What I Have Come Away With From This Trip

So today is the last full day of being here in Colorado. In the morning, the two-day trek home will begin. Yesterday was a trip up to Silverton on the Narrow-Gauge Railroad that starts in Durango. The morning was cold and wet. The town is located at an altitude of 9,318 feet. Not all that high, but high enough to allow my body to begin to betray me.

Through this entire trip, I have suffered from having immense trouble breathing. I brought my prescribed inhaler with me, which helped somewhat, but as strongly as I wished it had. See, a few years back I went on a trip to Iceland, close to the start of the winter season. To keep the weight down in my luggage, I opted for a far lighter coat than I should have – and eventually caught a cold that had been raging throughout the bus. Everyone else had the time to recover from their colds through the trip. I managed to catch mine on the trip back to the airport. Leaving 25F Iceland and arriving in 95F Tejas, my cold quickly developed into pneumonia, which eventually had me hospitalized for six days. My Primary Care Physician told me that my lungs would never be the same again. I believed that I could go through long walks to get my breathing back up again. Then COVID hit, and I stayed isolated from the world because of my horrible immune system. Exercise was not really in the cards.

A few short walks during this trip, and I realized that the combination of the heat (nearly 90F each day), the smoke conditions from fires further west, and my extremely deteriorated health would not allow me a good chance of walking the strenuous Petroglyph Point Trail. Couple this with the knowledge that the National Park Service had a serious statement about not leaving offerings within the Mesa Verde National Park, and I realized my chance to walk the trail and leave the offering I wanted were dashed. However, there was another trail that I could walk – the Step House Trail. Only 0.8 miles in length, and listed as a “lightly traveled” path, I figured I had my walking trail for Mesa Verde.

Carrying only my cell phone and a single bottle of water, I traversed the Path down to the residential location of a pre-historic Ute family. Getting down was the easy part. Going back was just as steep. By the time I reached the top of the trail, where the easier, flatter terrain of the mesa was located – I could barely breathe. In fact, I had a slightly severe asthma attack, and spent about fifteen minutes taking multiple hits from the inhaler, as well as trying to bring my breathing to some aspect of normal. The steep climb did me in – and it really wasn’t that steep.

In my earlier posts, I noted some of the risky chances I took on Petroglyph Point Trail, when I visited here six years ago. I felt like I took just as risky a chance on this 0.8-mile hike. But it also raised a few realizations for me. First, I need to work on getting my ability to breathe through normal exertion back to where it was previously. I’ll never be a marathon runner, but I should be able to make a one-mile walk without overexerting myself. Second, I need to be very serious about where I currently am health-wise. I’ve done more than enough fooling myself into believing that I am “ok”. I’m not. Third, I need to do this slow, incrementally. I am not going to turn this around overnight. I’m fifty-five now, getting ready to turn one year old come October. I certainly need to do a far better job of keeping myself healthy, that’s for sure.

When I made it to the Visitor’s Center at the main entrance to the park, there was a line to get inside to the bookstore. A sign noted that only “ten people” could be in the bookstore at any time. I politely and quietly waited for my turn. Given the rise of the delta variant of COVID-19, I have worn my OBOD facemask into every public location I have been. No one has ever noted the Awen on the mask before. Until the moment I was let in. The employee who ushered me in asked if I was an OBOD member. I replied that I was a member of OBOD in my Ovate Grade. Talking for a few moments, we realized that we both knew a particular OBOD member. The moment was a little jarring since no one has ever commented on my facemask before. But it was also a little reminder that while I am a Solo member, I cannot hide from the rest of the world. Just being on this trip has been important to me.

So, I did not get the chance to leave my offering at Petroglyph Point Trail. As one of the First Nations elders that I speak with from time to time reminded me: that same offering will have the same power when done in the confines of my backyard. It’s the intention that matters, not the location. The trip is also a reminder of the fragile perspective that I am at right now with my health. I am already formulating gentle steps to resolve that. I am also reminded that such acts of exercising can be construed as acts of self-love. I need to make myself better. There is still so much to do…and I still await what tasks Crow will eventually place me on. I need to be outside more often, among other Pagans more often – so I can continue to learn through engaging with others. I have moved so far away from that, that I am surprised when it happens – even with strangers.

I know…much of this may be boring for others to read. However, I hope that some part of all of this might remind a few of you that there is so much more to live for, so much more to do. We need to put ourselves in the right positions to do that work.

–Tommy

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