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Where not all roads less traveled are roads...

Header Photo: Table Mountain, Golden, Colorado, with views of downtown Denver.

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Gratitude


Assuming whimsical gods favor your continued existence, there eventually comes a time when the bulk of our lives lies in the unalterable past. Compensation for this injustice is said to be “wisdom.” And though it’s not a fair trade, wisdom for youth, it beats the cold earthen alternative. 

Life is a lot like the canyons Bobbie and I hike around Zion, full of complications, snags, and cliffs. After several trips to the ER for pulmonary embolisms over the past few years I was finally diagnosed with a chronic blood clot disorder, all due to one little defective gene. 

I've been told by ER nurses and Docs De Jour that I dodged the proverbial bullet(s). I'm still here, but now on blood thinners for ever and ever. I was also told to sell my mountain bike and to let up on the "gas" a little when it comes to bouldering and climbing, seems a crash or fall while on blood thinners can cause an internal bleed-out. 

As you might imagine, I didn't take it very well. Neither would you if the life you knew and loved—pretty much your reason for living—was suddenly off limits. It's difficult to explain, especially to those who can't identify or understand what a significant role "active outdoor lifestyle" plays in my life. It's who I am, as opposed to "Doctor, Lawyer, Indian Chief. Thus, to lose my "identity" to a little mutant gene, just as I fully embrace retirement and free time? Well, it's akin to telling Einstein that his "Golden Years" would be racked with sudden onset Alzheimer's and would no longer be able to do what he loves… his reason for being. Oh the gods, how they love to watch a good and earnest man die slowly or before his time. I learned this at the tender age of 25 when my father died, suddenly, just as Social Security was about to give him a few options beyond working, working, working.

Everett Milo Johnson

Now older and wiser (theoretically) I see the irony of Life, the Catch 22, that chasing "success" can land one off trail. What one thinks might set them free ends up having them chasing their tail, a little counterproductive to happiness and contentment. 

From the Kingdom of Geezerhood, knowing that the "deck" has been stacked against me, I can only decide to focus on Quality over Quantity—to embrace life to its fullest each and every day on my terms—blood thinners, bleed outs, and all. Having already outlived my father by four years, I figure I'm playing with "House money." Adopting this new attitude pulled me out of a post-diagnosis pity party. It put me back in control… back riding my mountain bike and back climbing the "mountain," at least till I crash or fall. "Now" is all we have. It's the only time we can "spend." Don't waste a second, and realize, Quality trumps Quantity every single time.  

Ask anyone in a nursing home about "regrets." Most will express that they are risks not taken, places left unexplored, relationships given up on or choosing success and career over a more meaningful living. Author Donald Miller wrote, “Every human being is searching for a deep sense of meaning, and yet we're all chasing success. We've confused one for the other.” 

Gratitude. I have so much to be grateful for and where better to begin than with Bobbie, my constant companion, ever at the ready for an ad-lib adventure… to explore, to climb mountains high and descend into canyons deep. My Son, Caleb, who I couldn't be more proud of, the man he's become… intelligent, sincere, kind, and loving. He will make a good father if and when he chooses to become one. My Family… scattered as they always seem to be… my older and smarter brother, ten years my senior and still going strong, making a difference in his world. His sons, my nephews, and their families, all so smart and good looking you'd think they came from Lake Wobegon. Friends, so many whom we've grown to treasure and care for as extended family. Readers, always supportive… always those few who take the time to leave a comment of appreciation for one of our boring "home movie" stories. Health, so important, perhaps the biggest gift of all, for without it life begins to diminish, and often purpose, as well. 

Gratitude. I just returned from this year's final bike ride up the grueling and precipitous Flying Monkey Mesa Road, and beyond, to the Zion Overlook. I recall 15 or so years ago, on my first attempt, the disappointment of only making it half way, how it pissed me off. Today it is a piece of cake. Defeating the "Monkey," getting him off my back, so to speak, is a yearly ritual I look forward to. It is a "yardstick" of sorts, something aging males seem to need, something to measure success and viability in whatever happens to be our chosen realm of endeavor.  Why put myself through it? Well, because I still can, and I realize that the day soon cometh when I can not. I choose to postpone that "turning point," when the "Dominos" begin to cascade and topple, one into another, diminishing life as I knew and loved it, while inching toward the inevitable. 

