Abiding in the Presence of God A Message on Psalm 91, Verse 1-4 Prince William Medical Center What would we do if we weren’t afraid? It’s interesting to contemplate the things we might attemp…
Source: Abiding in the Presence of God
On October 11th, 2014, my wife and I went to Rochester, Minnesota for the most challenging adventure of our lives, to date. We were headed to the Mayo Clinic and I was scheduled for open heart surgery. I haven’t posted for a while, but this was such a profound experience, that I feel compelled to write about it and share it.
Back in the 1990s, I was diagnosed with a congenital heart malady called Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy(HCM), which the docs were able to treat with various medications. While I had a couple of restrictions, I was still able to engage in adventures all over the world, in Africa, the Middle East, in Europe and the USA. Trouble started in 2011 when my heart went into atrial fibrillation, a minor arrhythmia, which my Dr treated with a procedure called a catheter ablation, but a form of it recurred in 2013, after we returned to the USA and before I left for Afghanistan. I tried to have it fixed, unsuccessfully, at a local hospital before deployment, and then when I returned sought help at Johns Hopkins, up in Baltimore. They were able to temporarily fix the arrhythmia, but sent me for a complete workup with their HCM Center of Excellence(COE). The diagnosis was that I had developed an obstruction in my left ventricle, due to the enlargement of my septum and that it was significantly impeding the flow of blood and causing the arrhythmias. Doing nothing was not an option since it would lead to heart failure and make me a transplant candidate. Medications might provide a temporary fix. Surgically excising the obstruction was the inevitable option, so I we took it. This procedure is called a septal myectomy. The problem was that I was still in atrial fibrillation and this procedure would not fix that. So, in addition to the myectomy, the surgeon would have to perform a Maze procedure, which involves isolating electrical pathways around the sinus node (the heart’s natural pacemaker), to make sure that only the right electrical impulses are conducted to the muscles. Risk alert: if that gets messed up, you end up with a pacemaker.
A week after we decided to go ahead with the surgery, I got an email from the Physician’s Assistant at the Johns Hopkins COE. Dr Abraham, their Director, had reviewed my tests and images (MRI, ECG, etc) and wanted to refer me to Mayo Clinic, vice performing the surgery at Hopkins. Dr. Hartzell Schaff, he felt, was the right guy to do the surgery. I was at work when I got the email and sat staring at the screen for about a half hour. Johns Hopkins is one of the best hospitals in the world and they have a COE specializing in my condition, and they were essentially conceding that my case was out of their league… It was just the first of several profound experiences. That night, I did some research on Hartzell Schaff and learned that he is likely that top guy in the world for this type of procedure, hands down. He pioneered it and he has done thousands of them, successfully. As an aside, he did two on the day he did my surgery.
It was in early June that we decided to go the surgical route and we couldn’t get a date at Mayo until 15 October. Over the course of the Summer, my condition deteriorated to the point that by late September I was experiencing shortness of breath and dizzy spells. I kept working, though I did take a couple of sick days. I did a business trip to Europe that was pretty tough though, but we were shorthanded and somebody had to do it. The last three weeks before I left for Mayo were really tough though.
We left on October 11th. We had re-established contact with my old friend Clarence and his wife Judy, up in Minneapolis. I hadn’t seen Clarence since 1975 and had never met Judy. They picked us up at the airport, we spent the night with them and went to church with them the next day. The really cool part is that the last time I saw Clarence I had not been a Christian and now I am, so the fellowship was especially sweet. Judy is especially precious and they are in a wonderful church, Bryant Avenue Baptist, in Minneapolis. After a wonderful lunch, Clarence and Judy drove us down to Rochester, where we checked into the Brentwood on 2nd Hotel, right across from St Mary’s Hospital, Mayo Clinic, where I would have my surgery and recovery.
Monday was a blur, as I had to take the shuttle over to the Mayo Clinic Main Campus for all my tests. Blood tests, EKG, Echocardiogram, chest X-ray. It is the most amazing hospital. 30,000 employees and 1500 volunteers all there to help. Very intuitively laid out and easy to find your way. Almost no bureaucracy – if you get there early, they see you early and hundreds of people going through the process. Its like the Grand Central Station of hospitals, but nobody gets lost and the volunteers are shepherding people around. Once I finished there, early, I headed back to the hotel and my wife and I had lunch together. Then after lunch, we had our consult with Dr. Schaff’s Nurse Practitioner. We spent about an hour or so with her, reviewing my condition, family history, everything.
