Wandering Thoughts

August 31, 2008

Life as a goldfish

Filed under: Aortic Valves,Reactive Arthritis — terence @ 1:42 pm
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Terence: “Mum read through the list of common side affects of surgery today. Apparently, temporary memory loss is quite normal. Boy is that a relief to hear.”

Jo: pained look

Terence: “Oh, we’ve had this conversation before, haven’t we?”

Jo: sustains look

Terence: “And you’ve read that booklet before too?”

Jo: “Yip”.

So, I’m recovering fine so far, but very forgetful. It’s getting better though – I’ll try and post an update later in the week. Thanks to those of you who’ve emailed or posted comments

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August 21, 2008

Medical notes, 2023 hours, 21 Aug 2008

Filed under: Aortic Valves — terence @ 8:18 pm
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It is only 8pm at night and I am struggling to keep my eyes open. But that is nothing. Terence was having problems with his lids at about 3pm this afternoon. All pretty normal for someone who has experienced one of medical science’s many wonders – the replacement of part of your heart?

For those of you who regularly read Terence’s blog, you will know that yesterday he was scheduled for aortic valve replacement +/- replacement of ascending aorta. And you will know many of the details around it. I’ll let him fill you in fully, in his own eloquent and articulate way, in his own time. But for now, he has asked me to give you a brief update.

After seven hours of surgery Terence emerged with a new valve and a new portion of his ascending aorta. Luckily, the surgeon was able to replace the ascending section without having to put Terence into full circulatory arrest. What a relief that was! By this time last night, he was awake and cracking jokes.

He continues to do well today, including beginning to sleep properly (not the hazy, half-sleep where you drift off into a misty underworld only to jolt awake every few moments to some worrisome sensation or noise). Tomorrow he will be heading out of ICU, back to his own room.

In the meantime, I am off to sink into my own deep sleep. Many thanks to those of you who have sent messages and been so supportive.

August 18, 2008

Surgery on Wednesday

Filed under: Staying Places — terence @ 6:00 pm
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On a day when Wellington was ringed by snow covered hills, Jo and I went for a drive. We sat on Petone Wharf and listened as fishermen spun nets of words in Khmer and Samoan. We drove out to Makara and watched the early afternoon sun set the Tasman shimmering like unspent promise.

I’m scheduled to go into hospital tomorrow and, barring the unexpected, surgery will be on Wednesday. All going to plan I will be discharged about a week later. So no blogging for a while (although I might see whether Jo can post an update here).

I’ve been anxious today in an odd sort of way. I feel nervous like you do the morning you’re due to fly out on an overseas trip. It feels like you’ve forgotten something but you can’t quite figure what.

Which is ok, my travelling days left me more or less equipped to cope with that sensation. As you may have noticed I’ve been distracting myself trying to find metaphors.

August 17, 2008

Riversdale

Filed under: Going Places,Ramblings and Musings,Surfing — terence @ 7:20 pm
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One of my earliest memories is of my mother’s fear of the sea. My father, who loved sailing, was taking us out to an island in Wellington harbour. The wind was fresh enough to have his yacht on a heel and mum was screaming ‘stop it tipping, stop it tipping’.

Her distrust of the ocean didn’t stop her, though, from being surprisingly supportive as surfing took over my teenage years. It must have taken quite some bravery and skill in letting go to watch as her slender thirteen year old son did his awkward best to paddle to the horizon. Yet she did it; and every May until I got my driving licence she would rent a batch on an East Coast beach and take my friends and I on surfing holiday for a week.

Some boundaries remained, of course. The most begrudged stemmed from a sign she found on the first day of our first trip to the beach. “Danger,” it warned, “rip tides make this beach unsafe for swimming. Swim only between the flags in front of the surf lifesaving club at the northern end of the beach”. There were no flags, nor lifeguards. They were only ever to be found for a few weeks at the height of summer. By May the surf club, like the beach, was empty – the ocean too cold for anyone other than hyperactive teenagers wrapped in wetsuit rubber. Yet, to my mother’s eye the sign still suggested safety in front of the dilapidated surf club. We were prohibited from surfing elsewhere.

The year of our first visit coincided with a strong south swell, the brunt of which was being borne, predictably enough, right in front of the surf club. The waves were not only big but closing out – breaking all at once, churning sand and sending walls of white water rumbling shore wards. Not only were they hard to surf but it was almost impossible even just to paddle out the back beyond the line of the breakers. After two days of battering white water and dark, frightening hold-downs frustration set in. Frustration that was heightened by a painfully obvious alternative being denied to us.

