Long Walks On Leafy Streets

8/8/2017 Mont Royal Park, Montreal, QC, Canada.
Summer is almost over now. In two weeks classes start. I am trying frantically to finish the research project that I have been working on for the past year. Often I find something that makes me think I have it wrapped up but then I find an error in reasoning or computation. Nevertheless I can say that I am making some progress. Although it meant that I had little time for anything else I enjoyed my research. I think given that there will be very little time for focused research during the fall semester I had my priorities right. I do enjoy teaching and the opportunity to interact with students but I must say I will miss the summer, not only because of the time on research but also for the time outside.

Towards the end of July we went on a weekend trip to the Eastern Shore of Maryland. We stayed at a motel in the Chincoteague Island and then visited the beach and Ocean City. All of us enjoyed the visit to the beach.
Prashant was too afraid to go into the waves but he enjoyed standing on the shore. We also visited the Chincoteague wildlife refuge with a lot of wetlands and the Ocean City boardwalk but those trips were short and not so enjoyable. It was too hot, sunny and humid in the refuge and the boardwalk was too crowded. To make matters worse a big thunderstorm hit the Eastern Shore Saturday night when we went to Ocean City. We shared a quick veggie pizza on the boardwalk and then rushed to the car. On the way back to the motel there was an accident blocking our way and I had to find my way back using the map through some rural roads in the darkness and the rain. It wasnít too bad in the end, though. I still proudly cling to my map-based navigational ability but since I got my iPhone sometimes I donít memorize the map well enough because I know I can depend on the phone in an emergency. In this case I couldnít figure out how to stop the iPhone from directing me back to the accident-blocked intersection. But luckily our Nissan Leaf has a GPS based map on its display and in any case the route wasnít too complicated. The friendly police personnel at the accident site were kind enough to give us directions before we left.

On the morning of that Saturday I ran from near our motel to the beach and back, a distance of about 11 miles. I started before 7 am but it was already over 80 degrees with more than 80% humidity. They say that when it is over 80 degrees the body cannot lose heat fast enough and like anything overheated it becomes much less efficient. It was certainly one of the most difficult runs I have had this summer. Luckily for part of the way, especially through the wildlife refuge, there were some trees providing much needed shade. I ran probably my slowest this summer. I donít recall it being so hot near the beach. It must be climate change but I havenít researched it. I ran out of water after about 8 miles and had to go into the MacDonaldís on the way. It has been a long time since I ate at a MacDonaldís. I avoid it partly because I am vegetarian and partly because I donít want to support the kind of industrial farming and agriculture that they use to produce the cheap and unhealthy food (although lately they have been improving). But there was a long line and so I went straight to the drinks fountain and asked a lady who was cleaning if I could just refill my water bottle. She was nice and let me do it even though I was dripping from sweat and all. So I do owe one to MacDonaldís. In fact I was happy that on the way to the beach, lacking other options, we stopped there to get some quick drive-through breakfast.

Since then the temperatures have moderated somewhat and I am really enjoying my runs. I have signed up for the Parks Half Marathon as well. I plan to run it with my friend Alan as we did last year. Alan and I ran together this past Sunday for the first time Ė it has been difficult to match our schedules. We ran through some beautiful neighborhoods in Kensington and then up and down the Rock Creek trail. Part of the Half Marathon will be run on those sections of the Rock Creek trail. I also continue to run on the Rock Creek by myself. So far my legs and body have been performing well and I am grateful for the health, for nature, and for life itself.

I have a special reason to be grateful now because I just got a little scare on the health front. Few weeks ago I had to go to the Ophthalmologist to get my glasses replaced. I had been wearing the same pair for over 8 years and they were broken. Nicole had been bugging me to go the eye Doctor and dentist for a while now. The Doctor found that there was some degradation in my retina and suspected Glaucoma. This is a serious medical condition that could eventually cause blindness with a 10% probability. I did some research based on the numbers that came out in a test that was done subsequently and it looked like I might have an advanced case of this condition. I was quite worried and had to use all my mindfulness and meditation skills to prepare myself for what I thought would be some really bad news. I was going about my life as usual and philosophically I was at peace with it but in my mind and heart there was an unmistakable undercurrent of melancholy. I even started wondering what I am living for and whether I have really done something useful with my life. I must say, though, nothing sharpens oneís mind and focuses it on what really matters than the setbacks one encounters in life.

With a few days to go before the call from the Doctorís office I suddenly recalled that I had head trauma from two accidents Ėone during swimming and one from biking accidents - in 1994. Both happened during my first year in the U.S, when I was a graduate student at Caltech. The swimming accident happened when I was learning to swim by myself. I was making small moves into the deeper part of the pool and the next thing I know I was on my back and somebody had just done CPR on me poolside. As for the biking accident all I remember is biking to my dorm one night, probably I was on Del Mar Blvd, and next thing I know a pretty but rather unfriendly white lady Doctor was taking to me. In both cases they released me quickly from the hospital and said all the tests came out negative. It seems that when you have head injury and lose consciousness - as I did on both occasions Ė it can cause long-term damage including to vision even if in the short term nothing happens. This was a bit of relief because unlike Glaucoma such damage to vision does not get worse with age. This also cleared up a lot of other things. I have a bit of unexplained (they call it idiopathic) damage to my hearing and occasional brief dizziness and light-headedness. All of it must be the result of those injuries. Finally the Doctorís secretary called to say that he thought everything looked great. I still want to know exactly what is going on. Did I misread the test results or is my conclusion regarding the cause of the damage correct? Nevertheless for now I am happy that it was not as bad as I thought it was.

What this episode did was to remind me once again of the fragility of life and the need to live it with purpose. I decided that living each moment with love for myself and everyone else is the best thing I can do. I hope I donít need such reminders again to remember this in the future. I am still not sure when I should go see a Dentist, though. I have only done that once before and that was during my last year in Caltech, at the Pasadena City College when they offered a free dental checkup at the Dental School. And that was more than two decades ago.

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