The most amazing thing about Mayo, I think, is their bedside manner. Everyone there goes out of their way to make you feel like they care about you and that they are there to help you feel better. That includes all the Doctors and that’s pretty impressive, considering that the Doctors working there have to have impeccable credentials and have every reason to be prideful. I didn’t meet a single soul there who was the least bit stand-offish or arrogant. That’s quite a change from other hospitals I’ve been in over the years.
That evening, John and Dawn came over from Sparta, Wisconsin, and we had dinner together at a place called Chesters. I’ve known John since 7th grade (circa 1967/8) and was the best man at his wedding to Dawn back in 1978. In 1988 we were assigned together in Germany through the providence of God. It was wonderful chatting with them and the food was excellent.
On Tuesday, I had an angiogram – they ran a catheter up my arm and into my heart and squirted radioactive dye into it to see if I had any arterial blockages. They do this because if any blockages show up, they can fix them during the surgery. They put you under sedation for the procedure, but in my case, it just knocked me out. I don’t remember any of it at all. Providentially, my arteries were clear – great diet and God’s grace! Following the angiogram (which took several hours) we had our consult with Dr. Schaff. I had been told that he was a quiet man that wouldn’t say much. Such was not the case – my wife and I found him quite affable. He fully explained, using diagrams, what he was going do and how he was going to do it. I only had one question – since Mayo is a teaching hospital, was he going to do the procedure himself? He explained that he would not open and close, but he would do all the heart work himself. We then chatted a little about my work and then he moved on to his next patient. That night, I can’t even remember what we did for supper – I think we ate in the hotel. We waited until after 7pm and then called the surgery scheduling line and learned that I would not have to report for surgery until around 7:30 a.m. I figured this mean’t that I would be getting operated on later in the day, and it turned out this was correct. I then took the shower, using the special disinfectant soap they gave me that day which is designed to help avoid infections.
Wednesday was D-Day. My wife and I woke up about 5 a.m. and she fixed me a cup of coffee – that was permitted under the rules of the fasting. Like a priest preparing for his priestly duties, I showered with the special soap and dressed. We chatted and when the time came, we walked over to St. Mary’s and checked in at Admissions. After a short wait, we were taken upstairs to the area where I got ready for surgery. The nurse told me to disrobe and get into the gown that was provided and put my belongings in the bags provided. It took my wife and I about five minutes to figure out how to snap the gown together, but eventually we figured it out. It was about this time that Dawn arrived – she would spend the day and night with my wife, a very generous and loving act under the circumstances. In the end Dawn helped respond to texts and emails, consoled and loved on my wife and prayed with her during the 4+ hours I was in surgery. Right after Dawn arrived, my gurney arrived and it was time to go. I kissed my wife and we said our good byes, then she chased me down in the hall and we did it again – it was very emotional. I was really longing for the anesthesia at that point because of the stress and the emotion of it all.
The people who prepped me for surgery were all very kind. When I entered the operating theater, there were a lot of people in there. It was an extremely organized, high intensity pandemonium as they got me situated and prepped. Everyone introduced themselves and explained what they were doing and they were all very kind (I repeat myself). Its an uncomfortable situation, but they did their best to keep me comfortable. Finally, the anesthesiologist, who had introduced himself earlier, started sedation and put the mask over my face. He was asking questions about where I was from and so forth when….
I woke up about midnight I suppose and it was all over. I don’t remember much other than that. At about 4a.m. they had to put a plate under my back to do a chest x-ray and it was excruciating – I remember that and it must have really been painful considering all the dope I was on. Then, around 7a.m. I woke and was fairly coherent. A breathing tube was down my throat, but it didn’t bother me that much (I had thought I’d panic but that didn’t happen). When I woke they pulled it out. It was the 16th, the day after, and I was still alive and I was in ICU. An hour later, my bride and Dawn came in to see how I was doing. They told me about their adventure. They went to the waiting area after I had been wheeled off, where they were kept informed on when I was prepped, when I entered the operating area, when they started the incision, when they put me on heart/lung bypass, when I came off bypass, when they closed and when I went to recovery/ICU. The Mayo Nurse Communicators had done a great job keeping them informed. There were no complications whatsoever. They had gotten to see me, sleeping at about 6 p.m., and had gone back to the hotel about an hour later, since I was not expected to wake up for a few more hours.
