New Hampshire’s mountains offer continual free health spas on a daily basis. Depending on the day, you may get the full physical treatment with lots of sun and sweat to lubricate all your joints and wring out your organs so every system gets a fresh start. You may get to stand under waterfalls or be pummeled in cascades and relax into a nap in the sun.
Other days provide a different sort of health spa experience. If it’s your day off, you’ve just heard the latest world news and just need to be in a spot where the inhabitants all get along for a change, even if the mountains are socked in with a firm “cloudy” forecast, grab your pack and head up.
Health spas, the paid ones, usually include massage, saunas, hot tubs, swimming, and some sort of calming practice like meditation or yoga. The main goal is to cleanse and relax the body from the inside out as well as from the outside in. That means keeping hydrated with plenty of water.
The walk itself can be a meditation, even if there’s some chatting going on. Conversation tends to be a sorting out, rethinking, brain cleanse, with the last leg of the hike to the top often being in silence to better access fresh air.
Hiking poles make the hike kinder to your knees and hips by spreading the weight-bearing load to include the shoulders and arms as well, while still allowing you to build up a good sweat. They also encourage a good upper body workout.
The Franconia Ridge Loop, most favorite hike in the White Mountains, is a mid-week wonder, even when the wind is socking in the ridge with a steady parade of clouds. Such were the conditions when I started up the Falling Waters Trail this cool, early September morning. Having rained heavily the night before, the rocks were all wet, which meant I had to pay attention, no mind wandering; just watch the rocks and forget about solving any kind of problems, world or otherwise. Then the trail upped the ante with stream crossings at every waterfall, calling for yogic balancing on rocks.
If you want to hike in a truly relaxed state, breathing 2:1 is the way to go. Just make your exhalations twice as long as your inhalations. The easiest way to practice this breath is to count your paces. You may start out breathing 6:3, then shift gears to 4:2 and 2:1 as you gain elevation. If you cannot exhale for 2 paces to every 1 inhalation pace, it’s time to stop and rest. This practice develops the habit of deeper breathing regularly.
The morning was cool, and while I paused to inhale the essence of Stairs, Swiftwater, and Cloudland Falls, my body was in the ‘keep moving’ mode to maintain body heat. I noticed the great diversity of trees; all seemed to be comfortable with each other, made space as needed. Lush stands of young spruce and fir presented themselves. Occasional mountain ash appeared with their berries beginning to turn.
As the trail continued, smaller rocks graduated to rock slabs and much reaching and stretching to get up and over them. Arms and legs got a full workout. Suddenly, I was out of the trees and into the west wind blowing over the ridge. I headed over to the east side of Haystack Mt. for a mid-morning sustenance break. The sun seemed to be trying to break through the clouds without success. I was glad I’d packed a hat and wind/rain shell.
Just as suddenly, out of the ether appeared a young man running the ridge. He’d started at Mt. Liberty and was “only running over to Mt. Lafayette.” All workout routines welcome up here.
I continued hiking over the ridge, which is an alpine garden walk with huge spreads of Diapensia that lays a white carpet in June along the ridge. Rhodora’s buds were all set for spring and sprigs of Mountain Sandwort were still blooming. I also saw bright red Bunchberries and tiny Alpine Goldenrod in brilliant bloom enhanced by the fog. A steady carpet of alpine garden beds greeted me all the way over Lincoln to Lafayette with a big dose of Vitamin W (for wildflowers).
At one point on the ridge, I followed the trail over a boulder and found that it continued down a steep section covered with wet lichen, like greased lightening, definitely something to avoid if possible. I squatted down, planning my route when I heard, “Hey there! Need a hand?”
A trail angel! Another young man was out hiking the ridge on his day off. He went around the boulder, reached up and gave me a hand down! Why do serendipitous events like that happen on a cold day when the mountain is socked in? Are we more connected than we realize? Is part of a full health spa treatment recognizing how interdependent we are?
Two more sustenance stops, one on Mt. Lafayette in the shelter of the old hostel foundation, and another at the hut before the final trek down the Bridle Path. Included were several encounters with hikers heading up and over the ridge as we compared tales, and encouraged each other.
