Element of blank

27 April, 2012        Element of blank

My mind wanders at the river, especially when it’s drizzly and misty like  when I walked there yesterday morning. I spend time with lots of people who have spent lots if time in comas and I spent around five days in a coma in 1988. I hear lots about the experience of coma. My own experience was, to paraphrase Emily Dickinson, “an element of blank.” More at the end.

I’ve only done one post this month; in April of last year I did eight! I’ve been very delightfully busy but I wanted to post at least once more. My last post was only nine days ago. And Monday is the last day of April! I like to have some pictures I enjoy to hang a post on, and I’ve taken a couple. I was able to get down to Pony Pasture with Mackey and Turner for a few minutes on Tuesday. After they’d run for a while they stopped on the trail. Mackey, as ever, was ready for a break. Turner, as ever, was looking elsewhere. :

Mackey is looking at me. Turner is looking like he's ready to do something else.

Spring is showing now with baby geese being herded around by their parents. Or, if not their parents, some large and confident and authoritative looking adult geese:

Grownups and youngsters.

I couldn’t hear the babies and then I got home and looked at their pictures; they were making little gosling squawks!:

I'll bet their parents don't approve of this language! Even though they use worse language themselves - I've heard them.

I didn’t even know they did that. Squawked like that, I mean.

These pretty flowers were blooming on a tree in the parking lot. I first thought they were catalpa but am now uncertain. Please enlighten me:

Is this a catalpa? I'm sure I don't know. Please inform me and I'll credit you in this caption! Unless you prefer to remain anonymous; just let me know.

These fungus are prolific as well. They look like undercooked dough with oatmeal sprinkled on top:

I think it even looks kind of tasty. Fresh out of the oven. Maybe I need to bake some bread.

My buddy and I saw a coal train parked at our favorite spot when we were down there Wednesday. When we walked up there the headlight was off. Maybe he saw us looking because he turned it on while we were standing there. The locomotive in front (#819) is an ES44AC; you can tell by the two radiator vents at different angles on the rear. The locomotive behind that is a little older, #429, an AC44. They’re both 4,400 HP, but the “ES” stands for “Evolution Series” and pollutes a little less. They could also say that “ES” stands for “Environmentally Sensitive” but that may come across as a little disingenuous as it’s hauling ~10,000 tons of coal, and that’s all it’s designed to do:

Two 4,400 HP CSX locomotives, followed by ~10,000 tons of coal. Wow. Both locomotives are made by GE Transportation Systems.

Thursday I had a few free minutes and Pony Pasture is always a good place to spend them. It was drizzly and gray and cool, that always feels great on a spring morning. It keeps the dogs energetic. At the beginning, anyway:

Happy boys

The river looks pleasant in this light:

Misty morning

A rock in the river must have had a little clump of dirt in a pocket and some grass seed washed into the clump. It grew out there in the middle of the river and was bright against the gray:

Probably won't need a lawnmower out here. Or a sprinkler either, come to think of it.

Much farther down the river – almost at the golf course – we came into a large clump of these spiny seed pods. I have no idea what they are; I am open to all plant ID people:

Unidentified seed pod. It looks like I would not want to step on this barefoot.

I fussed around a lot trying to make this last picture look just the way it looked in the woods and I was never able to pull it off. I was flummoxed. I’ve really been looking for an opportunity to use that excellent word. It’s a beautiful green leaf and it had an enormous and perfect drop of water sitting in the middle like a silver jewel. The top was clear and the bottom was like a mirror. I wish I’d made it happen. Maybe another time. It’s unfortunate you weren’t there to see it, but try to look at this and imagine:

Almost like a jewel. Of course, the leaf was also like a jewel.

Thanks for looking at my blog; it’s always a pleasure. Have a great day,

Jay and friends
= = = = = = = = = = =
Originally, inexplicably, when thinking about this post while walking in the drizzle beside the river Thursday morning, I was thinking “A coma is a singular experience.”

Or at least mine was. It was the absence of every single thing. A five-day placeholder. So I was thinking that a coma has an element of blank, since your life stops for a certain amount of time – it stops in every way, except you breathe (or it would stop completely) and your heart beats. My coma had no pain, but it was the very definition of blank.

I had started out with a small company and grown with it and it was a company with lots of turnover. But I stayed for seven years and I was that person who knew where everything was and how everything worked. I was one of those people no small company can do without. I was, in my mind anyway, irreplaceable. The day before my accident a lot of others may have characterized me that way as well. Guess what! The company didn’t fold! That’s a kind of cool thing about a coma like mine – I stopped, but the world didn’t, and I’m having a chance to do stuff again. Which is really, really excellent. My five days in a coma happened twenty-four years ago, and I’m still happy to get up in the morning.

I have an acquaintance who had a very severe spinal cord injury three or four years ago. He is in his mid-twenties. Absent some major medical discovery, he will live his life as a quadriplegic. But he’s as happy and positive and motivated and active and engaged a person as you’re ever likely to meet. I saw someone in his family last  week and overheard them say “we’re the luckiest unlucky family ever.” Awesome. Have a great day.

PS I was just about to post this when I realized the person I referred to in the preceding paragraph has a great website. Or blog or something; it’s worth a look. Check it out at:


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 Dogs, Endurance, Flowers, Fun, People, Rivers, Smiles (including "dog smiles"!), Trains. Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Element of blank

  1. Chanin says:

    Some things, like raindrops on leaves and even human bodies, can never be reproduced the way God originally made them. If you think about it, that means we sometimes get to enjoy them in two ways–the original and the reproduced versions such as the lovely photo.

  2. Pingback: Windows open, A.C. off, BREATHE! | NEWFAZE

  3. Hi Chanin!
    It’s true, none of this can be duplicated, especially not the experiences. The photos are nice, but it’s hard to beat being there. I’m glad to have a few of the lovely photos you’ve taken of the dogs at Pony Pasture! Have a great day,


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