I was out of ICU by noon. I was really doing well. I was transferred to Mary Brigh Ward 5C where I would spend the next 5 days recovering. I had a lot of hoses and cords in me. Two wires hanging out of my abdomen were attached to my heart, because they had a temporary pacemaker attached. They also had a drain hose as well. These all came out over the next few days. I started with a walk that day, and walked every day until discharged.
Over the next five days, I slowly started to eat solid foods, got trained on how to care for my wounds, and how to care for my sternum, which was now wired together from the surgery. I learned about my driving restriction and how other odds and ends. I also learned that I had a really hard time concentrating the first two days, and couldn’t read those days. This was probably because of the dope and because of a phenomenon known as “pump head”, which happens to people who have been on a heart lung machine. Apparently, our brains get a bit addled for a while.
I also spent some real, quality time in prayer and communion with my Lord, who brought me through the whole thing with no complications. He also showed me some amazing things. Mine was far from the most serious condition at Mayo – everyone there is dealing with something difficult. No one goes to Mayo for a hang nail. We met a family who’s loved one had a ruptured aortic aneurism – I’d never heard of anyone surviving one of those, but this guy did, though he died a few days later. Its a tribute to his trauma team and the Mayo docs that he lived as long as he did though. One of the men in the hotel with us had the same operation as I, a septal myectomy, that morning, but was still in the hospital when we flew home. They had nicked a lymph node during his operation and they had to get that sorted out – he was very ill, but expected to recover.
That’s our Mayo story. God intervened in our lives in a mighty way there and he is intervening in the lives of hundreds of others there every day. Its an amazing place. I’m grateful to Him, and to all the dedicated people there.
I’ve become fascinated by the American Civil War since we have moved to Virginia. I’d read a bit about it as part of my professional reading back when I was in the military, but now we are living in the region where much of it was fought. At present, I am reading Shelby Foote’s three volume history of the Civil War, and really enjoying it.
War takes on a new significance when you have a son who has seen battle, and may do so again.
We live in Bristow, which is next to Bristoe Station, a place where Confederate troops staged for the battles of first and second Manassas (or Bull Run) and the Battle for Bristoe Station was fought. Bristow and Bristoe station are at a railroad crossroads that was critical for the east-west and north-south mobility of Confederate forces as they maneuvered to meet Union advances emanating from Maryland and Washington, DC. Bristow and Manassas were therefore what we call in military parlance “key terrain”, which is terrain that gives an advantage to whichever side controls it.
In 1861 and 1862, Bristoe Station was used as a staging area for Confederate troops. In 1863, Union and Confederate forces clashed there as each side sought to control the rail junction. I found it interesting to note that the majority of deaths suffered at Bristoe Station came not from enemy action, but from disease – seems that sanitary conditions caused the Confederates to lose one or two soldiers a day.
Last Saturday, as I was in Maryland on business, I went to see the Antietam Battlefield Park, near Sharpsburg, Maryland. The Battle for Antietam took place in September, 1862 and resulted in over 23,000 casualties in a single day. That is more casualties than Americans suffered in the American Revolution, the Mexican War and the War of 1812 combined. It’s a staggering amount. At the sunken road (Bloody Lane), 5000 were killed or wounded in two hours (pretty impressive given they had no machine guns and were fighting with muzzle loaders). The world would not see such casualty figures again until World War I, when the Brits suffered 20,000 casualties, per day, for three days, on the Somme.
I find myself getting emotional on these visits; I can relate more now that I have offered a son on the altar of freedom in Afghanistan – but in my case, God has been merciful and returned our son to us. Numbers like 23,000 and 5,000 used to initially impress me as sterile statistics, but now I find myself relating to the unspeakable tragedy experienced by thousands upon thousands of parents, wives and children as men went off to war and didn’t come back, or returned horribly maimed. A recent visit to Arlington Cemetery found me weeping at one point.
