Today…today was a good day. No, make that a fantastic day! diablo-1

For the first time in four months I awoke with no pain, no familiar gnawing in the familiar spots, and no hot twang in my lumbar region. Despite a horrible sleep in an unfamiliar bed, I felt…great. What a phenomenal treat, like Christmas and birthday rolled into one, with a surprise visit from a dear old friend thrown in for good measure! I could have cavorted with joy, but chose to quietly slip out of bed without waking my wife and walk in a dewy meadow in the sunrise, thanking all of Life for this unexpected gift.

“Old Me” tried to analyze what I had or hadn’t eaten, done, not done, worn, said, or invoked that would have resulted in this foreign state of affairs. Surely there was some as yet un-teased out reason for this ray of sunshine in the fog…if I could but replicate it daily I could be free of this torment! Was it the stretching? The break in the meds? The increase in rice and veg? Was it the fish??!!! The barometric pressure??! What..?

The voices clamored in my head, and I had to get a little stern to shush them so I could just glory in the quiet country morning and the white horse whinnying to see me. Why does it have to be such work just to quiet the racing reasoning and simply supplicate before the altar of Just-Being-Alive? The choice of where to place my attention was proving just as critical in a pain-free state as when I am bound up with the knives calling for some mind-space, if only to enjoy the respite for the pleasant, slightly strange place it is.

Special prayers for days like these. Prayers of the heart and prayers of action. Time to grab every moment of sunlight and surcease from the cage of the flesh. Time to take my son and do one of the adventures on the chalkboard of our dreams… “Explore Diablo Canyon Caves”. (Diablo Canyon is a lava formation about an hour from Santa Fe, right on the Rio Grande. Cliffs of columnar basalt tower up and squeeze together where the lave flow used to dam up the river and was eventually eroded away. In a few places the lava has settled and created a fracture system of “caves” that I’ve known about for years and never gotten around to exploring.)  A few frenzied phone calls to some buddies produces some critical backup, because as much as I love adventuring, I never go into the backcountry without someone to at least go for help if the body goes squiffy. And over the years I have learned that hanging out with guys 10 or 15 years my senior results in a pace that I can stick with.  So many guys my age have something to prove, and keeping up with them in my quasi-unfit state is just unpleasant, so I plan for success and pad my crew with old geezers capable of twisted senses of humor and rely on my 14 year old son for scouting, ranging, probing, depth testing, path finding and the like.

What followed was a day of sheer bliss, clambering among house sized boulders below daunting cliffs, sending the probe down various cracks until we found one that “went”, squeezing down into the cool of the earth where the privileged few go and busting out the ropes and headlamps to squirm around in the dark and tight spaces. An unexpected rite of passage came up for my son, as he was required to set up his first anchor, alone at the top of an underground cliff with a headlamp for light, (after many years of training, I must stress!) and set up ropes for the three creakers to entrust their lives to. A proud moment for me to witness one of his steps into manhood.

(I love caving, but chose to scale back when it looked like my activity might contribute to the spread of White-Nose Syndrome, a fungal epidemic that is decimating bat populations across the U.S., and was proving more difficult to ascend ropes than my body cared for. It was a smooth transition to transfer the skills to canyoneering; a sport that suited my diminishing capacities in its tendency to take the body downwards).

Lines retrieved, steps retraced, lives forever changed.

This day provided all the adventure and exercise that I crave. For a few hours I got to bond with my son and do the stuff that dads everywhere dream of doing, occasionally feeling like I had stolen the time from somewhere or was taunting fate to send me a bigger flare-up, but shaking it off to just…enjoy.

With my chest full of gratitude and pride, we trudged back to the truck in single file, memories stored with fierce purpose like a squirrel saving nuts before Winter.

I wish you days like these, my friends, days of the nectar of life.