Three-Toed Woodpecker

Three-toes
Three-toes

 

Apologies to those following along on Facebook. Life in the gNash is a rural life. Mostly woods and weeds. We stay with clients that have room for us to park. Over the last nearly 10 years we’ve picked up a few creatures along the way. There was a gecko that made it from Mexico to Montana. Presently there is a yellow spider egg sac incubating on our ceiling. Something died in the truck vents once. The aroma took years to clear.

This month we’ve had a momentous family event. Some dear little field mouse boarded the truck and made a nest in the glove box (Compartment?). In NJ we said compartment. Somewhere, I think the south, I picked up box. I digress. Up at the Dearborn campout a few weeks ago I discovered the empty nest of shredded napkin and Elvis hair. Only Elvis sheds. It was empty and there was no sign of droppings. Being an optimist I removed the nest and didn’t give it another thought. I presumed the nest was made but we’d left the occupant behind. A week later I opened the box again and found a new nest. Still no sign of the critters. No droppings. Just a ball of shredded napkins and more Elvis fur.

Mice are a hazard. They do not creep me out. If I could I’d say, “The more the merrier.” But mice have diseases. Mice eat wires. Mice attract rattlers. Mice must disembark. So Burt got serious this week.  He caught six mice in 24 hours. The last a two-fer. These two ate their trapped sibling so no sympathies there. One pup was flash crushed in the box door. Mom was trapped. A third pup was trapped and eaten as mentioned above. The fourth a pup also flash crushed by Burt’s lightening quick reflexes while its siblings scurried from the canibalistic buffet. And now these two. Are we done? No we were not. Two more caught over two more days. Grand total: 8 mice in the glove box. Three days and a few hundred miles have passed with no new victims. Perhaps this episode is over.

In other news I got a lifer bird the other day. I spotted a three-toed woodpecker. I wondered why the three-toed name? Silly me. It has only three toes. Most birds have four. You can see in the photo above there are only three toes. This was one of the easier IDs for me. I’m jokingly called it Burt’s spirit animal since he’s short a toe and woodpeckers are called carpenter birds in Mexico. He wasn’t amused. It’s better than the three-toed sloth, I lobbied. Still not amused.

Also in the news, get your skin checked. This is your annual reminder. I had two biopsies this year. Both bad but not cancer. This style of biopsy is a punch. They drill out a cylinder of skin. Sadly, even after two solid weeks in stitches my wound did not close. It’s a nuisance but it beats cancer. I try to remember these little pains are life saving interventions. Each one is removing something that might someday cross the line. Perhaps the skin cancer I was going to get is already gone? Maybe we’ll catch it early if I do develop a melanoma. Chances are extremely high. Melanoma in the family and a blue eyed, moley skin with waaaaaaay too much childhood exposure. I remember trying to get tan. Year after year. Ahhhhh…

Two for one.
Two for one.
This is a nuisance.
This is a nuisance.
Ollie with her big bad heart is chugging along.
Ollie with her big bad heart is chugging along.
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Sickly

Cardinal of BCS
Cardinal of BCS

I’m not having much fun. Neither is Burt. Burt is at least getting better. Me, I’m not convinced. Monday I saw another doctor because after finally feeling better I was suddenly feeling worse. My lungs ached. I had no stamina. There was a fry cough. I had no interest in anything. The doctor looked around and said they didn’t think there was an infection but ordered a culture to be certain. I was instructed to return to the clinic the next day at 8:00. No food, no drink, no teeth brushing. Do not disturb the environment in your mouth with anything. Bring your skeevey mouth in as it is when you wake. Check. Meanwhile they gave me prenisone to clear up the minor inflammation.

I arrived on time with gross mouth. The technician stuck a long swab down my throat. There was much gagging and drooling. I’d started the course of steroids so I was feeling pretty good again. Burt and I went to breakfast to celebrate. I was told to check back in three days. My understanding was in two days they’d know if there was a bacterial infection. If there was an infection, they’d know which antibiotics were effective in an additional twenty-four hours. Since I felt pretty good (thanks, prednisone) I presumed the doctor was correct and there would be no infection. So after the bare three days I checked in with the clinic. Sorry, your results aren’t ready. I can do math. I knew that meant an infection. They were in the last hours of finding an effective antibiotic.

The next day I got the news that I had contracted staphylococcus pneumoniea. I didn’t have pneumonia, yet, but I was very sick. Now the month that had had three days of fever, vertigo, exhaustion, and general ick made sense. The culture showed my bug is resistant to three families of antibiotics but several commonly available medicines are still effective.

