I’m sitting here in a motel room in Indian River, Michigan this evening. I’m at the end of a two week course towards becoming a Wilderness EMT, and eventually teaching wilderness medical courses. Tomorrow I will take my written test, and then start the journey home.

Until two weeks ago, I had not flown on an airplane in over twenty years. I had never been this far east on my own. I had never seen fall colors in the northern deciduous forest.

When I left home, several important things were going on in my life. My father was in the hospital in fairly serious condition. He has since been released, and is home again, although he can no longer navigate stairs. He’s 81, and I worry that he may not ever regain everything he had, before this sudden illness overtook him. The week before, a friend and neighbor a few years older than I am died pretty quickly, of cancer, only a month after being diagnosed. And a good friend, someone I have known for 28 years, is also, right now, dying of cancer, after fighting it and beating it back for ten years or so. She is still here, but only just barely. It’s only a matter of time now.

Part of my WEMT class was 34 hours spent working on ambulances and in the emergency room. While working on the ambulance as an EMT student last weekend, I saw my first dead human body, outside of a funeral.

A man, approximately my age, had decided that life was not something he wanted to do any longer, and on probably one of the nicest afternoons in northern Michigan all year, he went outside, parked his truck a ways away from his modest home, and spread a blanket out on the grass nearby. The sun would have been shining, and the weather was fantastic. Everyone I met was talking about how they were finally getting the summer they had been waiting for for months.

The man sat down on the blanket, facing a row of old apple trees, loaded with fruit. He took his deer rifle, a Remington pump action 30-06, placed the barrel against the roof of his mouth, and pulled the trigger.

I’ll spare you the details, but many of you can probably imagine what the end result was. It was not neat and clean, although I am certain this man felt no more pain. Not even for a moment. His mother, however, will feel pain about this day for the rest of her life. Guilt. Remorse. She will miss him. I checked her vital signs, and held her hand for a minute, and listened to her cry and chastise herself. And then I stood in the driveway with the LEOs from three different agencies and waited for orders about what we would do next. I looked at the body. I helped the LEOs look for the shell casing. I was careful not to step in any of the brains and skull fragments. Not because it mattered to the law at that point, but because it seemed like it would be rude. One of my mentors, an old time paramedic who knew the victim’s mother, picked an apple off of one of the trees and ate it. I wished I could do the same. They looked delicious, and it certainly did not matter to the man laying in the grass any more.

When I get home, I may, or may not make it to see my dying friend in person again, before she is gone. I am sure she wishes she was not sick. Was not dying. Was able to watch her son grow up, leave home, start a family, and become a man. Was able to live out a happy life with her husband who loves her.

And nearly at the same time, I have this image – I will ALWAYS have this image – of a sad man, whose name I know, and will never forget, in a remote driveway in rural northern Michigan, who decided there was nothing more he wished to see. That he had seen enough. I don’t think I will ever forget what he looked like, laying there in the grass, near the apple trees, on a blanket that he had laid out for the purpose, still holding his deer rifle in his hands.

No judgement. Just observations. And wonderment. And sadness.

It’s winter, and I don’t have much to say, so here’s some pictures from the past few months:

Colorful tugboat



Old car



Resting boat



Mouth of the creek



Winter sunset



Working boats



Owl, bobcat and forest







Fun with Instagram and ship



You know you’ve really fallen out of the blogging habit when your teenager actually notices that you haven’t posted in a long time. Sigh.

Canoe

Between my gawdawful internet service and the fact that Flickr, where I host all my photography, went to a bandwidth-gobbling “magazine” format, dealing with pictures got a lot less fun last year, and therefore, blogging held a lot less appeal, too.


tug and barge

But here it is, a year later, and I’ve got hundreds more good photos than I had last year, and I’ve been feeling the urge to get back to this, so I’m just going to bite the bullet and deal with it.


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So, what has happened since last year? Well, last year at Lumpy Waters, Sean and I let a perfectly safe and sane, incident free long boat surfing class on Friday afternoon. The rest of my Lumpy Waters 2012 was safe and sane, too, although a bit cold and windy.


Long boat surfing class, Whalen Island/Sand Lake, OR

After Lumpy Waters was over, I moved right into hunting season. I saw a lot of animals this year, and watched one group of elk off and on throughout the season, but could never catch the legal bull out in the open during elk season.


elk

I went to a couple of Appleseed shoots, and learned a LOT about shooting accuracy that I did not know. I even shot a qualifying Rifleman score on one target.


Appleseed shoot, Feb 24th, 2013, Ariel, WA

I went to Seattle with the family and my brother, and we saw the King Tut exhibit, which I had seen many years ago, the last time it was in Seattle.


Pacific Science Center


dinghy

We moved the shop for CRK from the building behind the Skamokawa Store into the Skamokawa Landing building around the corner, and had a pretty busy kayaking season. Ginni and I got out for some coastal recon for a trip we are putting on the calendar for next year. And we paddled through fields of flowers…


paddling through flowers


Oregon Coast paddling

I got the sawmill running again for the first time in over two years, and milled some lumber for Brian down in Nehalem. We tried fishing for kings one evening, but to no avail. We did see over 50 silvers jumping, of course…


slabs


fishing with Brian

Back home, though, this was the year I finally figured out how to catch fall kings in the river near Skamokawa, and I managed to keep a couple of them.


cat and fish

I did a lot of other stuff, too, and took a lot more pictures from the deck at the new shop, like this one:


sunset

I’ll try to get back here again before another year goes by…