Getting High

The end of my first two week stint back as a physician has brought me to the true edge of my endurance. I am tired. The good part of this is that I am not tired because of work but because I forced and pushed myself to keep doing other stuff. I kept up my exercise. I spent some good time with the boys and Brooke, I helped finish a little project at the house, I kept a little effort on the getting ready for this little talk I am going to give, and I even made all the meetings I was supposed to in these last two weeks. I will admit I got a little lucky as work was not very busy for me. I would say other people were lucky in that they weren’t sick enough to visit me. Either way it feels like I did accomplish some stuff.

In all that I was glad to do a few bike rides, a couple real muddy ones and few dry ones. It was nice to think about last year having to avoid the rain to keep my Hickman catheter dry and know that right now the rain could fall and I didn’t have to scamper off to find a coat or a dry spot. One of the best activities of the two weeks though was on Saturday afternoon. I got through my list of patients rather quickly (I went in early and saw the ones I knew were already woken up for nursing reasons) which gave me a chance to catch Brooke and the boys as they went out for a hike with the Kam-Magruder clan. We went to a place just above Anchorage called Flat top. Brooke and I used to be up there in the foothills of the Chugach mountains all the time but it has been less with the boys than we would like. We still get up there probably 10-20 times a year though, for early season skiing, spring skiing, or just a hike. The last year has obviously been quite different.  We did make it up once last summer after my near miss with liver failure. I was extremely weak though and I only managed to get up to the edge of blueberry hill.

This year was a little different. I was able to mountain goat right up along with the kids. This would not normally be an accomplishment but given that I haven’t been up there or really climbed up any mountains in a long time it felt good. The best part was hanging out on the top for a little while before the frolic back down. I have talked many times this year about little moments which might not seem that meaningful but when you really think about them they are quite precious. As I stood up there looking over the edge of the small band of cliffs and back down into the Glen alps valley, further on down and over Anchorage and further yet (300 miles further) to Denali rising in the late summer light I remembered how much I enjoy being high. Yep, high. No not medicinally high, or artificially elevated but powered to a higher level by the simple act of getting your own ass (and two kids) to the top of a mountain.

Yes the view was pretty cool that day. But I thought of all the thousands of times I have climbed, run, skiied, biked, or simply walked to the top of some prominence and gazed out over the land laid below. I thought of all the views, I thought of the times when I couldn’t see a thing, the times when I journeyed right on by and didn’t look. Those last ones are ones I regret. I don’t regret much in my life but now I realize taking a second to just take it in is well worth it. The grandeur of looking down on all the perfectly miniaturized aspects of the world is empowering. It can make you feel small and big all at the same moment. This feeling is fleeting. But I am not sure it is really found at any other point in life except for that time you breathe deep and think about your own size in the world. 

I was taken away from the edge, the view by the screams of fun coming from the group of kids we were with. They had moved on from the view and were on to enjoying the rest of the mountain top. I don’t know if they took the time to enjoy where they were but it was okay. I got to  for a brief time. I am sure they all felt this power but the pull of kid kingdom and all there is to explore keeps them moving and yanking me with them. I threw a rock in the ever growing cairn at the top. I have been there many times but I have never done that before. I don’t know why but I felt more like I needed to leave a little mark without leaving a mark because who knows the next time I will get there. But just like I am told with drugs, getting high is addicting and might have caught the mountain bug again.

Head Up, Heart Strong. I need a cure.

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