I’m getting to be an old fuddy-duddy…
Men on both sides of the Civil War were fighting for freedom and liberty. The men of the South were fighting to protect their families and their property. Unfortunately, some were also fighting to preserve the institution of slavery, but most of the participants had nothing to do with that institution. Shelby Foote tells a story of a Confederate prisoner captured in a battle in Virginia, who is asked by his captors why he is fighting. His reply: “ because you all are down here.”
Sometimes, I think most righteousness in the causes of men and women is illusory.
It’s been a tough summer, what with the move from the United Kingdom, but we are finally settled into our new home in Bristow, Virginia. Bristow is about 30 miles or so from Washington, DC. I work just south of the Potomac, in the world’s largest low-rise office building, the Pentagon.
Bristow is on the very edge of Northern Virginia suburbia and a beautiful place. We are within sight of the Shenandoah Mountains, which are part of the Appalachian Range, which runs pretty much the length of the east coast of the U.S.A.
Although the kayak arrived with no apparent damage, I’ve not had the time to take it out yet. I’m looking forward to that, as there are a great many rivers here that I want to explore, the Potomac, the James, the Shenandoah, the Occoquan, just to name a few.
Day before yesterday, my lovely wife let me buy a new bicycle (shown above in the photo with me). It’s a Specialized (the brand) Sirrus Sport (the model). Several years ago I had a mountain bike that I dearly loved, but mountain biking is a bit too strenuous for me in light of a couple of physical idiosyncrasies. As it turns out, road biking is not too strenuous, so I am taking it up in an effort to trim some of my weight – I’ve become quite the lardass (a technical term for obesity) over the past several months, what with eating in a lot of restaurants due to the move and lack of exercise.
Yesterday I took my first ride, which was about four miles, according to “MapMyRide”, a new web app I’ve discovered. It was a nice ride around our neighborhood here in Bristow. Following that ride, I re-contacted my good friend Steve, who is the most accomplished cyclist I know. Steve writes his own Blog, There and Back Again (see the Blogroll right), which had a recent and great post on suburban cycling and mixed-use pathways (MUP). As I had encountered a MUP instantly on my first ride, Steve’s recent post was very helpful and so I contacted him for a bit of advice. He suggested that I might want to ride out past Vint Hill Road, since there are some quiet country lanes out that way and they are less stressful than the suburban routes I would encounter in Bristow and the surrounding area.
I took his advice and learned many new things about cycling. Firstly, as I had expected, Steve gave good advice – the roads west of Vint Hill were quiet and scenic. I originally mapped a loop that would have taken me west from the house down Sudley Road to Vint Hill, south of Vint Hill to Kettle Run, out Kettle
Run west to Fitzwater, then north to Reid Lane, then back east to Vint Hill and then home. It was a great plan that would have put me on about a 7.5-mile route. Unfortunately, when I arrived at Reid Lane, it turned out to be a gravel road, though a paving crew was about to pave it with asphalt…
Fortunately, I had my trusty IPhone with GPS, so I plotted another route up to Lonesome Road (which as a bit farther north on Fitzwater) that would take me back to Vint Hill. It was a nice ride over rolling hills to Lonesome Road, but it also turned out to be what we called in the Army an improved dirt road. As I was past the point of no return, I took Lonesome Road for about 3 miles where it linked up with a hard top road. Fortunately, I suffered no flats and managed to keep the bike to the smoother paths along the road.
The result of this was a 9.6-mile ride, vice a 7.5-mile ride.
This reminded me that I’m really in lousy shape, though it was an unnecessary reminder.
1. Steve is a good source of gouge.
2. Use the “Satellite” setting for maps – it may help you discern dirt roads
3. Take it easy – it reduces the stress induced by the unexpected.
It is great to be back in the saddle and great to be writing again. If you have any pointers, please make a comment.
Today I did my last paddle in the UK. An uneventful but enjoyable paddle up the Great Ouse to the locks and back. A bit windy, and partly cloudy. A nice day.
We are bound for Northern Virginia next month so we are in the process of preparing and packing house, cars, kayak and dog for the trip home.
We will miss England, but after almost 20 years abroad, we are looking forward to getting back to the USA. I look forward to a new church and ministry, kayaking the rivers and streams of the east coast, some camping, and a new job in the Pentagon. I’ve never paddled an inland rivers and streams in the USA, so I’m excited at the prospect of kayaking the Chesapeake Bay, the Potomac River, the Occoquan River and Bull Run and all the other rivers there.
