Shelving Rock Revisited

It had been close to 20 years since last hiking into Shelving Rock and its marvelous lookouts of Lake George.  Molsem and I were due for an easy, simple hike with minimal solitude as the trail is wide, relatively smooth, and the grade is pleasant making the hike a nice cross country style run for some.  I used Tim Starmer’s book, “Five Star Trails of the Adirondacks” as a guide due to its clear and accurate directions, and trail descriptions.

I selected this jaunt for the fond memories I hold of hiking it with my two sons when they were young boys.  My “Night and Day Boys” with temperaments as opposite may not hold the memories as I!   I didn’t go there for nostalgic reasons.  I wanted to walk and sweat just a tad.

The trail is quite wide with terracing switchbacks reminiscent of Alpine roadways of similar width.  When I was last there it was late fall, cold and my oldest son, the researcher, always ran ahead.  My youngest son, the philosopher, always lagged behind.  I became the ballast, the in between, requiring both to remain in sight and sound.  I would sing Traditional Native songs and they would repeat them like a call and response.  These are things you do when your kids are young.

I went to each of the look outs, now mostly blocked by the phenomenal growth of Red Oak, Scrub Oak, Black Walnut with low bush Blueberries creeping around worn trails and scorched fire pits.   No Uva Ursa though.  That was gone.  The hike provided just enough physical exertion to ease my agitation, that edginess that happens when one sits too long usually accompanied by  jumping knees, repeated sighs, and pacing, if you have the room.

Because I still run a Dojo, am Native American, and a Military Veteran, I’m often exploring the roots from which I have grown from and how they intersect in this Natural World.  What is the common bond?  Life can be full of traumatic scarring which pharmaceutical companies and various organizations squeeze every penny of profit from they can. But before there were anti-depressants, Serotonin Re-uptake Inhibitors, anti anxiety, Viagra, Cialis and on and on and on, what did veterans, warriors do to reintegrate?

I found myself recalling conversations with Dojo mates about the Yamabushi which literally means “the warrior that sleeps in the mountains.”[1]  Although too many people without experience prefer to cultivate the fantasy of mystical mountain warrior monks as opposed to understanding that Warriors of Indigenous people globally sought refuge in isolated nature. “Many warriors and nobles retreated to the monasteries to train or collect their thoughts in the serene surroundings of the mountaintops.”[2]   Shinto, the spirituality of the original people of Japan, is comparable to the spirituality of Indigenous Native American people.  Shinto literally translated, means the Way of the Gods.   Too many Dojos only focus on the physical and the egotistical and completely ignore the breath, Ki, spiritual aspect that is absolutely essential in bringing the Warrior’s mind back home from war trauma.

Without writing a dissertation, I would like to just mention:  Cortisol, Testosterone, HSD, and its significance in PTSd survivors and treatment.   Cortisol is a “steroid hormone produced in the adrenal glands in response to stress.” The longer, more chronic, the periods of elevated blood, saliva, urine,  and most significantly,  CELLULAR, Cortisol levels  one experiences due to excessive stress, the lower the Testosterone, and the greater the damage done to one’s body.  (Females are not exempt from this chemical phenomenon.) Although blood, saliva, and urine levels of Cortisol may return to normal after extended (chronic) stress, the Testosterone does not.   Why?  Because of 11-beta-hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase-1 (11 beta-HSD or simply, HSD.)   This incredibly complex metabolism involves fat, proteins, enzymes, neurotransmitters and “cytokine cascades” that present in mood swings, irreversible and irreparable brain damage, compromised immune systems, loss of bone density, muscle atrophy and more.  By requesting a blood test to measure HSD blood levels one can better determineImage cellular Cortisol levels. (And you all thought cortisol only had to do with belly fat!  WRONG.)

Intense, high demand workouts can worsen the cortisol/HSD/Testosterone balance and rhythms.  Sort of like quick burn, high demand exercise does not burn fat but instead activates the ATP (Adenosine triphosphate) metabolic cycle which burns carbs.  WALKING, HIKING, on the other hand, are low to moderate aerobic activities that activate fat burning metabolism which in this case also begins to reestablish the natural, normal cortisol rhythms.

