Thursday, August 27, 2009

A really nice day on the river

It was Sunday, August 23, 2009… and I finally got a chance to take another good, honest trip down the Crow River. So many things were important to me about this trip, and I will share them here, in no particular order of significance.

The trip was important because I knew the next day I would be undergoing surgery. Nothing life-threatening, by any means… but muscle repairs that have kept me off the water most of this year, and which threaten to keep me away for the balance of the season. It would be only my fourth trip of the summer, and potentially my last. My wife, Julie, has been a careful nurse the past several weeks, making sure I don’t “over-do it,” and limiting my trips. It is for my own good, I know, and I also realize how hard it has been for her to play the role of police… because she knows how much I enjoy my time on the water, and hates to be the person that suggests I should stay away from it. "But today, I will go for the two- to three-hour trip I’ve been waiting weeks for."

This voyage was significant, too, because the day marked one year since we lost my dad, W. Eugene Anderson. The river remains a good place for us to have a private talk. Dad was a Navy man. Anytime I am near the water, I feel near him.

I noted the depth of the Crow. After voluminous rains moved through our area recently, the height of the water had swallowed-up boulders and logs that were obstacles during my last trip down the river. Places where I was made to walk my kayak before—because the shallows were not enough to float it—are now up to two or three feet deep… offering only a riffle of evidence that they still lurk beneath the surface.

All of those logs were perches, before, where turtles would sun themselves, or where herons and dragonflies could land. Very few rocks are available now… and any logs that still offer an exposed surface are crowded with painted turtles or large soft-shells. There is significant competition for any reachable, dry real estate.

The depth of the water added to the weight of the river, and the natural pull of gravity made it lunge toward the Mississippi even faster than usual. So in a way, I was cheated from the three hours I had hoped to spend on the water; the velocity reduced the length of my trip to only two hours. My memory had to work quickly, gathering mental pictures that would have to endure, perhaps, until next season.

When it has been a long time since your last trip down the river, or when you know it could be a long time before your next, one tends to look at the waterway with a different lens. On this day I took few pictures… partly because not much wildlife was visible, and partly because my eyes were soaking everything up, leaving little time to focus on the camera.

© 2009 Mike D. Anderson, St. Michael, MN. All rights reserved.

I no longer have surgery in my future

My apologies for letting this site go virtually dormant for most of July & August. But the surgery I was hoping to delay until delay until November would not wait; the surgeon to whom I was referred strongly suggested “the sooner the better,” and I was into an operating room by last Monday.

At risk of boring the reader, the muscle damage was greater than expected. The final diagnosis was something like "complete, direct, bilateral inguinal hernia" (tears in the muscle that makes up the lower abdominal wall). The "bilateral" part means that the injuries were on both the left and right sides of my abdomen, essentially requiring two different surgeries… and I elected to have both done at the same time. As a bonus, the surgeon also found significant damage to the muscles that compose the abdominal floor. In fact, when everything was over, he referred to those muscles as “obliterated” during three separate conversations. (I did not realize that "obliterated" was a medical term!)

So, a simple repair turned into a major reconstruction, and I am thankful for the work done by both my surgeon and primary physician. What could have been a same-day surgery turned into a brief hospital stay. By today (Thursday), I’m feeling a lot better than Monday and Tuesday, but still moving very slow, and benefiting from various pain relievers.

My reason for sharing these details is not to be gross or to elicit sympathy. On the contrary, these developments could likely result in a significant change to the way I pursue conservancy in the future, and I would hope that my experience might also inspire a small but important change in the way anyone else executes trash removal and river restoration. (Hint: Team lift and know your limits!)

© 2009 Mike D. Anderson, St. Michael, MN. All rights reserved.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

A shortened season

No matter how passionate you are about a personal project, there are times when it simply has to be set aside so one can focus on more urgent or important things. For example, our relocation this year consumed a lot of “free time” in April, May, and early June. Or, consider the recession; the economy has magnified and accelerated the needs of the company I work for and the clients we serve. It has been really busy. Complain? I think not! Lots of people would love to have that problem right now... I do not take my employment for granted in any way. The point is, sometimes, we must do what we need to do, before we can do what we want to do. So, while I’ve been blessed with a few wonderful river and wetland expeditions this year, I haven’t gotten out on the water as much as I would have liked to.

Now, there is one more such task I must complete, before I can get to the next river clean-up. As I have long suspected, it seems I have a rather nasty tear in a couple of muscles; something I have apparently aggravated recently. This week, I have learned the issue will require some surgical repairs. (Not life threatening, by a long shot… but not exactly fun, either.) Until those repairs have healed, I’m not supposed to lift anything “strenuous.” Translation: No more river clean-ups for Mike this season.

Now I know what an athlete must feel like when they’re told they’re out for the season. (Although I’m certainly no athlete… and they get paid a lot more for playing games than I do for cleaning up river trash!) To say the least, it’s frustrating.

But let’s make lemonade from lemons, shall we? Since I’ve been anticipating this for a while, I’ve been thinking about a “non-strenuous” way of contributing to the whole idea of conservation.

I’ll share that idea with you here, soon.


© 2009 Mike D. Anderson, St. Michael, MN. All rights reserved.