It will also be nice to be close to our son Daniel and to so many of our friends.
I’ll resume the blog on the other side, God willing.
Saturday, 14 April 2012, 0900 hours. Weather is sunny, about 50F, mild breeze, and a very, very slight overcast. We don’t get many days like this in England and I’m badly in need of exercise, so a perfect day to get out in the kayak.
I’m thinking about trading in the kayak for a Canadian canoe. Here in England, the Brits refer to both kayaks and canoes as canoes, so to prevent confusion, we call an American canoe a “Canadian”, eh? I really like the kayak, but I’m also thinking I’d like to be able to get out on the water with my wife, Chong. That’s hard to do with a single seat kayak. While it could be enjoyably cozy, it would be virtually impossible to paddle or make any kind of headway (as if that really mattered). I’m deferring the decision, since we will be moving back to the states this summer. I don’t yet know where in the USA we will alight; once we find that out, we can assess the hydrography of the area and see what we want to do.
Dwelling on the move – it looks most likely that we will end up in the Washington, DC area, which has numerous rivers and streams (the Potomac, the Occoquan, Bull Run, the Anacostia, the Patuxent, to name a few) so if that comes to pass, we will continue to be boaters. My only concern is the wildlife that inhabit rivers in that part of the world – I really hate water moccasins and as I recall, they inhabit many of the rivers in that neck of the woods. I hope there is some kind of repellent that keeps them away.
I have never seen a snake in England, either on the ground or in the water and this is a definite plus for folks like me who like to hike, walk, and paddle. I don’t know why this is, but I’m grateful for it. In the U.S., I’ve encountered rattlers, copperheads, water moccasins, as well as scorpions and I’m not at all grateful for them. Such varmints are a downside to coming home. I hasten to add that they are a minor downside, because we are so excited about all the upside of coming home (baseball, camping, real wilderness hiking, and reuniting with all our friends).
The paddle today was great. Lots of swans, ducks and egrets and none of them were aggressive toward me. According to the news, we are in the midst of a drought, but its not apparent along the Great Ouse river anyway. The solitude was nice – no other boats on the river today – and the exercise was good for me.
Spring — Hooah!
Dear friends and followers: I just posted my last entry on Rome without telling you I changed the theme of my blog slightly. I’ve expanded its scope to include all outdoor adventures, including my kayaking. If you are wondering what our trip to Rome has to do with kayaking, its nothing. Hopefully, this explanation will help you keep track of the random synaptic firings that occur in my brain…
Dan, Chong and Joel (yours truly) just returned from a Christmas trip to Rome. Big difference from our Christmas trip last year – then we went to Paris. While that trip was a lot of fun, the weather was terrible. Rome, on the other hand, was incredible, and not just the weather! As with most of the trips I’ve taken, the things of read and the photos I’ve seen simply don’t live up to the experience of being there. In spite of the fact that I’ve read a bit about Rome, the experiences of being there were new and unexpected.
Romans and engineering. Boy were those ancient Romans some amazing engineers and city planners. The testimony to their advanced intellect and skills shows in all the ruins and structures that remain. I’ve been to places in Africa and eastern Europe with no running water and the Romans had it 2500 years ago! They also seemed to have some advanced knowledge that someone would invent the camera, because the city ranks with Paris as being the most photogenic I’ve seen – but the difference is that most of Paris has been built within the past 500 years…
I guess that one of the legacies of my Red Team Leader training is that I now analyze things from different perspectives. The downside of ancient Rome was that, while it was a beautiful, modern, luxurious city, it could not have been built without the massive human suffering of slaves, who were taken against their will from their homes, to construct and maintain the opulence. Feeling quite superior that as an American, I was pleased that we had built our country without them, but then I realized that wasn’t true either. Not only were slaves prevalent in the south, the conditions of laborers in the North were probably actually inferior to those of the slaves in Rome. I wish there were something we could feel righteous about…
The Vatican and the Catholic Church. Another amazing thing in Rome is the impact of Roman Catholicism on the city. As soon as Constantine professed Christ, they began converting all those beautiful pagan temples (and their priests) into Catholic churches, chapels and priests. I must confess they are beautiful, but again that pesky alternate perspective kicks in… The amount of funds, loot and booty necessary to build and sustain this seat of Catholicism is beyond my comprehension. What was the cost of this opulence, in terms of the human sacrifice of the millions of Catholics the world over?
