mind ovah mattah thing.  Most everything is.

At the edge of the lily pads, Paul stopped and ever-so-quietly dropped the anchor while I stripped down to my suit, attached the boat ladder, put my camera and snorkel fins where I could reach them once in the water. Paul helped by handing me my fins and the float for my camera.  He told me that we were in very shallow water, but as I looked down, all I could see was blackness around my legs as my feet perched on the ladder.  I knew the water was very black in this area, but not to see the stumps and logs that my knees rested upon once my feet left the ladder?  Despite Paul’s warning, I don’t mind saying that was quite a shock. I shrugged off the shallowness and told him, “I’ll be OK as long as I can swim over the top of things.” He chuckled, and said, “Be careful.  Have fun.  Good luck!”

At about 30 feet away, my fins started touching a few submerged driftwood logs and rocks, not to mention, the lily pads already stated to entangle my ankles, too.  By then, I was already thankful that I decided to try a float system for camera stability, because that kept my upper body higher.  That way the weeds didn’t instantly tangle around my neck within the first few feet.  Without the float, I would have turned back after only a few yards from the boat.  They were thick, thick, thick!

In the past, swimming through lily pads deemed not only exhausting, but very dangerous.  Their stalks can be quite strong and string-like.  They quickly and very easily wrap around my neck, snorkel tube, arms, hands, legs, ankles and fins that, in the past, made me wonder if they were survivable!  Pulling and breaking the wrapped weeds from my body is a constant battle when doing such things as swimming toward a moosie, and I will admit, a bit nerving and attention grabbing when their 3-10’ long stems catch on the other weeds and get further and more tightly entangled. There are times when I can let them accumulate for a few feet, or a few yards at a time, but when they prevent forward motion, I have to stop and rip them from my body. This is especially so around the neck.  Really and truly, there is only a certain amount of strangulation sensation that I can tolerate, before I need to stop and free myself …save myself, if you will.  Luckily, with the float, those lily pads were not a problem upon any part of the body except my ankles and fins.  PHEW! I will modify the float a bit to better suit such situations, but for the most part, I’m happy with what I have for now.

As mentioned above, at about 30 feet way from the boat, I learned just low shallow the water really was.  I had a long, weed-filled swim ahead of me still.  Soon, the need arose to draw the float closer so more of my arms rested on top, therefore giving my upper body more of a lift over the weeds. I hated like hell to do that because that meant raising more of my body out of the water, which meant I would be more   obvious and noticeable to the moose.  Usually, I like just my mouth upwards exposed so I do not look like a human as I get closer to the beast.  That is why, too, that, despite the slow, laborious swim, I usually don’t like to use any sort of floatation device.

In this area, there were no protruding rocks or stumps to swim behind like there is in other areas.  Such protrusions allow me to swim closer as I can use the objects to hide my body.  They are also great places to pause, pull weeds from my body, adjust camera settings, or simply observe the beast before I continue.   Here, I was totally exposed in my approach and at any moment, I fully expected the moose to be alerted of my presence.  As a result, I could not pull the tangled weeds from my ankles, adjust a fin strap that slipped, or check myself over for bloodsuckers either.  I didn’t mind the bloodsuckers, but the weeds always prove problematic.   I paused once to use an underwater stump to slide the fin trap onto my ankle, but if the moose spotted me from afar, he paid no attention to me.  I was thankful that I could take full advantage of his poor eyesight with my own subtle movements.

The closer I swam to the moosie, the shallower the water.  My fins were constantly hitting those submerged logs, stumps, and rocks. I was already advancing slowly with deliberate and slow shallow fin movements as it was, but I had to slow even more.  I couldn’t help but think my fins were nothing more than little wiggles, much like fish fins when they keep their bodies in place …to “hover” if you will.  If the weeds weren’t bad enough, the shallowness really made me wonder if I could continue or if I should just turn back before I literally got stuck between a rock and a hard place. 