So I’m done with the steroids and feeling crappy. All my research indicates it’s going to be a slow recovery. I might be cured in five days but the exhaustion may linger for weeks. I have three more days of shots in the large muscle mass of my bottom. The cardinal is a spring yard bird here.

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PVD for me

Eyeballs
Eyeballs

Saturday afternoon I arrived at the Tucson Medical Center ER. I’m becoming quite the expert on ER staff all around the country. This place was friendly and the wait wasn’t long. My only complaint is that they did not have an ophthalmologist on call on the weekend. Also, they had free RV parking they allowed us to use over night. That’s a really, really nice feature but you’d think they would have mentioned no eye doctor when I arrived and said I was having vision problems. I could have easily gone to the hospital that did have a staff ophthalmologist. Way to waste my time and money. So I’m a little bitter despite their niceness. Another example of my underlying Afib freaking everyone out. They were concerned I was having an eye stroke. Long story short: I did need an ER visit but I did not have an emergency eye problem. The ER ruled out an emergency where I might lose vision if I didn’t receive timely care and told me to get to a real eye doctor on Monday.

Sudden eye floaters with flashes might be a sign that you have a detached retina. A detached retina requires emergency treatment in a short window of time to have the best chance of saving vision. With the detached retina ruled out I was safe to go back home for a few more days. I was released to our RV in their parking lot Saturday night. Sunday we headed to a friend’s house as planned. We had planned to spend a few days in Tucson to do pre-Mexico errands and earn a couple bucks. This part of our schedule was working out as hoped. Monday I called the ophthalmologist associated with the TMC. They got me in that morning. On the up side I am not hallucinating and I do not have a detached retina. On the downside I am not hallucinating and I have a posterior vitreous detachment (PVD). PVD is very common and most people will experience it if they live long enough.  There is nothing I can do except hope the roach runs away. The doctor told me the large floater might disappear in a month to a year. A YEAR. This floater is right in the middle of my line of sight. I have mistaken it for bugs, birds, and eye glass smudge. It’s everywhere I look. The flashes have died down. I also am at higher risk of developing a retinal detachment and the doctor suggested I have a pupils-dilated eye exam every two months for the next six months. A nuisance but easily accomplished in Mexico. Everybody likes Dr. Lechuga and now I’ll get to meet him, too.

Meanwhile my back was killing me through all of this. Two weeks later and the back pain and the eye floater are my new frenemies. We go everywhere together.

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Play on despite the rain

Amnesia?
Amnesia?

So all anyone really says after a colonoscopy is the procedure isn’t bad, it’s the prep. Yup. Forty-five minutes of twilight sedation is fun – if you even remember it. I don’t. The 12 hours of swallowing a gallon of grossness scented with lime and it’s purgative effects are your beginning of the end. It’s like a Sweet Sixteen for the over fifty. Middle age is fading fast and the next thing is barreling at you. Arrival at the hospital after a night of little sleep and much toilet paper was a relief. Put me under. I don’t care what you do to me. Three people asked me if my ‘stools’ were clear and sediment free. Uh, I guess so. The state of our trailer toilet precluded a thorough look. Plastic just doesn’t let go of 9 years of bodily fluids. Describing our plastic throne as stained is an understatement. It’s scarred.

My results, thanks, ObamaCare or ACA, made me really happy to have finally done my screening colonoscopy. They doctor found and removed a small polyp. I have learned it was benign. Polyps are where colon cancer gets started so it is very nice to not have that little guy lurking and growing in my gut. And since it was benign I don’t have to do this for ten more years. That is great news. I could’t have done this without health insurance and I’m grateful I don’t the polyp is gone and can’t get into any dirty business.

Immediately afterwards Burt loaded me into the truck and we headed out to the Good Medicine music jam just out of Jefferson City. The Simms brothers host a music campout in June. Food and showers are provided. We just have to show up and be musicians. We get to see old friends from all over the region and just focus on making music. The meal bells ring and we put our stuff away and pile in the food. Repeat for three days. There is no internet or cell reception. Ahhhh….

Highlights of this year’s Good Medicine for me were seeing my friend Sally O’Neill and playing Spanish songs and leading my first fiddle jam and laughing with a friend who was sort of fired/let go from a pseudo-band that I was fired from over 13 years ago. Sally did a semester in Mexico a while back and she returned with a love of Mexican folk music. So we swapped tunes and she gave me some new ones to work on.

I anchored my first fiddle jam at 8:00AM on Sunday morning. No real fiddlers are awake at this hour so I stepped into the void. I found myself surrounded by loved ones and felt lifted by their appreciation of my music such as it is. We played simple and lovely and ancient music. Then we went to breakfast and packed up for home.