Food. Our last night in Rome, we found a great restaurant. The first one we went to on our first night, which I found in my guidebook, was mediocre and cost 154 Euros (about $200) for the three of us for supper. Our last night there, we found the Taverna Pretoriana, which cost us just 54 Euros, and was superb. This was a local place, full of local patrons. I thought we had learned this lesson on a visit to Venice a few years ago, but we fell in the trap again.
Practical tip: www.tripadvisor.com is a great web site for finding good lodging and food. Guidebooks suck. If you don’t have that, then find a place full of locals. If its full of tourists, or empty, don’t go there. If they speak lousy English, then that is a good sign. If you have a chance, take the time to write a review for TripAdvisor, no matter if your experience was good or bad. Misery should not love company.
Sites. I liked the Forum the best and the Vatican the least, but these are hugely subjective judgements. The Coliseum is definitely worth visiting, but the Forum and Palatine Hill, which are right next door, are much more interesting.
In summary, Rome was a great place to visit and I’d certainly go back, if given the opportunity. It is a remarkable feeling to walk in the footsteps of the Caesars, the Apostle Paul, and the slaves and soldiers who made Rome the political, economic and military power that is was. The lesson of Rome, is that it declined and fell, just as all great civilizations have – just as our great civilization will…
My first year as a paddler has passed. My first experience in a kayak was in August, 2009, in a rental on the Cam River and I bought Endurance a couple of months later. By January 1, I had enough confidence (overconfidence in fact) that I participated in the Cambridge Canoe Club’s New Years Paddle (which I called the “Death Paddle”). As with many things in my life, I delved into paddling with aplomb and enthusiasm this year, enjoying paddling on the Cam (in Cambridge), the Great Ouse (near my house), the River Ivel (down the road from here) and the Nene, over in Northamptonshire. Truly the most exciting and different paddling experiences for me were with my son, Dan, in the Great Nortwest, of the United States, where we paddled Lake Union in Seattle, and among the Orcas off San Juan Island. All these adventures are chronicled, to a greater or lesser degree, in earlier blog posts.
Paradoxically, the events in our own little stretch of river are profound to me. In the past year I was able to watch the cycle of plant and animal life up close and personal – something I never would have done had I not started this sport. On the Great Ouse, I regularly see the geese who were newborn goslings, less than a year ago. I was worried about them because some were born fatherless, which is a real disadvantage in the animal kingdom – in fact its a disadvantage for us humans as well. I worry about our generations of youngsters and “not so youngsters” who have grown up fatherless. Fathers are supposed to protect and teach their children to survive – Mothers love and nurture them – but parenting is a team sport. Men and women are different emotionally and physically, and the children need to be able to understand and embrace those differences. Perhaps this is why we see no instances of homosexual mating in the animal kingdom… Perhaps its why the Lord forbids it in the Bible. At any rate, most of those little goslings are grown now, though they are still a bit splotchy with their baby fuzz, which looks a little like peach fuzz on a teenage male.
Another rewarding part of this year has been my interest in photography – this blog is replete with photos of my adventures. I ended up buying a new camera and the photo bug has taken on a life of its own. I guess I am getting in touch with my artistic side for the first time in years.
So what does 2011 hold? I look forward to more rewarding experiences, but in a world that is becoming increasingly hostile to a child of Christ. Kayaking offers me a break from that for a time, but only if I go solo or with some close friends. I have yet to go on a kayak expedition in a group, where someone does not make some totally gratuitous or disparaging remark about Christians or Christianity. In fact its not just paddlers, rarely a day goes by in the course of life without some criticism of the cause of Christ – and if the Christian responds he is threatened with some kind of legal action. Such criticism should be an opportunity for an exchange of ideas about Christ and eternity, but frequently results in anger and insults – such is the general hatred that grows toward the cause of Christ. My greatest frustration is the “moral equivalency” argument that Christ’s teachings are no different than Mohammed’s – an argument regularly deployed by people who have read the writings of neither. I know of no, orthodox, Bible believing Christian who believes the world should be cleansed of “infidels” and Christ did not teach this – Mohammed did though. I wish the world would understand that Christians are not the reason for Muslim anger, Satan is. At least Endurance provides me an opportunity to escape this for a while, recharge, and re-engage.
