Sundog –noun 1. parhelion. 2. a small or incomplete rainbow.

Archive for February, 2010

Alder the Red

I don’t seem to be the only one noticing a very early spring around here. My springtime nemesis, the red alder tree, has begun a very early pollination cycle.

Every spring, usually around late March to early April, each mature Alder tree begins to ripen their hundreds of pollinating structures known as catkins. The catkins produce an amazing abundance of pollen each spring. Within a few weeks from now the tent tarps will have turned yellow from the pollen accumulating between rains.

Alder catkin on ground in front of tent feb 17, 2010
Unripe red alder catkin I found this morning on our main path.

Since becoming ill nearly nine full years ago, I began to develop an acute allergy to the Alder pollen and it has grown in intensity each subsequent year.

At this point it turns a lovely spring day into a hellish nightmare.

My eyes will become too swollen and light sensitive to see from but water and itch like mad, sneezes so loud they echo back from the trees in the small valley below our tent and go on for usually 7-10 in a row but have been known to last 30 minutes straight, sinuses that somehow never run out of snot, ears which become very tender and painful from the backed up sinus pressure, raw throat and chest due to the power of each sneeze, and heavy sleep deprivation because the severity of these symptoms prevent all but 4-6 hours of sleep at most each night instead of the 9-10 my body requires.

Over the years we have developed wartime strategies for getting through the 4-6 weeks of this Alder induced nightmare. Last year it was not as severe because of a few newly implemented weapons we found to add to my arsenal of allergy calming remedies. Though the difference was small, last year was finally a tolerable miserableness instead of something that pushed the boundaries of my sanity.

Xena battles Red Alder
Today I feel like Xena, armed and ready to battle Alder the Red who lurks above our tent.

My nemesis has started to wage an early war this year, several weeks earlier than most years, and it has caught me unawares. Luckily I am quick and have already begun my preparations for hunkering down and riding out the storm for the next month and a half or so. I think this will be another tolerable spring. I also have a bit of hope that somehow it will be easier even than last year.

This last week has seen some remarkable improvements in energy, endurance, and strength from the Paleo diet started seven weeks ago. I am hoping these improvements lead to me being better able to fight a winning battle in this ongoing war. The last four mornings have consistently seen me feeling physically better and generally even more upbeat than normal. Despite the allergies that pounced on me when I woke this morning, right now I feel surprisingly good!

I shall focus my mind on the garden I will begin to plant as soon as the pollen levels drop enough to allow me outside. Even though our tent windows are open (but have screens down), it does provide a small buffer from the raw windblown pollen lurking to strike the moment I leave for water, facilities or any other reason.

My posts will likely be more infrequent and hopefully being doped up on antihistamines and sleep deprivation will not adversely affect what I do write to more than a somewhat humorous extent. Don’t blame me if my jokes are not funny, if you were as sleep deprived as I am soon to become I am confidant you would find me funny too!


Of Butterflies and Chaos

Detox.

Most people are familiar with the word, products on store shelves promising to detoxify you from last night’s party or flush the junk food out of your system.

But what does it really mean?

The body has several pathways by which it will detoxify everything from that extra couple of shots last night to the cellular wastes produced by many biological processes which keep us alive. This system is also responsible for making sure the smog you inhale in big cities, the fabric softener used on the person’s coat standing next to you in line, or the remains of some pest spraying in your office over the weekend are all filtered out of your body without causing you to notice anything has occurred.

These substances can be removed or rendered safe by our bodies in many ways. The liver, kidneys, bowels, lymph, and skin are all major contributors in this vital process.

When something goes wrong in these pathways of toxin removal it can have disastrous effects.

Why would something go wrong?

Humans have not evolved around the byproducts of big industry, chemical fertilizer and pest controlled farming, artificial everything, plastics, car exhaust, etc – the list of new things introduced in the last two hundred years would feel endless were I to detail it here. Because we have only been polluting our environment and lives on such a mega scale for a very short amount of time in our evolutionary line, less than even 10 generations, we have not had time to adapt.

Many of us (some studies suggest more than 50% of the population) are born with various genetic divergences that impact in varying degrees just how well our bodies can cope with the 21st century.

If so many people have these gene divergences why aren’t more people ill from living in an industrialized society?

