A Four-fold Miraculous Gift

20160803_164954A Four-fold Miraculous Gift

It was eight days into our extended holiday. I had been experimenting with different strategies to mitigate some of the sensory issues related to traveling. Each day required monitoring activities that threatened to zap the reserves that I would need to complete the day. Each day required adjusting the schedule of activities so that I could replenish my reserves for the next morning.

We arrived at our pre-book campground chosen for its spectacular scenery; Six hundred foot tall bluffs, forty foot tides (38.7 feet to be exact), broad expanses of red beaches, an unlimited opportunities for rock hounding and a tranquil location. That aptly describes Blomidon Provincial Park on the Bay of Fundy.

Preparation

When we arrived at the campground we had already worked out a refined routine for setting up camp. (The drive to Nova Scotia had included three evenings of setting up camp and three mornings of packing up and pulling out. Between the two of us we each had our tasks. I would set up the camp stove, hook up the propane and make sure the table was functionally level. I would then set up the tent, pump up the air mattress and arrange all the bedding. Meanwhile Jane would set up the campsite; unpack the lawn chairs, retrieve the necessary food supplies and dig out the required cooking utensil prior to preparing our supper. We would share the clean up, the boiling of water for washing, clearing away the dishes and securing the site for the night.

Our time camping at Blomidon turned into four activity-filled days. This included hiking several trails to a ‘look off’ (what most places would call a ‘look out’), cycling, walking along the beach for half a dozen or more kilometers, rock hounding at low tide along the base of the bluffs, reading in the campers` community building in the evening, and excursions into the some of the surrounding villages and historic sites.

After the first night of sleep I decided to unicycle through the campground. It was the first time I had ridden a unicycle since my ABI. I was thrilled to once again experience the delight and sense of awe that children express when they see a unicyclist in action. The children would run to the edge of their campsite and either just stare or be bubbling with questions. I would humour them by idling, which they  would find even more exciting, while answering their questions or responding to their comments. For the very curious I would demonstrate a few extra maneuvers before moving on.

Gift #120160330_135415

The four days of camping was the first time in a year and a half that I experienced no ABI symptoms. The wonder and joy of not having to monitor or curtail my activities gradually washed over me. I can only describe it as a truly miraculous gift. To be able to go through an active 14 hour day and experience no ABI symptoms was truly exhilarating and invigorating. Needless to say, nothing could stop me from increasing my level of activity as each new day dawned.

20160803_182928Gift #2

The absence of ABI symptoms enabled me to help out around the campsite. Being able to pull my weight and feel like I was doing my share of the work gave a boost to my self-worth. It was a glimpse of what I had forgotten had once been possible.

Gift #320160719_153215

The satisfaction of experiencing a restful sleep did not escape me. Being able to sleep ten hours a night brought additional healing. The length of my sleep was the only a subtle reminder of my ABI.

20160803_164954Gift #4

It was four days in which my sense of loss inconspicuously faded away. The emotional toll of being reminded of another loss each time I reached my limit was absent. It didn’t happen with a flourish or fanfare. My sense of loss melted away like a wave being absorbed into sand.

Moving on

The thought of leaving the park on day four was rather upsetting. How could I leave a place that had briefly turned my world ‘right side up’ again? How could I leave a place that had shown me what had once been possible? No stiffness when I woke up each morning because my ‘fight or flight’ response was under control. No consequences from failing to curtail my activities or modifying my plans. No need to plan my day to ensure I didn’t develop sensory overload. No headaches. No blurred vision. No nausea. It was amazing to feel ‘normal’ for a few days.

Some reflection

What was it about my experience at Blomidon Provincial Park that allowed me to shed my ABI limitations for four days? Will the answer escape me or will I come away with some helpful insights?

Was it the narrow range of social interaction while camping with just the two of us? Was it the variety of subtle naturally produced sounds? Even the raucous call of a murder of crows in the top of the trees is easier to deal with than indoor sounds that get amplified as it reverberates off walls and other hard surfaces. Was it the shedding of all the stresses and responsibilities associated with living in a house? Was it the absence of self imposed obligations to participate in community activities? Was it the iodine that mixes into the fresh ocean air that blew through the campsite? (The ‘fight & flight’ response that often subtly accompanies the sensory overload, drain’s one’s adrenalin glands. Iodine taken internally is one way to replenish the adrenalin glands.) Was it just a coincidence – an alignment of the stars?

More questions than answers.

A case for living more simply

One thought is that the four days of ABI respite was partly a result of a simplified life. It allowed for proper sleep hygiene, sleep being important for healing the brain. Each day was comprised of a few simple tasks. Camping involved a lot of physical activity but non-strenuous or stressful. Just to use the washroom involve a 200 meter walk. Getting water required walking two campsites over to a tap fill a bucket and haul it back. Washing dishes involved getting more water, getting it heated on the stove and then washing the dishes with a makeshift set up.

The challenge is to take the possible lessons learned and translate them into new routines and expectations when I am at home.

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Less than 2 Weeks till I join the ride

The regular daily work has slowed down giving me more time to train for the http://www.seatosea.org cycling event. I continue to log 15 km most days of the week. In addition to training on two wheels I make sure I get enough training time on 1 wheel.

I recently purchased a 36″ unicycle after being advised by an experience unicyclist that my 20″ unicycle was wholly inadequate (not that I ever was planning to ride any distance on that). I was advise that my 26″ unicycle would be a lot of hard work. I could manage about 13 km/hr on the 26″. Now with the 36″, without having done more than 3 days of training I’m already averaging 15 km/hr.

I had a fellow church member ask me a month ago what it would take to convince me to ride 50 km in one day. That is a good 35 km more than I was planning to do. I think I’m getting closer to attempting to do that. I have about two weeks to build up my endurance.

I plan to head to Grand Rapids Michigan on Aug 2 so I can join in the orientation on August 3 at Calvin College. There will be a large celebration on the campus on August 4th. On Monday, August 5 we will be hitting the road.

I will try to find a way to post updates on this page as often as I can.

Sea to Sea with Cobourg’s Boston Pizza

Who doesn’t like supper out. How about coming out on Wednesday, May 15. My compliments to Boston Pizza in Cobourg (at the Northumberland Mall) for opening their doors to the http://www.seatosea.org cycling to end poverty. They will donate 10% of the supper proceeds that evening.

I will be out front to welcome you in ‘unicycle style’.

My endurance on a unicycle has definitely increased since starting regular training a couple of weeks ago. I’ve been doing about 10K by unicyle at least once a week. In addition to that I try to get out every day and bike for a half hour or more. The late spring has made it difficult to get our sooner.

The most exciting part of training for my 1000km participation this summer is doing the unicycling in an urban area. Seeing a unicyclist makes people side step the regular social norms; kids will come up to me or call out to me, adults will make comments in an attempt to be funny (and some are very funny), teens will give a thumbs up or give some word of encouragement. For little kids, it’s not “don’t talk to strangers”. How can a unicyclist, who brings smiles to their face be classified as a “stranger”. However, I do not use that as licence to hand out candies (except when I rode in the Oshawa Santa Claus parade a few years ago).

I’m spending all of this extra time unicycling this spring so I can complete 10% or more of the distance from Grand Rapids, Michigan to Montreal, Quebec, by unicycle.

I cherish your support in helping me reach my goal of $5000 for projects that support people living in poverty.