The New Year comes, but my new focus in on preparing for the Lord’s work in ministry. I’ve begun a Masters in Religious Education at Liberty Baptist Seminary, which should be a three year endeavor. I continue to teach Bible at my local church, an lead the worship service. Our church is small, but it is necessary – people need the Lord. He put us here to help them realize that need, and address it. My prayer is that our little church becomes a big one this year, full of enthusiastic and growing Christians. My prayer for you who read this, is that you find Christ this year (if you have not already) and if you are a follower of Christ, that you will prosper and grow in your relationship with him in trials to come. Oh, and happy paddling.
Today I determined to head upriver on the Great Ouse a few miles. My plan was to take off from my normal launch site at Riverside Park in St Neots and head south (which is up river) to the Eaton Socon locks, paddle up the sluice to the small weir, where there is a small beach that allowed me to easily beach the ‘yak and portage to the upper stage of the river. A week or so ago, I’d encountered a fellow kayaker who told me about this portage site and so I tested it then. I then planned to continue south, under the A428 bridge, past the big power station, and on to Tempsford, where I planned to grab a snack, turn around and head back.
So, armed with my plan and my chart, I headed down to the river, put in, and headed out at 8:25 a.m. For the UK, this was still a bit early and there was no other river traffic as I paddled upriver. About 10 minutes into the paddle, my arms started to get fatigued, the consequence of being lazy the last couple of weeks. I’ve not gotten out enough lately. We’ve also had a bit of rain the last couple of days, so the flow is faster than its been for a couple of months. Anyway, the only folks I saw on the river were a couple of fishermen. The birds and waterfowl were far more prevalent, and I passed a few ducks and some of the swan families. The cygnets are nearly as big as their parents are now.
I got to the lock and headed up the sluice about 25 minutes later, paddling like mad. I’ve also heard the sluice called a “mill race”, as its similar to the fast flowing water channels that used to power the water wheels from the old mills. Its possible that there was a mill on this stream some time ago, but there is no sign of it now. So, about a hundred yards or so up the “race”, I encountered the deadfall. A deadfall is a tree that falls in the forest-in my case, it had fallen across the stream, completely obstructing my route. This tree had fallen since I’d come through the week before and leaves and other flotsam were starting to pile up against it. I had no means of clearing it (note to self, get a small hand saw). Unfortunately, the banks had too much brush and were too steep, so my only option was to turn around.
Undaunted, I paddled back down the sluice and put ashore on the east side of the big weir that controls the water level of the upper stage. Pulling the ‘yak out, I reassembled her trolley, strapped it on the kayak, and walked the boat up to the trail and upriver in hopes of finding a place to put in on the upper side. Fortunately, after a short walk through the forest, the path took me to the shore on the upper stage, where I was able to disassemble the trolley, put in, and resume my journey.
This part of the journey was not very picturesque. I paddled up to the A428 highway bridge and then past the giant new power station, which is quite ugly. I’d been up here a couple of weeks before – it was under the bridge that I met the fellow kayaker who told me about the portage down by the sluice. He had already pulled ashore under the bridge and I was sitting in my kayak as we conversed, when suddenly he stopped, stared past my boat, and exclaimed in a loud whisper “Look at that!” “What?” said I and he said that there was a big fish. I looked and lo, and behold the largest carp I had ever seen was eyeing me from below the surface. He must have been at least three feet long! My colleague explained that the carp like the warm water that is expelled from the power station and some of them get quite big. This fellow wasn’t as big as the orcas, but he was big enough to startle me! Glad they don’t eat people (I don’t think….). I didn’t see him this trip, though.
About a half mile past the power station, my right side really started to ache and my arms were becoming increasingly fatigued. Fortunatly, the good Lord put a place right there for me to pull out and rest a bit, much some Fiber One bars, and chill. I was just south of the village of Little Barford. It was apparent that I wasn’t going to make it to Tempsford today – I was just too knackered. I really enjoyed the solitude of sitting on that shore, in that pasture, watching the river go by and would have liked to have stayed all day. Reluctantly, I put back in and headed back downriver.