Depending on the day, you may need an extra layer of fleece as you hike out, then go home and take a salt bath or hot shower to complete your free spa treatment.
PS: I also carry at least 2 liters of water, a wind/rain shell, light fleece, hat, first aid sack, high protein sandwich, nuts, and an orange to assure the full treatment!
In our quest to keep each other well, who is included in ‘each other’? Is it our family, our friends, people in our state or country, or people anywhere in the world?
Stunned by the display of US Apartheid this week and US support of previously labeled thugs intent on continuing the Palestinian holocaust and destruction elsewhere, every act of mine made me question. How many ‘other’ people in the world can turn on a spigot and wash up or take a shower every morning, how many have safe water to drink, how many have a safe home to sleep in, how many have enough nourishing food to eat, how many have a beautifully cared for land to live in?
I needed a day in the mountains to hopefully figure out whatever my responsibility is to this quest to keep each other well.
I drove up through Franconia Notch through mountains waking up, then continued on to Crawford Notch for a day’s loop hike up Frankenstein Cliffs and around to Arethusa Falls. The cliffs were named for Godfrey Frankenstein, a pre-Civil War artist whose paintings inspired so many people to visit the White Mountains. My destination was Arethusa Falls, the 200’ waterfall, highest in NH. My hike was over beautifully groomed trails, alongside, up and over the cliffs to the falls, thanks to our State Park System Trail Crews, and freely accessible to all ‘others’.
Questions continued. How many people can enjoy sitting next to a little waterfall to have lunch, much less such a magnificent one? ‘Others’ were there at Arethusa Falls from NY, GB, China, Poland, as well as NH. We were bound by our exhilaration as the hike pumped us up to share with each other the wonder of this place.
Clearly, our health and happiness depend on knowing that others are also happy and healthy. When we hear of a friend’s illness, we immediately try to think of ways we can help them to be better or to ease discomfort, and as they become well or more comfortable, we feel better and more comfortable. It is not surprising that the unrest many of us experience right now is a direct response to the plight of others.
Kurt Vonnegut, beloved American who survived the bombing of Dresden as a POW there, spent the rest of his life restating the message he thought most important to us: “You’ve Got To Be Kind!” There are no ‘others’. We are all ‘each other’.
Here’s GOOD NEWS of simple practices that remove greenhouse gases from the atmosphere while benefitting the earth’s web of life. In his book, Grass, Soil, Hope, Courtney White takes us on a trip around the world with courageous people who have figured out ingenious ways to sequester carbon in the soil.
He cited research which found that “globally, soils contain 3x the amount of carbon that is stored in vegetation, and 2x the amount stored in the atmosphere. Since two-thirds of the earth’s land mass is grassland, better management practices, even on a small scale, could have a huge impact.”
Because 2 billion of the earth’s people depend on livestock, New Mexico was a great place to see where better soil management would take us. Actually, we all live in Carbon Country. There’s something here that can benefit all of us as we think about cover crops like white clover and winter rye and other nitrogen fixers, and upgrade our gardening skills.
Native Americans long practiced no till farming, where roots are disturbed as little as possible to allow for new plant growth while keeping the nematodes (soil microbes) happy, and atmospheric CO2 stored in the soil. Today, the no-till method is helping farmers to reduce or eliminate the use of herbicides and chemical fertilizers.
He cites ranchers who divided their property up into paddocks based on grass quality and soil type. By rotating their herds through the paddocks, they prevented overgrazing and assured good pasture. Some of them grazed sheep and cattle together, and the cattle kept sheep predators at bay. Herds, by eating, walking and defecating, also stimulated native grasses to grow, proliferate, and outcompete the weeds. To top it off, the quality of grass fed meat gradually increased income and ability to increase herd size.
He also cited the work of French agricultural scientist, Christian Dupraz. Dupraz came up with the idea of an agrovoltaic system where solar panels were constructed 12 feet above ground. This enabled farm machinery to move easily beneath them. In addition, the panels were constructed to provide the right amount of shade and reduced the amount of water needed, and to protect crops from hail and rainstorms related to climate change. All the while using solar energy to make electricity!