The batch we stayed in was about half way down the beach, wrapped in dunes. Each morning as we trudged north towards the surf club we would watch the waves on the way. The gentle bend of the sand meant that the beach in front of our house faced due east and so was sheltered slightly from the swell. The waves were smaller and better too; standing up like A-frames and then breaking, in an orderly fashion, off to the left and right.

We pleaded with mum. We told her that her quest for safety was placing us in greater peril rather than less. We watched miserably out the window of the batch.

Eventually she relented. It was the second to last day of our trip and the combination of a soft offshore breeze and the spiralling waves visible from the living room were driving us to distraction. And we were driving her in the same direction

“Okay. You can surf out there, but wait for me to come down and watch.”

Our wait wasn’t a long one. We sprinted over the sand dunes, mum following in our wake.

It was mid afternoon and the distant winter sun was already falling for the western hills. The beach was empty except for my mother and sister, and the sky was a lonely blue.

Along a hundred metre stretch of coast waves rose and reeled across sandbars shedding soft spray; lifting the wind-ruffled autumn green water and sending it crashing to into white.

We scampered into an ocean cold enough to ache the exposed skin of our hands and faces but our hollering was for happiness and anticipation, not pain.

After days of battering at the northern end of the beach the paddle out was almost easy: we navigated our way into the line-up using the deep water between the sandbars as a pathway through the waves. Once we were out there all that remained was to catch one. Mark and Dom were both better surfers than me and quickly got rides, paddling back out gleefully confirming how good the waves were. I took longer, trying to find my place in the sea, missing a couple of waves, and narrowly scraping out of the way of a bigger set. Eventually, I was in the right spot; a wave stood up in front of me and I pivoted towards the shore, my still not quite coordinated paddles desperately trying to pull my board to a speed sufficient to catch the gathering swell. I had it! I leapt to my feet and veered to the right away from the peak of the wave and out towards the unbreaking shoulder.

As the wave began to hit the shallows the wall in front of me steepened and instinct had me do something I was going to become truly accomplished at in later years. I crouched, grabbing the outside rail of my board, slowing it and altering its course slightly. As I did this, the lip of the breaking wave pitched out over my head and I was wrapped within the tube, water spinning around me as I rode, untouched, through the space between the wave’s face and its falling curtain. For one glorious moment I could see the mouth of the tube in front of me and beyond it the arc of Riversdale Beach. In the faint distance Castlepoint punctuated the ocean’s curve. Then, I over-balanced and, wham!, the wave sent me pitching off my board and into the churn. This type of wipeout was different from those of the days previous though – the excitement of what I had just seen carried me through and I emerged spluttering with delight, racing back out to tell the tale to my disbelieving friends.

We had been out in the surf for over an hour with another set of waves approaching us when Mark yet out a yelp.

“What was that!”

Focused on catching the incoming swell I barely even heard, all my attention on the wave I wanted to catch. Suddenly, a black shape, maybe four foot long, shot underneath my board. I stopped paddling in shock. “Faarrkk, fuk, fuk, fuk!”

The grey shape sped on, catching the swell I had been paddling for. From the back we could see it, surfing within the wave, streaking northwards away from the broken water. Just as wave was about to close out it burst through its back soaring through the air for a moment and reconnecting with the sea beyond.

“It’s…a…a…dolphin.”

Mark’s statement of the now obvious dispelled some of our shock.

As we watched, it swum past us out to sea and then turned, propelling itself into another wave.

For about fifteen minutes it surfed circles around us, literally. A couple of times we tried, half-heartedly, to catch waves, only to stop as it zipped past us catching them itself. Not that I think it would have minded: sharing a ride with the three awkward, wetsuit-clad apes. Indeed, the fact that it chose our one section of the long empty beach to go surfing suggests to me that this was what it intended all along.

Sadly, though, we weren’t up for the game. It wasn’t that we were afraid of the dolphin exactly; we knew enough water law to know that dolphins were perfectly safe. It was just that, that grey shape – sleek and torpedo like, swimming past us, guiding our eyes to the deep unending green of the sea – resembled too closely other creatures which might also inhabit the water beyond our toes.

“Well, at least it will chase off any sharks,” Mark was trying to ease our anxiety with a joke. But, unwittingly, by putting a name to our fear, he ended our attempts at being brave.