In some ways, life is greatly simplified in Geezerhood. As I've said before, "Something challenging to do, in a place that inspires me to do it, with a friendly face or two to do it with." That's all I need; it's all I ask for.

Gratitude, baby. I'm full of it. 
Upright and breathing on this Thanksgiving Day, and wishing you all the best in your endeavor to maintain meaning and purpose in Geezerhood, whatever it may be.
Mark and Bobbie  


On a beautiful, windless day, we decided to show Suzanne Guacamole… a notorious mountain bike trail on a mesa top just a few miles from the Zion River Rv Park in Virgin, Utah. Jim and Gayle, Boonie, along with Bobbie and I, rode this once upon a time (year before last), in fact, we rode up to the mesa top, and thus began with tired legs. 

Guacamole is memorable because it's where Jim survived a horrendous crash that landed him flat on his back, on a rock, still clipped into his pedals. It would have killed most men; perhaps the water bladder in his backpack saved him. After untangling Jim and accessing the damage, we rode on. But a diminished spirit as well as a possible broken thumb made it difficult for "crash" to go on and we decided to turn around.

Suzanne has yet to pick out her mountain bike :), so we were forced to hike Guacamole's 7 plus miles. This is what we found… 



























Now go Live Life on the edge… to it's fullest, and show some gratitude :).
mark

47 comments:

  1. Happy Day of the Turkey to you and Bobbie. Today's post was particularly poignant for those of us in the Recovery RV. Beautiful pictures and places, as always.

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    1. Thanks Allison… Give Jim a hug for us and tell him we hope time flies by during his recovery.
      Mark and Bobbie

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  2. I think any of us who have read your blog for any length of time have a very clear picture of just how much you need an "active outdoor lifestyle" to survive. Yet, with this grateful post, I also see a man who will survive anything, even geezerhood, with strength and inspiration, writing madly all the way, helping to keep the rest of us going forward. On a side note, I made Mo Promise that we would do southern Utah next October/November. Promised. So that 7 mile Guacamole thing looks fairly fabulous.

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    1. Thank you, Sue. We look forward to sharing some hikes with you… maybe even Tripod Rocks :))
      Mark

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  3. Yep, absolutely no reason what so ever to go out with a whimper... carry on...

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    1. Not the whimpering type, except when the Broncos lose :)

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  4. Oooooh, Guacamole looks gorgeous, especially with the wonderful reflective potholes.

    I am grateful for being able to read your philisophical ramblings! Grateful too, for each moment I have on this crazy ride called life.

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    1. Thanks Lisa… I wish you and Hans a great Holiday Season in S. Diego :)

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  5. And a Happy Thanksgiving to you Mark, and Bobbie, your artist in residence. And thank you SO much, for providing the opportunity to meet you both this year. In your home no less. You were MOST gracious to invite in a couple of "stalkers" who you didn't even know.

    Although we had every intent to join you guys in Zion this year, if only to provide "logistics" or otherwise tag along, life got in the way. We are only now preparing to head out toward Yuma in the next several days. We want to be in Quartzite in mid January so we will likely "wander" around southern Arizona until then.

    Maybe we'll cross paths somewhere in Geezerville. Take care. And keep on keep'm on. I know you will.

    Ed and Sharon

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    1. Thank you Ed and Sharon,
      Been wondering about you guys. See you down the road soon!

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  6. You and Bobbie continue to be an inspiration as you exemplify such a zest for life. You are both so kind and generous to share of your time, your love for the outdoors, and the creativity through which you express it, whether that be writing, painting, photography, or "sermons" on the trail. ;-) You are two of the nicest people I know, and continue to inspire me to "Move I must, if I stop, I'll rust!" When I count my blessings today, your friendship will be right there at the top.