Courtney White’s book is guaranteed to stimulate all kinds of innovation and a sense that if we tune in to alternatives, we just may resolve the carbon riddle and experience the fringe benefit of keeping each other well.
While the challenge to see that the food we eat is free of mercury, pesticides, hormones, and whatever else threatens rather than supports robust health, we sometimes need reminders to be sure that we toss our food into a clean mouth bowl after going to all that trouble to check the food out.
It may help to visualize how perfectly arranged the mouth bowl is to house a variety of bacteria, not all of them friendly. Bacteria love dark, moist places and a steady diet of sugar. Any pockets in the gums surrounding our teeth are a housing bonanza for bacteria, depending on how welcome we make them. Unchecked, bacteria create gum disease, get into the blood stream, and create plaques in our arteries that lead to heart disease.
While we deplore the amount of sugar degenerating our diet, this is not really a new phenomenon. I was raised in the penny candy days and there was a regular stash at the corner store in my neighborhood. There was a sugar bowl on every kitchen table and plenty of home baked cookies and bars. Cakes had an inch of frosting on them and fruit pies were common desserts. However, carbonated drinks were only had on special occasions. They took up a minor section of an aisle in the grocery store, not the whole aisle. Orange juice was only had by squeezing oranges so it was consumed in small glasses.
The problem with today’s soda is that it is sipped throughout the day, along with snacks providing bacteria with a steady diet of sugar and setting off just as steady a stream of bacterial plaque and tooth decay. Hygienists patiently demonstrate flossing technique and the necessity of routing out the bacteria before they form plaques and start eroding the enamel on our teeth. It is not enough to slide the floss up and down between each tooth. We need to wrap it around the base of every side of every tooth to rout out any bacteria in residence. If you then rinse your mouth with about a tablespoon of 3 percent hydrogen peroxide– brace yourself– you will immediately see the spots you missed.
Food is meant to be digested standing up. Anyone who regularly takes a nap directly after a meal is in for a foul awakening as remnants of the meal shift into reverse, travel back up the esophagus, and start over again in the mouth, definitely not as tasty the second time around.
Step one is to remain in an upright position for 3-4 hours after eating to give the meal a fair chance to enter the relay race through the digestive tract, at least to make it beyond the second gate, the pyloric valve, at the entrance to the small intestine. Water we swish and swallow between meals also keeps nutrients moving easily in the right direction.
So, on any visit to a dental hygienist for a cleaning, listen up for a longer, healthier life.
PS: The most effective toothpaste I know is a tsp. of baking soda with a squirt of lemon juice. Watch it foam and load up your brush!
Every day we hear of amazing feats that defy the notion that life, health, or events are predictable with inevitable results. Harvard social psychologist, Ellen Langer’s latest book, Counterclockwise, is just that – a mind-blowing collection of positive outcomes that trump dire predictions. She gives a steady stream of reversals of everything from stage 4 cancer, hearing, vision and memory loss, paralysis, cardiac problems and more, when we keep a mindful, positive attitude toward challenges.
Her strategy is that there is “always a step small enough from where we are to get us where we want to be. If we take that small step, there’s always another we can take, and eventually a goal thought to be too far to reach becomes achievable.” It was refreshing to read a book with positive outcomes that happened simply by reframing someone’s perspective.
Langer points out that the expression, “we won’t know unless we try” is misleading because if we try and fail, we still don’t know whether another attempt might be successful. We still do not know that it can’t be. And: there’s a lot we don’t know yet.
I continue to be concerned about the effect of overhead power lines on our children who live in close proximity to high-density lines. I realize that there have been no rigorous double blind studies done with experimental and control groups, studies that lay out results of how many died, developed birth defects, etc. in each group. I admire the countries in Europe that have decided to pass Bury the Lines Laws after simply seeing the association studies showing rates of cancer and birth defects among children living near high power lines. Those countries value the lives and health of their children so much that they are not taking any chances on even potential effects of power lines that might threaten their health.