“I’m going in,” I can’t remember who said it first. But no one tried to answer. Instead we all sped shoreward, not wanting to be last in line – first into the imaginary crunch of the imaginary jaws. We traversed the water in record time.

From the safety of the sand we watched the dolphin – confused, possibly and disappointed perhaps, by its intended companions’ hurried exit – as it rode a few more waves. Riding within the waves as opposed to on their surface it put us and most every other human surfer to shame. It would speed through the wall, across impossible sections, ending its rides with amazing aerials.

After maybe quarter of an hour it swum back out to sea. The only dolphin I’ve ever seen at Riversdale Beach, and one of the few I’ve seen surfing in New Zealand, vanished back towards the horizon.

==

The story that I’ve just told you is a favourite of my mother. Although her telling of the tale places less emphasis on the ban and my nascent tube riding skills, and more on how quickly us teenage boys fled the harmless marine mammal.

Hearing it like this always irritates me. Not because her version of the story is any less accurate than mine – it’s not. If anything, it is closer to the truth. Nor does it rankle because I feel teased. My frustration, instead, all comes from the reminder of the missed opportunity; the lost chance, on the autumn day, to interact with a type of surfer that I’ve never again seen on that stretch of coast.

Newtown Wins!

Filed under: Ramblings and Musings,Staying Places — terence @ 6:17 pm
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This afternoon my wife and I went to People’s Coffee in Newtown. While she waited inside for the drinks I wandered out into the street. Propped up against the storefront a musician played country music. Songs about Hank Williams and Austin Texas competed with the traffic and won hands down. On the first of the cafe’s tables a couple watched the guy play – rapt. Next to them two girls, one with dreadlocks, ignored everything but their own conversation. On the table over four men from somewhere in Africa talked in their native tounge. The conversation rose and ebbed, its crests lifting their voices to near shouts.

Set out towards the footpath an older bearded guy sat on a stool, swaying in time to the songs, pausing only to light a Gudang Guram. The smell of the clove cigarette drifted over to where I rested against a sun-warmed fence and, as it always does, brought memories of Indonesia.

Above us all, large swollen clouds drifted aimlessly in the sky, utterly unable to make up their minds.

Wind…

Filed under: Going Places — terence @ 2:07 pm
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There’s no shortage of wind in the Northern Wairarapa.

Someone has used WIZWireless’s Akatio webcam to illustrate this perfectly.

August 16, 2008

Things I Wanna do After Surgery

Re-read Comet in Moominland.

August 14, 2008

Dreamin’

Filed under: Ramblings and Musings — terence @ 8:36 pm
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I-just-gotta-tell-you about this dream I had last night.

Work had me organising an important meeting. I was nervous but prepared. Ok, so somehow the meeting was on the 8th floor of the Victoria University Library rather than at work. And the sky was a funny incomplete colour. But I was organising a meeting in a dream. Given the circumstances, things weren’t going that bad. Important people with important ties were filling the room and I knew just what I was going to tell them.

Then what happened?

Well who should turn up for the meeting but all the band members of Mother Love Bone.

The day before (how could I have forgotten this?) I’d asked them along, and now they were there, ready to play a few songs. They were dressed like their music suggested: on the cusp of hair metal and grunge. And even in a dream meeting they stood out. Hair-sprayed
locks and ripped jeans. The people in ties looked nervous.

I had to get them out of there! So I convinced them that maybe they should go and play at the campus bar instead. The agreed reluctantly, so
I took my leave from the increasingly jumbled room to walk them down there. I figured I’d smooth over any ruffled feelings by buying them all a drink.

Halfway to the bar I realised that I’d forgotten my wallet. So I asked the band to wait and raced back to the meeting to get it. When I got there I found that all the important people from work had left and the only people remaining were a few acquaintances of mine from high school who were holding fort. What a mess! Although, to be fair to my mates, for people untrained in development they were doing a good job. Working through the agenda and resolving the issues…

Sometime round then I woke up.

