Archive for July 2011

Head in the clouds

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I made it! I climbed my first mountain…overcoming insurmountable odds I scaled the mighty peak of Mount Mitchell…all 6,684 feet.  And…today at 10:30 AM Eastern time …I was alone at the top…the highest human being east of the Mississippi whose feet still touched the Earth. That is…until about 10 minutes later when a busload of kids noisily made their way up the trail to the top. Oh well…for one brief and shining moment…

The summit

The view from the top was truly spectacular…a 360 degree panorama of mountains for as far as the eye could see. I was surprised to see a stone structure at the top, that turns out to be the final resting place of Rev. Elisha Mitchell, for whom this mountain is named. Mitchell was a Doctor of Divinity, and professor at the University of North Carolina, who was involved in the early exploration and measurement of this mountain. He died on the mountain in 1857, from a fall after being caught in a thunderstorm. I don’t think one could ask for a more impressive memorial.

Elisha Mitchell's Tombstone

The drive up the mountain was stunningly beautiful…in and out of wispy clouds…wildflowers along the sides of the road…the scent of the balsam firs wafting through the air. Stopping at Hewat Overlook, there were clouds above…and clouds below.

Hewat Overlook

Mount Mitchell is in the Black Mountains, which are believed to have been as high, or higher, than the Himalayas at one time, around 250 million years ago. They’re still mighty impressive to a former flatlander from Illinois.

I know that driving three hours to spend a morning in the mountains (and three hours back) might seem a bit strange to some, but it really does help…setting these short term goals is a way of getting my life back on track. While I know that things will never be entirely the same, I”m thinking that it’s probably important to move forward and not dwell in the past.

 As one who was once afraid of heights, I think I did pretty well today. I’m thinking of taking the SB6K (South Beyond 6000) challenge…making it to the top of all 40 mountain peaks higher than 6000 feet in the Southern Appalachians. Hey…I’ve got the highest (and easiest) one done…only 39 more to go!

Soon after I made it to the top this morning, the clouds started looking rather ominous…

Gathering thunderstorm

It was time to get off the mountain. I didn’t want to follow too closely in the footsteps of the Reverend…

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July 31, 2011 at 5:57 pm

Pavement ends

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It’s been an eventful week. For the past two and a half years I’ve been struggling somewhat with a physical problem, the cause of which couldn’t be identified. Rapid and irregular heartbeats after eating any kind of meal…shortness of breath, esophageal spasms…and an inability to physically exert myself much at all. I was even finding it difficult to walk up the stairs at work, instead taking the elevator to the third floor. Last year, I started seeing a cardiologist, who put me though a nuclear stress test and did some digital imaging of my heart under stress…finding nothing at all wrong. I had kind of resigned myself to the possibility of this never going away.

Well…last week, I went to see my new doctor here in town for a checkup. The subject of medications came up, and I asked him if I really needed to be on my current medication for lowering my cholesterol,  for ‘the rest of my life’, since the last blood workup that I had done indicated that my cholesterol levels were well within the acceptable range. Also…my blood pressure that day was 108 over 58. He agreed to cut my hypertension med in half, and said that I could take a three month holiday from the cholesterol medication, which I’ve been taking for about 5 years. He also suggested taking omega 3 fish oil as an alternative. So…I decided to give it a try.

About five days later, I noticed that the usual symptoms that I’ve had for two and a half years mysteriously…and unexpectedly… started to disappear. By Monday of the following week…they were completely gone.  I was beside myself…this had all been a side effect of a little pill that I faithfully took once every evening. Needless to say, I was ecstatic. It was like waking up from a bad dream.

I’m celebrating tomorrow by driving up to Mt. Mitchell in the mountains of North Carolina, and climbing up to the summit (which I hear is a pretty easy hike). It’s the highest peak east of the Mississippi…closest thing to heaven in these parts. A new beginning of sorts…

On a sadder note, the extreme heat we’ve been having recently in the Carolinas took it’s toll…Hector died this week, most likely from heat exhaustion…and old age. I’m going to miss his early morning cock-a-doodle-doos.

These last two years have been an adventure…with some highs…and some extreme lows. But I think I’m finally home…

...and my world begins

The road home…

The road home

And finally…first figs of the year. Now I’ve got to figure out what to do with them…


Written by Jim

July 30, 2011 at 9:34 pm

Posted in Country Living, Musings

Come to the dance

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I felt extremely blessed today…sitting out on the front porch this afternoon…100 degree heat pressing palpably on my skin…a gentle breeze whispering through the trees all around me…dazzling white cumulus clouds slowly making their stately way from west to east, crossing a deep blue sky…dragonflies flitting through the air while birds darted among the trees, singing their presence into the world. A magnificent show…just for me…the world dancing before my eyes.