Bill Dowey’s, Letter to the Editor (Plymouth NH Record Enterprise, 7-3-14) “25 solar arrays for 25 New Hampshire small towns to meet the 2025 Energy goals” is an example of small town ingenuity and positive attitude. Bristol, NH is now on track to meet the town library’s annual power needs through its solar array because it tried solar energy and not only succeeded, it has come up with a plan that can easily be replicated by other small towns.
ISO New England (International Organization for Standardization) has come up with a plan to smother New England with a giant cobweb of above ground lines crisscrossing the state. This archaic, outmoded plan comes at a time when more modern towns and cities are streamlining lines underground, and exploring forms of renewable energy such as solar and geothermal that protect environmental webs of life.
At the same time, the NE governors are meeting to decide whether to approve a plan that would allow one gas pipeline and one electric transmission line from Canada through New England. This, despite the fact that Hydro Quebec could not provide the power last winter when it was needed, not even for Quebec. If the governors agree, our rights to eminent domain are also at risk with this new deal – a deal put together by Northeast Utilities – like putting a fox in charge of the henhouse.
Each of us has a choice in any event. Hopefully, we will dare to put our energies into positive, healthful outcomes for the future. One small step we can each take is to call Governor Hassan (603-271-2121) and let her know how we would vote.
The cost of solar is equal to or less than the cost of electricity powering electric grids in at least 79 countries, according to Al Gore’s piece in Rolling Stone (The Turning Point: New Hope for the Climate, 6/18/14). Gore alerts us to the reality that the tide is turning in favor of consumers for our energy needs. No more blatant example of this can be found than in our struggle with Hydro Quebec over their Northern Pass Project. We have struggled for 4 years against HQ’s slick advertizing, empty promises and outright lies in their efforts to sucker NH into caving into their scam.
To illustrate the turning point, Gore uses the example of Solar energy’s growth, thanks to consumer initiatives. People have gradually been adding solar to heat their water and their homes. Like cell phones that began as big boxes 25 years ago and have now streamlined to small handheld devices affordable by most consumers, solar is gradually becoming streamlined and more affordable, thanks to ordinary citizens, not corporate power.
Key to this turning point is our ability as individuals to keep alert and informed about new possibilities for renewable energy. Massive campaigns by centralized corporations, full of empty promises of affordable energy, need to be recognized for what they are.
In Arizona, the Koch brothers tried to stop homeowners from expanding their use of solar by funding a campaign that asked the public utility commission to tax solar households up to $150. a month. The opposition (grass roots people like you and me) worked out a compromise that reduced the tax to $5. a month.
Keeping each other well becomes possible when we choose to stay awake and informed and, as Gore says, “empowered by a sense of urgency and emboldened with the courage to reject despair and become active.”
With elections coming, we have the opportunity to attend candidates nights and find out where candidates stand on energy issues. We can talk with neighbors who are exploring solar and other renewable energy systems. We can keep informed by reading Gore’s and other articles about climate change and real renewable energy available free on the internet. We can keep our governor and legislators posted on our concerns.
As always, it’s that first step that counts.
Roundup is the most widely used herbicide/pesticide in the world. Glyphosate, the key ingredient in Roundup, is currently being reviewed by the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) to determine whether to place new restrictions on glyphosate, or to take it off the market.
We know that Roundup depletes soils of rich microorganisms and plant diversity, gradually destroying soil nutrients. Proponents claim that Roundup will provide more food to feed the world. However, the world has survived to date through diversity. The reason we plant different varieties of vegetables is to ensure that most of them will survive to reproduce and feed us.
Roundup and GMO sterile seeds are setting us up for a double whammy. The Irish Potato famine was catastrophic because so few varieties of potatoes were planted, and one blight wiped them all out. In Peru, where potatoes are said to have originated, there are hundreds of varieties of potatoes that can stand up to any given blight. Whatever organism emerges to destroy glyphosate, stands to effectively starve the world.
In response to this obvious threat, organic farmers and people concerned with maintaining soil diversity continue to call for food labeling and taking glyphosate off the market.
Monsanto and other GMO corporations continue to focus on the harmlessness of altering genes, while the real culprit that threatens our health may well be glyphosate.
