MS as an Elephant in the Camping Tent
Boethius goes to Sequoia Natl Park
Boethius was a first century Roman, a Christian swept up in one of the many ongoing persecutions and sentenced to death, in what must be surmised, an original and whimsical way. An iron belt was placed around his head and this was slowly constricted until his skull fractured and his personal story came to its' sudden end. Bad for Boethius (from the secular standpoint) but very good for us, since he spent the night before his execution writing The Consolation of Philosophy, which is worth reading. It describes Almighty God as the Universe of a Venn diagram within which an encapsulated space defines a person and the range of his actions, experiences, potentials and possessions. The point is that God, in an Augenblick, sees all there is, was, will be, would be or could be of any person. This universal point of view gave Boethius a clear place from which to reconcile his part in the next morning's Roman Holiday.
What the heck does this have to do with backpacking? With me and MS? With the modern American scene?
A lot. MS for me has been a slow and fairly steady slide with a few remissions but ongoing cumulative physical loss. The whole 'MS gig' has to be seen with the 'fly-on-the-wall' perspective by which Boethius calmed his Limbic system, even though it looks like he didn't get too much shuteye that night.
For some reason I cannot start a new subsection. My ataxia, in concert with my urge to Blog and Publish without really knowing the ins and outs of my laptop and it's software, have again worsted me. Will I change my ways and hold off doing something until I fully know the system and it's quirks and special rules? Of Course Not!!..... I nearly lost the work done, which might have been published by the program then raked over the coals by the system which does the judging and which would have called my blog offering 'too short.' This in spite of my scholarly erudition and sharp-and-subtle wit. But thank God, even though an un-redeemed Luddite in many respects, I found the blog and will soldier through.
A note: In North America there are only a few really dangerous plants. I am not an expert, though my medical experience has brought me in contact with patients who had had encounters with amotile carnivores and I can speak of these. If you have questions about dangerous plants, plants safe to eat (or touch) and so forth, Look It Up.... Please avoid the 'leaves-of-three-let-it-be' family. Poison ivy is mostly an East of the Rockies denizen but Never say Never. There is plenty of poison oak (and sumac?) in my range; learn to recognize it and avoid it. In ever-damp Oregon I first encountered the psylocybin mushroom, famous for it's 'electrojet to heaven' reputation, on the lawns of the State Psychiatric Hospital in Salem. I don't abuse myself in the Med-Student-Vetto-As- Experimental-Lab-Animal way but I knew several med students who lost a weekend or two due to this. In Arizona I helped take care of half a dozen victims of a 'pharmacologic misadventure' brought on by brewing and imbibing Loco Weed tea as a social group experience. Why did they do this? God knows. I don't. Early on in my ER residency it was and I spent a few hours pulling deeply-embedded spines out of an Agog-appearing fellow who had attempted sexual congress with a Saguaro cactus.
In terms of new gear: I recently bought a knapsack which has about five hundred cubic inches of main-compartment space. Purchased on-line from REI, it was advertised as a laptop carrying case with lotsa room for accessories. I guess it could be but it looks easily adaptable to MS trekking.......I bought a mid-size flashlight which introduces me for the first time to LED technology.The new batteries the light uses may be the last it ever needs, given the micro-voltage requirements (remember Ohm's Law: E = IR; very low voltage implies very low current given a constant resistance).......I'm a sucker for rope, twine, wooden matches/carrying cases, bug dope (keep it away from the glasses!), water bottles and votive candles, to mention only a few. My Rule: go ahead and buy 'em but expect most of this kind of stuff to sit on your gear shelf World Without End, Amen.......Food items get simpler and simpler. Keep it easy to make, fast, body-temperature or lower. Having made my own freeze-dried chili in a hospital animal lab at night, having munched F-D vanilla ice cream more precious than platinum, having gone through the hot-meal-with-veg extravaganza which somehow Isn't Ever Enough, I say this: if you want it, if you willingly buy it, if it has a role in your Personal Wilderness Mantra, knock yourself out. I'm all for any individual's personal vision. Leave me the M&Ms, jerky, peanuts, Gallo dry salami (unsliced), Ryecrisp, and 1910- Boy-Scout-Manual-Recipe Coffee...
MS can be a slowly-emerging elephant in the bivy sack. Too big to ignore, too intrusive not to deal with on it's terms, shitting all over the place. Remember, though. MS demands changes in our lives but like the bamboo, you can bend with this wind without giving up your own form, substance, philosophy and humor. Think of Boethius: your own personal circle of experience holds all sorts of things good and bad and no single facet should be allowed to have an overpeening effect on everything else. In many ways I have ebbed physically and cannot really do all the things I talk about but seen from another angle I am better. Knowing my physical limitations I tend to stop and think my plans through before I act. I use To-Do lists more since my short-term memory, never a strong point, is not always good, especially in the heat of an Arizona early Summer. After over eight years of active disease I know that everything I knew Once-Upon-a-Time is accessible, not at all lost, but some days it is easier to find and use than on others and many factors influence this, from diet to sleep to weather to Dumb Luck...I am reading a great deal and maintain a very active correspondence with family and friends. This blog is important in this regard, though I have only one reader after writing fifteen blogs. The free time I have is a pleasure I've sought my whole life and now I have it with a stipend which keeps me and my wife comfortable...I have taken care of MS patients in the ER and have been by the side of one man who died of peripheral problems brought on by but not directly related to his MS. As a doctor the disease does not scare me. As I said above, I will soldier on with anticipation of my opening and ongoing future and the joy it will bring.
Help! Help! Help!
I still can't figure out how to put a finished summary onto a completed blog. If anyone knows, please tell me in the Comments section.
Please Publish Now!!
This carefully-constructed and thought-out piece needs to be published, if only because of its' introduction of Boethius and his dealing with imminent torture and death. Also, the pictures of the redwoods are worth seeing.
More by this Author
Part of my series of blogs dealing with Backpacking with MS, the problems, challenges and the fun you can have.
A few quick observations and recommendations about backpacking with MS.
The sudden onset of my yearly Upper Respiratory Infection, with the concomitant arrival of general Unwellness and an unforeseen, rare appearance of a family Nemesis, Renal Stone. God wot!