A Perfect Day for a lot of things

22 January, 2012    A Perfect day for a lot of things

I’m happy more often than I’m not happy, and currently I’m happy it’s winter. It is sometimes cold and gray and dreary. This morning when I got up it was 32º and drizzling and there was ice on my windshield. I took the dogs to the river and they couldn’t have been any happier. Their energy was amazing. They ran non-stop. It certainly was a perfect morning for them.

It was also a perfect day for sleeping in. A perfect day for reading, for writing, for a warm fire, tea, blog posts, toast with butter, hard-boiled eggs, January has a lot to recommend it. As some of you are aware I took a five-week vacation to the Yukon Territory in northwest Canada in 2006. You drive (I drove) to Seattle then turn north for ~2,000 miles. I kept a blog on that trip; I’ll put a link to that blog here. If you like the pictures on that blog, click on them to make them larger. If you like the subject itself, click on some of the other links. It was an amazing experience in every way. Ivory and Nicky were my canine companions for that journey; they’re no longer around but I couldn’t (wouldn’t) have done it without them. The reason I brought it up is I thought about temperature this morning. I thought that 32º on a damp, gray morning at the river felt much colder than -10º on a crisp, still, sunny February day in the Yukon. Even though, at least by the thermometer, this morning was 42º warmer.

I digress. A little. As noted above it’s a perfect day for blog posts. And I haven’t put one up since January 13, much too long. Since it’s January – I’m really happy it’s January – I haven’t gotten out much. My broken arm is still slowing me down some, although I hope for not much longer. When the January weather is dreary, like it’s been today, it’s really dreary. But on Thursday (19 January) we got to the river just as the sun was rising; it was 24º and clear and crisp and cold and the river is almost never more beautiful:

Pre dawn. Hard to believe it’s about to get even MORE beautiful.

We headed off (east) down the river and enjoyed ourselves the whole time, as ever. When we got down near the golf course we turn south for a while (with the river at our backs). There’s a creek on our left and the 567 yard par 5 5th hole of Willow Oaks Country Club is just across. It lets plenty of morning sunlight shine on the bushes to our right; this cardinal is taking advantage of the warmth:

Watching the sun come up. I know he's enjoying it as much as we are.

I was fortunate to come back that afternoon for a hike with a buddy. We saw buffleheads (I’ll spare you), seagulls and a sweet pair of mallards. This was the female, being shy or keeping warm or hiding. Likely some combination of those:

She's being shy. She shouldn't be; look how pretty she is.

We also saw a coal train headed east. Trains are all the way across the river when we’re at Pony Pasture and it’s difficult to get decent shots. But I pointed-and-clicked anyway and saw CSX locomotive #1, the Spirit of West Virginia. I think I’ve seen that locomotive downtown before, stopped. And much easier to photograph. I learned today on Wikipedia that “It is also the first AC4400CW ever built.” Pretty neat. Also according to Wikipedia those locomotives (AC4400CW’s) were first built in 1993. So that’s ~19 years old:

CSX's locomotive #1, "Spirit of West Virginia"

It’s difficult to believe – even for me, and I took the picture – that these lilac buds were in the backyard the same day. I’m looking forward to April when the flowers are in full bloom and you’ll be able to smell them anywhere:

The darling buds of... January?

When we were at the river this morning (Sunday, 22 January) it was 33º and drizzling and it looked like this. If you think it looks cold and dreary and uninviting, you’re right:

Unbelievably, it was even colder than it looks. And it looks pretty cold.

When we got home from the river the cats looked like this and so did the woodstove. Kite’s expression (foreground) says “you left us with this ‘fire’ looking like this. Do the right thing.”

This woodstove is just so wrong.

We were all much happier half an hour later when it looked more like this:

The way it's supposed to look

Keep warm and enjoy the season! That’s why they call it “The Present”! There will never be another one like it!