Two activist groups: Moms Across America, and Thinking Moms Revolution, want the EPA to recall Mosanto’s Roundup. They recently convinced the EPA to hear them out and brought lawyers, scientists and advocates from the Organic Consumers Association, Natural Resources Defense council, Consumers Union, Beyond Pesticides, and the Truth-In-Labeling Coalition as back-up. (Google: Moms to EPA: Recall Monsanto’s Roundup)
The Moms related many health problems in their children including autism, and numerous deteriorating conditions. The children’s urine was tested for glyphosate and found to have toxic levels. Nursing mothers were also found to have toxic amounts of glyphosate in their urine that generated infant problems. However, when put on organic diets, their symptoms began to disappear.
Most of the reports I read are anecdotal accounts of individual children and mothers. There is a reason that much larger studies are not happening. Universities, particularly state universities, began as great research institutions for the public. However, Monsanto and other GMO corporations began to muzzle university research several years ago. You will now find science laboratories and programs at universities that are funded by Monsanto and other GMO corps. There is always an important string attached to their funding. The donor, i.e. Monsanto, retains the right to review all research before publication. Guess what research never sees publication? Guess what projects never get funded? Guess which researchers tend to be fired? Hence, we have many citizen groups appealing for sane controls that protect health and promote diversity.
Unless food is labeled in grocery stores, it has probably been GMO seeded and sprayed with glyphosate. Glyphosate is absorbed through the plant roots and on to anyone who eats the plant.
If you want to avoid the problems generated by glyphosate, now is a perfect time to find an Organic or Non-GMO vegetable stand, and just observe the changes in your well- being in addition to enjoying deliciously flavorful foods raised in harmony with the environment while providing jobs for local residents.
Like a great choral oratorio, whether about an outpouring of grief over the death of a loved one, as in the Brahms Requiem, or about a much longer struggle against oppressive forces, as in Handel’s Messiah, people come together, moved by one universal voice that inspires us to move forward and embrace life anew.
That same voice was heard again in the Newfound area community voice that silenced the Iberdrola Wild Meadows Wind Project last week.
A much longer oratorio is currently in the works as people voice concerns over the Northern Pass project. Pieces have been composed chronicling the destruction of culture, livelihood, and natural environment in Quebec, robbing Newfoundland-Labrador of its future energy, and destroying family relations in northern NH. The piece that may well turn the tide on the NP is Susan Schibanoff’s unveiling of the true cost of putting an above ground line through the State of NH. Her piece in the Concord Monitor (May 21), “My Turn: Overhead lines require a lot of digging, too” may well be powerful enough to move us to come together as one voice and put the necessary limits on the project that will ensure a healthy outcome.
The news is that 90-130 foot poles carrying the proposed line through the forest and existing right of way would require 35 foot deep foundations to be dug, blasted and filled with concrete throughout the length of the proposed line. The NP claim that burying the lines is too costly makes no sense. It has to be a lot less expensive to bury lines 3-4 feet deep along existing rights of way than it is to blast 35 foot deep foundations to seat hundreds of monopoles for an above line through forest and replacing existing PSNH poles to support High Voltage Currents.
Hydro Quebec’s bottom line here must be to eventually charge New Englanders steep rates so that HQ can continue to placate Canadian ire over HQ’s destruction of their province for hydropower by promising cheap rates forever to the people of Quebec.
The proposed line would create an ugly swath through our state, destroying families, recreation, livelihoods, real estate and the health and well being of all life here, as has been duly reported over the last four years unless….
Unless we unite as one voice in the final Amen that buries the line or scratches the project altogether.
Our ability to keep each other well depends on our readiness to attend to these health issues and to let our legislators know our concerns. Here’s the URL for the above article.
Plastic bags have become the most blatant symbol of our throw-away-society. Four out of five grocery bags in the US are plastic, which means 100 billion bags a year. 12 million barrels of oil are used to make them. 4 billion bags end up as litter that didn’t make it to a landfill. Over one billion birds and mammals each year are killed by ingesting these bags.
True, some end up as lunch bags, book bags, gym bags, trash can liners and doggie poop bags. But more end up littering roadsides, seeping into soils, lakes, rivers, and oceans. They clog roadside drains and fill sea turtle bellies.