Because just as a butterfly beating its wings in a far off country can lead to a hurricane here at home, so too can it lead to nothing at all. It takes many other factors for that butterfly’s fateful flight to lead all the way to a hurricane and it usually takes more than one event to lead to a person being as ill as I am now due to problems with detoxifying our modern world.

Chaos theory, the butterfly effect.

Chaos theory, the butterfly effect.

In my case, a seemingly random combination of events led to this health and living situation I currently find myself in.

In many ways it could be said to have started with a bathroom exhaust fan that made noise when switched on but did not actually work. It should have removed the steam from many hot baths taken to relieve the stress of a particularly heavy class load while also working part-time. Instead it led to the proper humid conditions for black mold to proliferate behind a wall hanging over my bed and also inside my mattress, out of sight like a predator waiting to strike.

Add in a ten day field trip six months later with my class in which we go to the desert, live outdoors and use lots of mosquito repellent at night while enjoying each others company while sitting around a fire. Yet unknown to me as I added the repellent to the toxic load my body had to cope with, over those intervening six months the mold had been growing, spreading, and slowly poisoning me every night while I slept.

A week after I arrive back home my apartment became enshrouded in toxic fumes. The police thought it likely to be from a next door neighbor starting to produce methamphetamine with fumes that seeped into my home. Our apartment manager did not care so refused to allow us to switch apartments before it was too late. In a very short time, my furniture and everything inside the apartment, carpeting and the walls included, soaked up the fumes and produced a toxic environment every minute of the day.

Just as a butterfly’s flight to the next flower for nectar can cause a hurricane thousands of miles away, so too can a broken bathroom exhaust fan cause a cascading reaction in which the body is continuously overburdened by toxins and finally… loses… the… battle.

Would I be here now had there been no black mold? There is no way to know, that apartment was toxic all on its own. But one thing is a certainty, one of the main things that has kept my health poor is the low volume of toxins my body is able to detoxify on its own.

Many call us canaries of the modern world. I think this is very false.

Unlike real canaries in the coal mines which the miners put their faith into and cared for because their lives depended on them, those of us who are now the would be canaries of our hazardous world are ignored, ridiculed, and left to live outside of life because too few people care to listen to our urgent cries.


Week Six: An Early Spring?

Time has flown by these last couple of weeks. Today marks the start of week six and we are still going very strong. Other than El Polo Diablo, we have stuck 100% to strict Paleo – zero grains, sugars (refined or otherwise), potatoes, and legumes. We only ever drink water so it has been very easy to also skip all coffee/caffeine and alcohol.

This last week both Jeremy and I have begun to feel small, noticeable improvements occurring in us. As our bodies are adapting more and more to this new way of life our meals are keeping us satiated longer. The afternoon snack we seemed to have needed every day, we have skipped more often than not this week. We are looking forwards to seeing our food bill going back down again as time progresses.

In the last three days we have both been having small bursts of increased energy and ability to get things done. Finally starting to very slowly get caught back up on the things we had to let go around camp, we were really knocked down by El Polo Diablo and then an ankle injury Jeremy suffered last week.

I was amazed today to realize just how much I have been able to do these last several days around camp. Such as doing many tasks that would normally be Jeremy’s but which his injured ankle has prevented. Small things like making the short hike to our refrigerator several times a day have been easy this week where as the trip would make me feel like collapsing only two weeks ago.

Day by day our bodies are silently healing. Just as the first hints of an early spring are coming to life all around me, so too is are the beginnings of an awakening of my body and its ability to regain functionality in life.

A maple seedling with it's old seedpod hat.

I watch the tiny maple seeds that have begun sprouting from the soil and can not help but be awed at the massive accomplishment of life the fully grown, towering maples have achieved around me. From quiet and humble beginnings these maple trees have sought but one thing here under the thick canopy of leaves, to grow tall and strong so that they may one day reach their leafy boughs fully into the sunlight that lures them ever upwards.

Maples on our road last fall, reaching for the last of the sunlight before it drops below the horizon most of the winter.

Maples on our road reaching for the last of the Fall sunlight October 2009.

I have lived too long under the gloom of this illness. The time has come for me to sprout out of my protective shell and take a chance at growing too. For it is only through walking into the unknown that I will one day find myself standing high atop a distant peak with the wind whipping through my hair and the sunlight a golden glow upon my upturned face.