==

Younger readers are no doubt wondering what Mother Love Bone sounded like. Here we go…

==

Have you ever just had to regale a friend with a dream you had. It seems so important and you have to tell someone. Their reaction, though, makes it pretty clear that your dream really wasn’t that interesting after all. Why? I think dreams seem so important to their owners because they feel them, or live them to be more exact. You feel the emotions. You see that strange yellow sky. You marvel at the hairdos. Yet your words are never going to capture the surreal sense that’s now slowly ebbing out as you wander through your waking life. So your description just sounds dull. Something about a band, in a library and work anxiety…

==

The other strange thing – thinking about it now – was that I’ve been in that dream library before. On other nights. It has its own dream geography, only vaguely related to the real world but which is consistent (kindof) in between dreams. I have a few other dream places like that.

==

Oh, and one other thing: I’m not actually a Mother Love Bone fan. I knew a few of their songs but not what they looked like until I clicked on the Wikipedia page just then. You know what, in my dream the part of my subconscious that populates these places conjured – from the band’s sound I guess – a pretty good likeness. Not bad going for a subconscious working on the fly…

==

Update: Cool. Schroedinger’s Tabby also has recurring dream locations.

August 10, 2008

Before Dawn

Filed under: Going Places,Ramblings and Musings,Surfing — terence @ 9:05 pm
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If you arrive at my favourite surf spot just before dawn you might find a window of opportunity. If you pull into the car park when it’s still too dark to guess the height of the waves. If you feel your way down the track as the driftwood and dunes start to take shape in the grey. And if you paddle out into the bay squinting, trying to pick the swells from the gloom…then you might get a few to yourself. You might beat the crowds and the westerly that tears chops from the water. And, if you do this, by the time the sun is above the eastern hills you’ll be back on the beach letting it dry the water from your skin, knowing you’ve had the best of the day.

Of course it’s no guaranteed thing: sometimes, no matter how early you get there others have beaten you to it; sometimes you arrive to find the wind wrong or the swell gone. And then there’s the question of timing. It might have been a few months since you last surfed there and seasons come and go. The earth tilts on its axis and your guess is as good as mine just what time dawn is right now.

Last spring I guessed wrong. I dragged myself out of bed at 5am and drove off into the clear black night. It’s always dark when I leave home but what normally happens – what I was expecting to happen – was a patch of faintest grey to arrive in the east and then bleed into the sky as I drove, becoming twilight as I got to the coast. But this time the sky stayed black. I drove round the near-calm harbour with stars twinkling and no hint of dawn. I drove over the hill in the dark. And I wove down along the river with no light but that coming from my car. There was no moon either – so when I stopped and turned off my headlights at the end of that empty coast road I was surrounded by the dark. The lights were off in the few farm houses and mine was the only car in the car park. One headland back a lighthouse blinked.

I still had momentum from the drive in me though so, even though there was nothing to see, I pulled on a second jacket and got out of the car.

I had to use the LCD light on my key ring as I made my way down to the bridge and over the river. ‘Once your eyes adjust,’ I told myself, ‘you’ll be able to see how big the waves are’. Above, the stars bent across the sky – a million keyring lights pointing back at me. I got to the gate and the beginning of the track to the beach. Falling out of the valley the katabatic wind was cold even with two jackets on. It wove round the struts of the gate and coaxed ghost song from the almost-frozen metal. Of course I couldn’t see the surf. But I could hear something, the sound of breaking swell and maybe, just maybe a glimpse of white water peeling into the bay. The wind was right, there was noise enough to let me know there was was swell, now all I needed was light. I walked back to the car amongst a night that was showing no signs of going anywhere. I sat in the driver’s seat for a bit, but with nothing to read and adrenaline born of the swell I’d heard I was antsy.

‘Stretches!’

I got out and in the shivering cold started to go through my stretching routine. As I lay on the grass, I caught my first glimpse of grey in the sky. Stretched but certainly not warmed up I got back into the car and pulled on my wetsuit twisting for lack of space but at least out of the wind.

Dawn, when it broke was surprisingly swift. The determined night of quarter an hour ago surrendered to the twilight with barely a fight. I ended up jogging to the beach – partly to keep warm but partly because now I was there, now I’d waited out the dark, I didn’t want to miss a wave. There was still no one around.

I paused at the water’s edge watching the waves in the dusk, trying to gauge their size. An hour had passed since I first arrived and in the almost light it was now obvious how good the surf was. I waited for a gap and jumped into the sea, paddling out through the deep of the bay, watching as swell after swell peeled along the reef edge, clean and even, the north wind blowing manes of spray from their crests. Hundreds of miles from the Roaring Forties gale that first sent them northwards the waves’ journeys ended where my day began, on the edge of the half-light.