= = = = = = = = = = =

I don’t know what to “title” this section, these musings, these reminiscences. Perhaps NEWFAZE, reflecting my deep gratitude about the new phase my life enters with each breath. There’s also a line I enjoy from an obscure Tom Petty song; it’s The Future Ain’t What It Used To Be. I’ll wait until this section has a little more shape, a little more definition, perhaps it will title itself.

I was fortunate to begin my “work” with a very kind person in 1994. He was having a difficult time dealing with challenges in his workplace and it spiraled into severe depression. His parents were understandably reluctant to put him on medication. The side effects of antidepressant medications are not benign, and his doctor felt he could benefit from a less drastic intervention. His doctor was a remarkable man named Don Mayfield, who I regret to say passed away in 2008. Dr. Mayfield was acquainted with an early mentor of mine, Dr. Paul Wehman, among the most influential people I know in the field of rehabilitation and disability. Dr. Mayfield felt that the young man needed to get outdoors and move around and be more active and his problems would resolve without medication. He asked Dr. Wehman for a recommendation and fortunately Dr. Wehman suggested he call me. That is how the path of my employment and life and friendships and education led to the “work” I do today.

I like to say that exercise has a “benign side effect profile.” I.e. instead of the weight gain and lethargy commonly associated with many anti-depressant medications, exercise helps keep up a healthy weight along with a healthy appetite. And the closest symptom to lethargy is a good night’s sleep. Spending regular time outdoors walking fast is plenty of exercise for anyone, and we did plenty of it.

For a while in our early acquaintance, back in the mid-nineties, it was rough going. He was hearing voices, or having auditory hallucinations. They weren’t violent and didn’t direct him to do bad things, as we often hear about auditory hallucinations. They were more of a scolding nature, or that was the way he described them to me. They would accuse him of petty things that he hadn’t done but, being a good Catholic, he felt guilty anyway. So once we were walking along and he was responding aloud to the voices he was hearing. This was a regular occurrence. I said “who is talking to you?” He was gazing off into the distance – he did that a lot too.  He replied in a faraway voice “the manager of the oceans.” He hadn’t been well for some time, and non sequiturs of this variety were nothing new. I enjoyed the vague, fantasy quality of the concept that there was a “manager of the oceans.” Later his family took me to stay with them for a weekend at their condo at Virginia Beach. We pulled into the complex and there was a large sign welcoming us to – you guessed it – “The Oceans.”

His parents and family were dogged and determined and they never lost faith in him. This pattern of behavior – hearing strange voices, depression, apathy, lethargy, inattentiveness – were one hundred percent out of character for him. And they dragged on day in and day out for month after relentless month. And one morning, with no explanation, he woke up and got out of bed and it was as if there’d never been a problem. Every single symptom vanished without a trace. They didn’t slowly get better – they were just there and, suddenly, they were not. We were all on pins and needles for some time, waiting for them to reappear as suddenly and with as little explanation as they’d vanished. But it’s been almost eighteen years, and I had a nice chat with him last week, and he’s still doing perfect. A treat for all of us.

That was the person who built the foundation of my career. He and his mother gave me a nice referral to the second guy. I’ll write about him in my next blog entry.

About Jay McLaughlin

I am a rehabilitation counselor. I have many friends with autism and traumatic brain injuries. They help me learn new things constantly. I hike with dogs at the James River in Richmond - a lot. I've completed an Iron distance triathlon a year for 11 years. My most recent was in Wilmington, NC in November, 2013. I currently compete in mid-distance triathlons. And work and hike and take pictures and write and eat.
This entry was posted in Flowers, Fun, Rivers, Trains and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to A Perfect Day for a lot of things

  1. Evelyn says:

    Cardinals are always such a wonderful visual treat on a gray day. Sorry I missed that! I’m really enjoying the post after the post. Kind of a lagniappe – keep writing!

    • That cardinal looked particularly bright and cheerful in the early morning sun.

      And I’m glad you enjoy the “post after the post,” a.k.a. “lagniappe.” Working on the next one!

      Have a great day,


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