Remember earlier when I mentioned the biting copperheads and moose flies?  Well, they found me quite easily out there by myself.  There was no way to swat them without giving away my position, so all I could do is wait for them to bite, and then, fly away.  They were especially attracted to the skin at the edge of my black suit.  I know Ima Big Woman, but really, I am not a moose …despite my size and the color of my suit!  My scalp was another area where they feasted.  Though annoying and quite painful in spots, I was able to block them out and pretend they didn’t exist. However, I did not realize how much they enjoyed my scalp until I climbed the ladder and felt the top of my head.  It was very swollen and very tender, but not bloodied at least.  This morning, as I write this, touching the top of my head is still very tender.  My hair part took a lot of bites! Fortunately, my father instilled the mindset of, “work through it”.  Some call that stubborn, but to me, that mind over matter is mental determination, strength and endurance that comes in very handy throughout life.  Without that mindset, I doubt we could live our off the grid lifestyle given Paul’s disabilities.   I am OK with that “Stubborn” title that some are so quick to spout.

Somehow, maybe it was my own will and determination more than anything, but I figured as long as I could float, I would continue closer.  Soon, my knees almost constantly bumped underwater obstacles. I not only kept a near constant eye on the moose in front of me, when I could see a gap between the lily pad leaves, I’d try to peer through the water blackness to determine if the lake was in deed that shallow, or if I was just swimming over a lot of “stacked” rocks, stumps, and logs.  Unfortunately, the water was so black, I could not see beyond a few inches, and it didn’t help that the surface reflected the sky above me.

Although the moose was only a few feet from the shore, his legs and part of his stomach were submerged in water.  I knew that meant one of two things.  I was either swimming over a high rise under water, or the moose was standing in some very deep muck.  “Muck” here is nothing more than built up sediment and silt from natural debris of water plants, blown leaves, tree bark, and decaying logs from many years gone by.  Hoping to eventually hit deeper waters ahead, once again, I took the chance and pulled the float toward me to help raise my body for easier movement.  With the float now under my armpits and my arms resting in front of me, navigation was in deed easier, but it left me more exposed than I wanted.  Still, the moose, if he saw me, paid me no attention.

When I got to a spot where my legs were literally dragging across log after log and rock after rock without relief, I stopped and rested.  In the way of weed entanglement, the swim was a much easier swim than in the past, and I remember feeling grateful that, through all those weeds, not once did I feel like I was being strangled.  That was when, I not only kept an eye on the moose’s subtle body language, but I was now close enough to take in its massive size and that impressive velvety rack of his.  He was a beautiful, beautiful beast.

Again, if the moose saw me, he paid me no attention. He continued to submerge his nose into the water, pull, and then, chomp the weeds.  I was not close enough to hear his chewing’s like in swims in the past, but I could easily and clearly hear the nostril bubbles as he submerged them.  Moose have a flap inside their nostrils that close off when they put their head underwater.  When they raise their head, the flap moves again so they can breathe air.  That flap gives them the ability to swim underwater, even! 

From that location, I walked on my knees the best I could while still floating my upper body and dragging my fins behind me wherever possible. I knew that if I could get a bit further, I was bound to find some deeper water, and I did!  However, that water was so silt filled that I felt like I was swimming in an over watered bowl of oat meal. I could feel thousands upon thousands of small natural debris pieces.  It really did feel as if I was swimming in watery oatmeal.  That is the best description I can give you.  

I must’ve reached a divot in the lake bottom because my knees no longer walked on a hard wooden or rock surface, but when I lowered a knee, I felt the sediment enclose around my entire leg. I lowered my elbow and felt the same thing.  I tried to peer into the water, but again, it was just too black to see anything but blackness.  When the moose turned his head, I slid my hand off the float to feel the sediment that surrounded me.  Yuck!  What a feeling!  The moose was standing up to his belly in that stuff, too!  He is used to it.  I am not.  His legs are covered in more hairs than the hair on my own hairy legs!  For a second or more, I was quite envious!  Some of you will get that reference and chuckle …and rightfully so.

Still, I continued to inch closer.   At the point of rest, I was within 50 yards of the moose and getting closer. With one more attempt to advance, I snapped a few photos after my chest bumped and held me steadfast against an unseen stump.  I was going no further.  My mind knew it and the lake knew it, too.  I also have to wonder if even the moose also knew.   