August 8, 2008

Loosing your father

Filed under: Ramblings and Musings — terence @ 8:54 pm
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It is almost a year to the day since my wife’s father died suddenly. She’s written about it at her blog and, to me who’s never lost anyone close, it does a perfect job of describing a gap that I can barely begin to imagine.

August 7, 2008

Update, a date, and gratuitous surfing

Ok, PET scan results are in and there doesn’t seem to be any active inflammation near my heart. So, barring the unexpected, it’s full steam ahead for the 20th of August for surgery.

The PET scan seemed to indicate that my aorta is less dilated than it appeared, too. So I’m hopeful – though no one can be sure until the actual surgery starts – that I may only need the valve replacement.

The only actual ‘bad news’ as such from today’s trip to the surgeon is that my previous understanding of the risks involved in the surgery was a little on the positive side. In reality it’s more like approximately 1% risk of death for simple valve replacement, 5% for valve and lower root, and 10% for valve and arch up to vicinity of arch.

[Warning, if you are reading this and in a similar situation as me, these numbers are not exact – they are just my surgeon’s educated guesses based on my own particular set of circumstances. You need to ask your own surgeon.]

So there we go.

Now, time for the surfing bit.

August 6, 2008

Well I had to write it somewhere…

Green, weathered, stern and steep – the hills piled up like adjectives.

August 4, 2008

Does my text look small in this?

Filed under: Ramblings and Musings — terence @ 6:56 pm
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Ok, so it’s a bit silly asking for reader feedback when your readership is not exactly large. But the problem is that my text size may be even smaller than my readership.

Is the text in this blog annoyingly small for you?

Any thoughts on this are definitely appreciated. I can make the text larger but it jars a little bit with the style. On the other hand, I tremble at the thought of potential readers being put off by really small words…

Comments appreciated!

August 2, 2008

Arizona

Filed under: Going Places,Ramblings and Musings — terence @ 6:05 pm
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If I’ve spent a colder night before or since I can’t remember it. We were camped near the rim of the Grand Canyon under the perfect desert sky. The Milky Way hung above us, smudged white like the steam of breath. The stars glistened like ice on a frozen windscreen. And a deep inescapable cold crept up out of the ground. Neither of us had thermarests; we had figured that body heat and a pile of bedding would keep us warm, but the duvets flattened under our weight and the cold leaked in. Denise, at least, had polyprops. I had an assortment of backpacker’s hand-me-down clothes which even when worn all at once couldn’t keep out the chill.

It wasn’t a great night but the next morning the sun shone through the same cloudless sky, trying once again to defrost the land and we were, both of us, somewhere new and beautiful. Excitement in my experience is as good a substitute for sleep as anything else that exists.

Keen to spend at least some of the morning quiet away from the Canyon’s crowds, we drove in the other direction, parking the car at the beginning of a service road and walking amongst the pine trees. A little way in we found a Fire Service observation tower, which when climbed lifted us above the tree tops. Up there, carried by the clearness of the light, the view bent into a distance as indistinct as my memories now are. Pine trees swayed over gentle hills that drifted to a horizon somewhere, and everything was covered in snow – other than our happy puffing the only sound was the trickle and patter as it melted.

Blue, green, white – there was no grand canyon, nothing remarkable at all other than the perfect sky, the unending trees and the silencing softness of snow, but the memory was born fully formed.

I don’t know for certain why this memory returns more than most from my time in the States, or why it makes me happy, but I think the answer lies in the certainty of those colours and the promise of that view, stretched away, clear and not quite finished, into the newness of Arizona.

Ok, and seeing as I mentioned the car, I just have to tell you this. A friend once told me that the highest point on Long Island (where Denise was from) was the top of the Deer Park tip. I dunno, that sounds a little too good to be true, but the place was flat. So flat that Denise learned to drive without ever learning what a hand-brake was. Just leave the car in park and that would be enough to stop it rolling. Heck, leave it in neutral and it still wouldn’t go anywhere. So as we drove around Arizona, she thought I was crazy for pulling on that emergency brake thing whenever we stopped. Once, we swapped from driver to passenger and she drove the car, hand-break still on, until smoke was coming out from under the bonnet. Now I’m not telling you this to convince you of her silliness – she wasn’t silly, and I managed to pull out of one rest area and drive off happily down the left hand side of the road – I’m just trying to emphasise that, compared to the fault and volcano lifted, plate-boundary-island I call home, Long. Island. Was. Flat.

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