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    1. Me? Preach??? :)
      We had a grate time hiking with you in Colorado and Utah. Thanks for being an "easy hiker." Our camp is your camp, Sis.

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  7. I can't exactly call myself a geezer (yet), but having faced a death this past year I've become even more acutely aware of the passing of time, of moments missed, of ageing...and loss. It's easy (almost natural) to let these things preoccupy our thoughts and move into darker places. It's hard (darn hard) to look past that and grip onto gratitude and possibilities, especially if those possibilities appear less than before. So, thank you for doing that and continuing to inspire the rest of us to do the same. You rock!

    Nina

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    1. Gracious Nina,
      The thing about "loss" is that it causes us to pause, take stock, and appreciate how precious life is… and to "not put off till tomorrow" our dreams. You and Paul exemplify that every day. Keep on, Mark.

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  8. To quote Charles Schulz, "Life is like a ten speed bicycle. Most of us have gears we never use." In my case I haven't come close to using them all.

    However, on rare occasions we meet someone who helps us expand our horizons and for us that certainly describes you and that blabbermouth Bobbie. That said, and to dissuade other blog readers from taking up some of our allotted time with you, I should add that you aren't that nice.

    I was surprised how well you remembered my crash. From what Suzanne told me you are offering paid tours of the site not unlike the folks at Dealey Plaza.

    Here's to hoping that we live to ride Guacamole again. I'm willing to give it a try.

    Jim

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    1. Jim,
      Man, do I miss your acerbic tongue :)
      Your "crash" seemed to unfold in slow motion… it was awful, just awful. We will ride Guacamole again and finish every trap, hopefully unscathed :)
      Your Blood Thinner (much thinner) Brother :))

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  9. Happy Thanksgiving to you and Bobbie. You posts make my day, keep on keeping on!

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    1. Much appreciated, "Liz." Thanks for your kind comment :)
      mark

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  10. You have expressed my thoughts so well at the bodily limitations inflicted upon us against our will. I find myself angry that I can no longer go wild and free just when I finally have the time to do it. Thanks SO much for this inspiration of gratitude today. It means a lot.

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    1. "Go wild and free… " Love that!
      All thing being relative, I bet you still kick up a little dust. Like Suzanne said, just keep moving, it keeps the "rust" down. l
      Thank you!!!
      mark

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  11. Mark. Your works are gold to me. I lost my father at the age of 13, he was 45. I am now 56 and seeing geezerhood myself. Please-O-please keep writing as your words bring back those memories I relish so much and am thankful for. Thank you for letting me see what can be ahead of me as I dream about doing the things you write about.

    Happy Thanksgiving
    John

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    1. That's nice to hear, John. The loss of your dad at 13 must have been so tough… so many conversations and so much love lost. It's good that you can take hope from a Geezer who is still a kid at heart. Most males are, eh?
      Don't wait too long to address all those dreams in your bucket. That's all the wisdom I have for you… Don't wait too long…
      Thanks for your wonderful comment,
      mark

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  12. Very well said Mark!! We read so many stories of people who work until they are older then become ill shortly after retirement--my father was one of those, he died way too young. I am so grateful I was able to retire young and that both Michael and I have our health, "mostly." We enjoy your writing and your photos so much!

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  13. Thank you!
    Good for you guys. If I were to be perfectly honest, dad's early sudden death changed my trajectory too…
    Thanks for your nice comment,
    mark

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  14. Love and Miss you guys! Tracey and I are adventuring in the flatlands, looking for some edges to live on. In the meantime, thankful for all that you share. Cheers!

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    1. Hey Darin and Tracey!
      Big changes are "ledges"… Keep on shaking things up :)
      unc.

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  15. I am grateful for the inspiration and challenge you spew forth in every post. I'm sure you are grateful to medical science for providing you the means to continue your incautious but satisfying lifestyle with gay abandon.