While I rested upon the stump, I scrutinized the huge beast before me.  In total content, I allowed my mind to wander a little.   I thought about how not in a million years would I intentionally swim in such conditions unless it was to rescue someone, safe myself, or swim up to a moose.  That’s just how I think, I guess.  Funny, how I apparently put swimming up to a moose into the same type of category.   Then, I kind of justified those thoughts by thinking of the Kinap book I wrote.  One of the characters in that book is named Loof.  He is the village fool whose character befriends and rides a tiyam (moose).  I had to smirk at the irony.  No, I have no intentions on trying such an act, but still, it brings a grin to my face.  I loved writing that book! The editing process has been on hold now for nearly two years.  Shame on me.

I continued to float in seemingly inches of water, when in fact, a solid bottom, through all that black sediment, must’ve been at least six feet below me.  The sediment never stopped moving about my body and that gave rise to the thoughts of blood suckers.  All my exposed skin underwater moved and danced about as if I were laying on an ant nest.  I am not fearful of bloodsuckers, but I am not a fan of them either.  Places like there are usually loaded with them and I probably had a few on me already.  If not, they knew I was there and were already working my way.  I looked at the wet areas on the moose and saw none there.  My hope was that maybe he was giving off enough body heat so the bloodsuckers were already on or near him and not upon or near me.  

When the moose submerged his nose, I took the opportunity, and whispered to him, “Thank you”.  It was time for me to turn around.  However, remember that stump I just mentioned?  While turning around, my fins caught, and in order to finish the turn, I had to flap them out of the water a bit.  That, was when the moose for sure knew I was present.   He continued to eat, but the hair on his neck rose just enough to get my attention as well.  After I turned around fully, and after making a fin splash, Paul said, the moose raised his foot above the water and stamped it downward causing a splash of its own.  I was warned.  Though, I never saw or heard it. 

A second or so later, as I slowly swam away, I kept my head turned toward the moose.  The beast continued to feast as if I was not there.  Nevertheless, I knew better than to turn my back at all.  That is especially so to a beast in the wild, of such size, speed, and power.  I swam for about 50 more yards before I allowed myself to turn my head toward the boat with little back-glances as I swam further and further away. 

The swim to the boat was an easier one for three reasons.  One, I could see my swim path through the parted lily pads.  Two, I knew what lay in that black water, so I already knew what I’d bump into as I swam.  Three, I did not have to keep an eye on a moose and its subtle warning signs of aggression.  I could instead, enjoy the swim knowing that I was able to get a close as my comfort zone allowed for both me and the moosie.

I took my time swimming to the boat and took some video and photos in route as well.  I was in no hurry to exit the warm water.  The second I was free of the silty stuff, the water felt cleaner and seemingly more refreshing.  At the boat, Paul helped bring aboard my float, camera and fins. Then, he waited patiently for me to linger on the ladder for a bit.  I never like getting out of water once I’m in it, and that was especially so last evening with the water there at a very comfortable 78 degrees!  I knew I probably wouldn’t feel water that warm again this summer.

After pulling anchor and detaching the ladder, I wrapped in a towel and thanked Paul for helping me.  Slowly, Paul navigated away from the area.  The moosie continued to feast where I left him.  Before we left his sight, he slowly stepped into the woods and we watched as his body disappeared into the green foliage along the shoreline.   

A few minutes later, as I began to dry a bit, I felt something move inside my suit.  Thinking of a possible bloodsucker in my cleavage, I parted and peered inside.  If there was a bloodsucker in there, I couldn’t tell.  I pulled my suit away from my body so I could see down into my suit a bit further and I saw nothing but natures silt as far as the eye could see.  My body was black and brown with it all. I had to laugh as I showed Paul.   I would have stayed much cleaner if I had just swam without a suit!   After we arrived at camp, I removed my suit and had to literally shake it clean. The sediment flakes stuck to my skin and dried in place.  It took a lot of brisk towel-wiping to rid it all, and even then, I think I brought some to bed with me!  

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