According to my doctor, I have both bronchitis and pneumonia. My day was spent in an antibiotic haze, and the simplest of actions left me pretty exhausted. Time in bed gives one time to reflect on what matters, what is beautiful and the fragility of our health. If I can be knocked down by bacteria for 6 weeks when I am at the peak of health, what can happen to people who eat only processed junk food from the microwave or who watch TV instead of going for a run? When I get sick I also remember other times when I have had close calls while on the road: unable to breathe from congestion in the Peruvian Amazon, unable to keep anything inside my body at the base of the Egyptian Nile, projectile vomiting from a camel in the Sahara and coming home with a parasite from India. Some guys have all the luck…and then there is me.
Tomorrow I might be told that a new travel opportunity is going to be given to me; I might be told that it is not. Regardless, as I lay in the comfort of my safe bed I am struggling with the idea of travel, its dangers, its beauty. For the first time in my life I have people and experiences that I fear losing should I become sick and not come home. It is a revelation to realize that I may not want to accept an experience at any cost. However, I also realize that courage is key to human happiness, that without risk nothing of value can be achieved, and that one could just as easily die while watching television as hiking through the wilderness or negotiating a third world city. What’s it going to be then, eh?
Today, I crept from the bed to scan two photographs. I had a wicked headache and needed to do one thing to take my mind off of the body. When I look at the photographs that I have captured of our West Coast Trail experience, I feel proud that I was able to take risks and make it through the 78km without injury. I can see the beauty I saw for seven days, and I can see what I accomplished by challenging myself beyond my comfort level. New York City or Tokyo may be exciting, but the forest and the shoreline offer much more to our inner imaginations and peace.
What do you feed yourself when riddled with infection? I needed comfort food and Coca-Cola. I hate drinking pop these days, but when I am sick like this I just need it to get through. To balance things out I opted to avoid canned soup or tuna sandwiches. I cooked a sumptuous dinner of celery root mash, bacon, mushrooms, green beans, and panko-crusted cod. Dinner may have wrestled the last of my energy from me as I prepared the food, but I know that if I am to make it through the first few days of antibiotics, then I need real food inside my body to support the bacteria warfare happening inside my lungs and head. I chose bacon and cod because my mother always prepared salt cod with bacon. I hated it unless there were gobs of Miracle Whip to kill the fishy flavours. To transform those ideas into something palatable I decided to coat the frozen cod filets in Japanese panko crumbs and bake them in the oven. The result is a clean flavour with substance that warms nicely against the comforting potato-celery root mash. I had a hard time stomaching the food due to the Biaxin, but antibiotics need time to deal with the bacteria, so I did the best I could.
On other fronts, I have been exploring the history of the Dust Bowl era, the music of Woody Guthrie, Pete Seeger and traditional folk. Perhaps the ideals are a little hipster these days, but singing tunes like “Old Dan Tucker”, “Goodnight Irene”, and “Mary Don’t You Weep No More” has brought me a lot of joy these past few weeks. Like the cod dinner, there is something so uplifting about going back to one’s roots to re-envision what you came from so that it makes you happy forty years later. I will never forget listening to traditional music in our car every Saturday. The “Hoedown” played on the radio and I knew the music of Johnny Cash, Chuck Berry, Tanya Tucker, Loretta Lynn and others off by heart. The old-time tones of “Oh Susanna”, “She’ll be Coming Around the Mountain” and “Tom Dooley” played off vinyl through our tube hi-fi system. I had music surround me even though no one in my family could play anything.
For Christmas this year I have asked Santa Claus for a very special instrument that I found at The Twelfth Fret in Toronto. Unlike any other instrument, this particular one felt like an old friend even though I have had no experience playing one. I feel like this may be my last big personal gift for a while, as I have new plans for my near future, so I want to make certain that I get what I want while I can. If tradition and family are what makes us happiest, then perhaps this will become a big part of my contribution to that in the years to come. Until then, let us see how to conquer and vanquish the pneumonia.