I was reading Christ Plays in Ten Thousand Places, by Eugene Peterson. He was describing Perichoresis, a Greek word for dance, as a metaphor for the Trinity…the Father (creation), the Son (salvation), and the Holy Spirit (blessing)…locked in an everlasting embrace of loving relationship…that now includes us. It set me thinking. This life…how we live it…is a mysterious, never-ending dance…a slow, flowing, very beautiful dance of which we’re not always mindful. Our partners change…some we dance with for a very long time, and we’re sad when we feel that tap on our back, and have to give up our turn. Then there are others, who come into and out of our lives, for a brief spin on the floor. But, all of our partnerships are meaningful…and purposeful in the greater choreography of this grand dance…our loving spouses…the person we give a hug to at church…the “chance” encounter with someone asking for a handout at the gas station…or a fellow sojourner that we meet on the internet.

We’re all being asked to participate in the dance…given an invitation…freely given…with no strings attached. Of course, we’re also given the option to “sit it out” if we want to…but…why would we? Come to the dance…it’s only just beginning.

Written by Jim

July 24, 2011 at 4:36 pm

Six months

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Something clicked in my mind on the way to work this morning. We’ve had a long string of hot, humid days with the temperature touching the century mark. This morning was beautiful…a low curtain of foggy mist hovering over Twelve Mile Creek…the sun just a pale red disk glowing low in the hazy, moisture-laden sky.

Today is six months since Sharon died, and I think I passed some kind of milestone. On my drive to work, I was thinking of this ‘anniversary’ and suddenly found tears rolling down from my eyes. But…they weren’t tears of sorrow…of feeling sorry for myself, or feeling sad for Sharon. Oddly enough, I realized they were tears of joy. Joy for Sharon…for the fact that she was truly at rest…in the arms of her Lord. Most likely experiencing things that we can only dream of for now. No more need for me to worry about her…to be concerned about her well-being. The last ten years of her life were filled with a lot of pain…physical pain that even drugs the likes of percocet and hydrocodone barely masked. That was all being taken care of now…by someone much more capable than myself.

I saw my doctor on Monday for a regular checkup, and he asked me how I was coping with my loss. I honestly told him that this was the most difficult thing I’ve ever gone through in my entire life, far surpassing even the loss of both my parents. He said this is to be expected…the loss of a spouse can be extremely painful. Two people’s lives can get so entwined together, that when one suddenly ‘disappears’, there’s such a void left that it’s hard not to lose one’s equilibrium.

I know that Sharon’s rose was wrapped around my own heart…entwined with my own being…and when that was violently ripped out of place within the span of a few minutes…well…the feeling is just indescribable. It left an open and raw wound that has been aching ever since.

But this morning…I think I finally came to terms with the loss of Sharon. Seeing the beauty of the early morning light playing on mist and shadows…with the warm sun rising in the east. There’s something playing out here that’s much bigger than all of us…bigger than we can imagine. Sharon’s a part of that now…as we all will be soon enough. No more need to be concerned…no more need to worry about her. The rawness of that wound is starting to heal over…being replaced by an equally entwining sweetness of memory and consolation that can only come through the grace of God.

“And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose” (Romans 8:25)

Written by Jim

July 22, 2011 at 7:18 pm

Posted in Grieving

Words of wisdom

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If you have the usual stereotype of the South in your mind…you’re in for a surprise!

Written by Jim

July 19, 2011 at 7:23 pm

Posted in Music

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Life goes on

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I just finished reading Life After Death: the Burden of Proof, by Deepak Chopra. While I’m just not sure about some of what he covers (reading from a Christian perspective), such as reincarnation, his thoughts and research aren’t limited to Hinduism and Vedanta…he also offers viewpoints from other major religions, including Christianity. I found the discussion on the nature of consciousness very thought-provoking. The idea that our consciousness is not localized in our brains…that the brain is a receptor and filter of our thoughts and memories that originate elsewhere…from that nonphysical aspect of ourselves…our soul or spirit, perhaps? That part of us that never really dies?

In the end notes of the book, there was a link to a fascinating article about a Dutch cardiologist, whose research on near-death experiences was published, surprisingly, in the prestigious British medical journal The Lancet. This is well worth reading…Life goes on.

Written by Jim

July 17, 2011 at 8:46 pm

Good news week

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I’ve turned off the television news…and am listening to the local classical music station instead of NPR on my drive to and from work…although I’m thinking complete radio silence might be next. Here’s an interesting web site that I recently stumbled upon…with a different take on the news…


There are a lot of good things happening in the world. Made me think about this blast from the past (although I remember some additional lyrics, which are probably a bit too politically incorrect these days)…

Written by Jim

July 14, 2011 at 8:35 pm

Posted in Music, Musings

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