Those of us with farms somewhere in our background can recall a time when just about everything was recycled. That was the reason we saved everything that might come in handy someday, a mindset that marked us as New Englanders. I grew up in a home where a braided rug was a conversation piece about my brother’s old plaid shirt, my old skirt, Dad’s trousers, and on down through the contribution of every member of the family. The prize-winning quilts my grandmother made for us, she made out of grain bags. Grain used to come in bright colored prints of broadcloth.
Today, we need to bring our throw-away mentality into balance with our recycle-everything history.
In the 70s, when plastic bags were first introduced, people were encouraged to buy SAVE A TREE canvas tote bags that had a big green tree on them along with the logo. The first thing I noticed when I used one was that the bag not only held more groceries, it didn’t break! Environmental groups, libraries, and other fund raisers also began selling canvas tote bags which encouraged people to save the environment.
Today, some countries charge a tax for bags. Ireland’s 15 cent tax resulted in a 95 percent reduction in their use and by 2002, just about everyone there was carrying a reusable bag. As far back as 1978, Switzerland had stopped supplying bags to grocery customers. As travelers, we had the option of buying one of those European mesh bags at the grocery store if we didn’t bring our own.
The American Plastics council resists the tax, saying it would cost the loss of thousands of jobs, increase energy consumption and landfill space, and store owners would rely on more expensive paper bags. Another way of looking at this problem would be to ask the question: How can our existing workforce switch the production of plastic bags to biodegradable earth- friendly packaging that does not require the use of 12 million barrels of oil to produce, that takes up less landfill space, and encourages shoppers to bring their own grocery bags? If Ireland can do it, why on earth can’t we do it?
Dennis McCulloch, Chief Geriatrician at Kendal-At-Hanover, has written a kind and sensitive book, My Mother, Your Mother: Embracing “Slow Medicine,” The Compassionate Approach to Caring for Your Aging Loved Ones. The book offers a reliable road map and guide for children with aging parents.
People over seventy may find the book a bit creepy as it outlines the stages of decline in store for all of us. Wherever you find yourself on the spectrum, now is the time to see that your living will is documented and ready to be accessed whenever needed.
What I like about the book is the way McCullough draws on over 30 years of experience in which he helped his clients “postpone as long as possible any decline of function that might require institutionalization.”
The debate over end-of-life care weaves in and out of the news and recent book releases, no doubt spurred on by the struggle over the cost for health care. The time to draw up a living will is when we are well, thinking clearly, and before we have trouble making decisions. It can always be updated, but it does need to be put in place.
Those of us who value quality of life over simply existing in a deteriorating state, have likely had to watch a loved one depart after having their life unnecessarily prolonged in a state they never would have chosen for themselves. However, each one of us has the authority to decide how our end-of-life care will be administered, if we put our wishes in place when we are well.
My mother did not choose to make a living will, despite encouragement from us, her children, to do so. She was sure we were out for her money, despite the fact that we had been urging her for years to travel and consider us her insurance if her money ran out. She ended up living her last several years literally physically deteriorating to a shell while continually being “saved” by antibiotics. None of us dared make the choice for her to do otherwise.
Not wanting my children or myself to ever have to be in that agonizing position, I drew up my living will in my 50s. Each of them has a copy, as do health care providers I see. It is a relief to me, and I hope to them, that should I be unable to make decisions: do not resuscitate, no antibiotics, no ventilators, no tube feedings, etc. are all in place. I found a good and reasonable lawyer to draw it up so that I could be sure everything was covered, including appointment of my Health Care Proxy and Power of Attorney designees.
McCullough also suggests that designated contact persons and your physician agree to advocate for your wishes should you ever need emergency services, since hospitals sometimes ignore these legal papers and insist on life-prolonging services, against a patient’s wishes.
Here it is spring, or at least the bulbs are trying to poke their way out of the snow and brighten things up for us. Spring is a time when we think about new life, fresh starts, and increased physical energy to be turning over new leaves. It’s a good time to put all of life in perspective so we don’t have to worry about it later. This is a vital part of keeping each other well and enjoying life.