Walk more for longer periods of time.  Hike more in the mountains or wherever you find peace. Slow, mindless, deliberate movement.  In the Dojo Iaido offers the opportunity to come back to center.  Mountain altitudes have higher negative ions for improved brain function and health.  Find what works for you.

The Cortisol Connection,   Shawn Talbott, PH.D., FACSM

The Natural Testosterone Plan,  Stephen Harrod Buhner

Aikido – Combat Related Post Traumatic Stress Disorder- A Holistic Approach, Thomas D. Osborn

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Where the Partridge Drum

Awasos means Black Bear in the Abenaki language. Think of it as my call name.  I am Abenaki, Bear Clan, and it has taken over 50 years for me to get a small understanding of what that means. Although this blog is about the power of Nature and PTSd, I haven’t written much about that.  Why?  Because in order for me to acknowledge PTSd, I must also acknowledge that bad things have happened to me that caused it.  Being in the Natural world allows me to become a part of something greater than my own existence, greater than all the horrific things I’ve encountered thus far in my life.  Everyone’s trauma is unique to them even if we experienced the same trauma side by side, as individual human beings we would process those experiences unique to our own culture, temperaments, religions, environments and more.  Even how we were raised as kids impacts how we perceive.

My mother always told us kids that we needed to find something to believe in because someday that might make the biggest difference in our survival and how we will be able to help ourselves and in so doing help others.  It’s hard to imagine helping others when we are in the middle of our personal whirlwinds of memory and the moral questioning of our involvement in the destiny of others and ultimately ourselves.  My religion is the Natural world, the world of Nature. I learn from each creature about the many unique ways each creature responds to life around them. I don’t have to go to a book but observe the environment that I’m in: smells, sounds, the habits of the other creatures, and how they all get on with their lives.

Nature holds no expectations of me. Just “to be” like the family of Partridge (Grouse) up by the Sweat Lodge today.  The same family that sought refuge down by house, wood shed and back porch when the Hawks were out hunting after a week of rain.  Everyone was hungry when the first sun of the week eased the natural order back into living.  I sat up by the Lodge just being. Just allowing myself to be apart of it all. The birds came in close through the ring of white pine that has grown close to 20 foot over the last 12 years.  Hundreds of people have come and gone.  Some I miss dearly. Some I don’t.  That’s the truth.  The Natural world reminds of the cycle of seasons, and life itself. “It’s not a race” Gramma always said, “it’s a walk.”

I had gone up to the Lodge to do some weed whacking –  my incessant need to keep moving, keep in control, keep vigilant, keep doing because that is what I have lived believing that is what – who – I am and there was a time when that strategy was what needed to happen.  Somehow, that changed me.  I sat by the Lodge in the pines and remembered sitting in the woods as a kid.  The innocence is no longer but the memory is there.  The emotion is there to remind me that I have survived for a reason.  Only in hind sight am I allowed to really understand most of the reasons.  Like right now.  I am alive for you to read this.  Yes YOU.  The world needs YOU.

Today I made the choice to not take the homes of creatures that can not defend themselves.  There will always be a mission.  I must adapt.  The Natural world allows me to do just that in my own time.  This is not a “clinical” blog.  I am a human being and I’m o.k. with that.  The world needs YOU and I to be ourselves as the Creator has made us, needs us and intended us to be.  The Natural world allows me to sense everything at the same time but in a good way, a way that restores life and peace, albeit minuscule increments at a time on some days, but it’s there.  Not all people understand this relationship, this side of who I have become, who i have always been. No all people understand Nature. The Bear takes its time ambling and chooses what warrants a response and what does not.  The Bear knows the inherent wisdom of laying to rest in torpor and gives us permission to participate in that wisdom of seasonal preparation.  Ursa Major has begun to dip toward the horizon, the Great Bear preparing to bed down for winter, to heal, to rise again renewed, hungry, and alive.

Peace Out,

Awasos