    Chris

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  16. Awe inspiring post from a fatalistic extraordinare. I love the way you and Bobbie continue to operate on the edge although most of us others can no longer do so at our age. Everyone should be true to their inner voice, whatever melody it is playing. Don't judge others because their tune is different and more limiting or maybe shorter in duration. I've come to realize that everyone of a certain age tries to just do the best they can with what they've got. That includes ambition, physical abilities, financial resources, and the more mundane practicalities including the dreaded W: working until death, or close to it. For some of us, home and hearth are all that's left. Hopefully friend, unless you die out there on some trail, you will come to realize the comfort of the former at some point in time. Until then, enjoy and keep sending us these wonderful messages and photos. Hike on!

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    1. Hi Claudia,
      I'm sorry you feel like I'm "judging" others. All I meant to do was express gratitude for what we can still do and ages 71 and 65.
      FYI, I love your new "hearth."
      mark

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  17. I like your approach to seeing obstacles as adventure. I still remember you not getting upset when Petro Rex got hung up on an off road boulder ledge. No problem, just happen to have a chain for the jeep behind to hook up and pulled my vehicle off the rock ledge. Life is fun of adventure, can't let a few obstacles set you back.

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    1. Thanks John Q,
      As long as Petroleous Rex isn't bleeding motor oil on the ground… no harm, no foul. :) I always carry a tow chain cause, well, you know how I am :)
      Sooner or later, could be tomorrow, next month, or a few years, "obstacles" will get the better of the Box Canyoneers. Till then we'll keep going… bad back, knees, foot, age, and all the rest.
      mark

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  18. You and Bobbie are an inspiration. I think my nature connection is a bit slower than yours and that works for me. Thanks for giving us geezers a little push, but not over the edge please.

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    1. Thanks Gaelyn… a little "push," we all need it from time to time. But by all means, go at your own pace… smell the roses :)

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  19. Mark. Bobbie. Keep enjoying every single day. Every day is Thanksgiving day to me. And the owners of BCB. Blog adds to the enjoyment. If I ever get rv sold I hope to see you again out on the trails. Walden creek rv. Steve

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    1. Good to hear from you Steve… You must be asking too much for that Rv :))

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  20. Love your metaphors! My dad died when I was 12. I think that changed my whole outlook on life. We retired early and never had the urge to climb the corporate ladder.Life is too short. Now if I just had your genes to be more active!!!

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    1. Thanks flower girl, while 12 years old that would be tough. It does motivate one to not put off.

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  21. Thank you for this posting especially. It summarizes what we believe in.

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    1. Thanks guys, I appreciate your comment

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  22. Here's to living life on the edge! I'm ready for an adventure myself. Life is too short and I'm feeling like I'm running out of time and wasting away. My restlessness is growing, I'm sure in part because of Alex leaving for his trek across country. I'm tempted to sell everything that won't fit in the car and set out on my own journey.

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  23. Hey Kelly, we've sold everything several times and hit the road, so I know how you feel. Change is good, and the clock is ticking. Love you thanks for commenting

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  24. Quality over quantity, every time -- absolutely. For whatever reason, I've forever been acutely aware of the preciousness of this life, the speed with which it passes, and the desire to live with no regrets. Never felt like there was time to waste doing other than what called to my soul. For now, that means traveling full-time, spending as much time as possible in nature hiking, biking, and kayaking and sharing adventures with good friends. Thanks for this wonderfully written and inspiring post, Mark.

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    1. We must be related, Laurel :)
      Mark

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    2. I like the idea of being part of your tribe, even as a distant relation at this point. :-) Happy to have discovered your blog.

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  25. Nice post Uncle. Thanks for your insights on Geezerhood and Gratitude. May your blood behave itself and stay where it is supposed to be!
    Cheers,
    MOAB

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    1. I'll drink to that toast!
      Geezerhood is down the road for you and Darin… be he's creeping up :)
      hug everyone for us,
      unc.

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