A local blogger's wife recently suffered an aneurysm, and their family is now dealing with the sudden life changing experience. None of us are guaranteed immunity to such changes, and his brave way of dealing with the situation has got me wondering again about it all...
Although three of my four grandparents have passed away over the decades, my immediate and extended families have been extremely lucky as far as illness and tragedy goes. But the last several years have begun to bring home the realities of the other side of our existence.
Three years ago I was basically a useless bag of poop layed out in a hospital for eight days, in the midst of a two month bout with a fierce case of pneumonia, not entirely sure whether I was going to come out of it the same or even live through it for that matter; and since then have never seemed to fully recover. For me it was a brush with death, or at least with the specter of long term debilitation.
A couple of years earlier an uncle had suddenly suffered a major, debilitating stroke in the golden years of his life, changing the course of his family's lives. More recently, another uncle had died after a long and painful fight with cancer.
Just a couple of weeks before him (now a little over a year and four months ago), my Mother, who had struggled for years with symptoms of Parkinson's and (I suspect) depression, passed away unexpectedly in a hospital after a simple cyst removal procedure. She had just turned 65.
Health and happiness are such fragile things. To stop and really think about it opens the door to an endless depth of questions, and most all of them variations on the one, main question: "Why are we here, anyway?". We might come up with some simple answers to get us by and ease the pain and confusion; or leave the question on hold. But we never really know.
Even before these things happened, after several wasted years of my own youth that could have been better spent and that I'll never get back again; a day had come along when I resolved to try not to waste another precious hour wallowing in self pity, depression, regret or resentment. To try not to waste it, anyway. That's all anybody can do. To help me in that effort and seize what (God) has temporarily afforded us, I try to spend as much time out in his world as possible.
Sometimes, I'll bike through it.
We headed up to Turners Falls for a revisit to the CanalSide Trail they got up there. We had only checked it out once before, shortly after it's opening in the fall of 07'. No greenery on the trees yet but we figured it'd be a good way to get a look at the raging torrent that the Connecticut river has become, after the recent global warming storms that have struck the northeast. (sorry).
And a torrent it was. The rail trail doesn't get too close to the famous Turners Falls dam, but you can get a view of the immediate aftermath of the water pouring over it's top near the bridge.
The trail does go along the canal that begins at the dam though, and standing on one of the short bridges over it will give you a sense of the speed and strength of the current plowing by just inches under the deck.
Turners Falls was more or less a 'planned' industrial center, ala Holyoke, with the canals designed and built expressly to power as many factories as there was room for.
Many of the factories buildings are still standing along it's edges.
With all the talk about green power, I'm always surprised we don't tap more heavily into the 400 mile long energy machine that is the Connecticut river. Good old fashioned water power. There must be a way to build water turbines that are every bit as effective as wind turbines that can be turned by the constant water current.
But I guess until Wall Street finally speculates fuel prices into the double digits, we'll just continue to grit our teeth and fork over the money until the whole kit and kaboodle crumbles...
Or maybe move to this street.
The trail was just as good as we remembered it, though a little on the short side; about four miles end to end. But with the canal at the beginning...
...a long, classic 19th century rail bridge in the middle...
....and an active rail yard at the end,
this short trail provides much to keep a traveller and lolligagger interested.
...and much to keep the occasional trailside critter curious.
The whole thing is a mystery to be travelled through. Best to keep pedalling.