The person let go from the band that I was let go from and I got a good laugh because there are more people fired from the band than actually still in the band. My claim to fame is that I was a founding member and I was the first one fired. Some might say the people losing their jobs could all get together and form a better band than the band that fired us. All of us have been told by the same person that we weren’t taking our commitment to the band seriously enough. This is a band that when I was fired had not had a paying gigs. My recently cast-off amigo reports that they still haven’t had a paying gig. I’ll call the band of castaways the commitment phobes.

Cantamos en español.
Cantamos en español.
Sally and Steve
Sally and Steve
Mountain Lady Slipper
Mountain Lady Slipper
Old and new.
Old and new.
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Flooding

The flooding Dearborn at the Hwy 200 Bridge.
The flooding Dearborn at the Hwy 200 Bridge.

Tomorrow is my first screening colonoscopy. I am three years late for this party. Between our travel schedule and Helena’s former shortage in persons that probe I couldn’t get this classic right of passage into ‘you’re over the hill’ scheduled. Here are some flood photos in honor of my personal flush.

Baby bluebirds. Maybe.
Baby bluebirds. Maybe.
Mushrooms
Mushrooms
Yucca
Yucca
Dearborn River and the Railroad Bridge. This is just above the confluence with the Missouri.
Dearborn River and the Railroad Bridge. This is just above the confluence with the Missouri.

IMG_3356

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300,000 mile tune up

Night guard mold. Tasty.
Night guard mold. Tasty.

Just be glad I didn’t do a selfie at my mammogram this morning. Those things are so painful I can’t even bring myself to look at my own boob crushed in plexiglass. My mind imagines a 2-D version kind of like a topo map versus the landscape. Veins, moles, stretch marks instead of roads, mountains and rivers. No thanks. Our relative stasis in our hometown means it’s time for catching up on all medical procedures. I’ve done the eye doctor, the dentist, the internist, the cardiologist. I have to still do a colonoscopy and follow up on new heart medications. Stay tuned for the colonoscopy selfie. Presuming all goes well I should have this wrapped up in a month.

Being in Helena is uncomfortable and wonderful. I don’t have a place in the most of the relationships I used to have. That’s the price you pay when you live on the road. Plus my old friends are all still working. They can’t just go for a walk any time. Then summer is manic in Montana. Even if people want to see each other it can be hard to find time. Everyone is trying to get outside and hike or boat or camp while they can. On the great side my best friend is next door and there’s twice a week Bridge and music lessons. Next up I’ll share some pictures of what we’ve been up to for fun.

Biennial heart monitoring.
Biennial heart monitoring.
New Glasses.
New Glasses.
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Smoke smoke smoke that western US….

These pieces are collected, not painted, by the artist we worked with on the studio.
These pieces are collected, not painted, by the artist we worked with on the studio.

After a smoke filled drive across the Northern Cascades we have arrived in Helena. It’s a jam packed visit with music, doctors, bridge, and fishing. I find myself deeply saddened by the state of the world. The west burns down around us. Fish are in trouble. People can’t find common ground. We are actually thinking nukes. WTF. It is a very sad and difficult time. I’ve been asked by others how I deal and I always advise, do what you love and look for goodness and beauty. It’s hard to do some days especially when my back hurts. It’s a heavy lift.

Following my own advice here are some lovely photos despite the smoke. I caught and released some fishes yesterday on my favorite river. I played some tunes with friends. I really sucked at Bridge. Again.

If you’re in Helena and want to see us. Do not weep. Next summer we’ll be here working. We’ve got a big job lined up. Perhaps the last big one before retirement. We can play music, fish, and eat good food then.

On the medical side Burt passed his physical with an A plus. I do not have hemochromatosis, yet. I may never develop it. This is good news. I go in for an upper GI test with a barium milkshake tomorrow. It’s probably all just gastritis. Or freaking stress about the state of the world. I’ll let you know what we find out. Tomorrow we depart for Kila and the kids.

Here's Burt mopping the studio.
Here’s Burt mopping the studio.
Jolyn Wells-Moran paintings.
Jolyn Wells-Moran paintings.
Smoke so thick we could only appreciate the up close stuff.
Smoke so thick we could only appreciate the up close stuff.
The Northern Cascades.
The Northern Cascades.
This is an ancient breed of plant.
This is an ancient breed of plant.
I erased Burt's toe.
I erased Burt’s toe.
Claire and Burt
Claire and Burt
Box Elder Bugs. They are odoriferous.
Box Elder Bugs. They are odoriferous.
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