Friday, March 7, 2014

March Madness The First Is The Iditarod

     In March in addition to being blessed with St. Patrick's Day and to honor one of the truly great signs Pisces, we have not one but to two cases of March Madness. One, the NCAA college basketball tournament with its rabid fans and office pools is well known. The other not as well, but is a tribute to the human spirit and endurance far surpassing the thrill of a last second three or 360 dunk. I am of course talking about the Iditarod, the Last Great Race on Earth, almost 1000 miles of human and dogs versus the Alaskan wilderness and the freezing cold, snow and ice and topped off with a good dose of exhaustion.
      Today as I post this the two leaders have just left the Galena, Alaska checkpoint 545 miles from the start and so highly appropriate give this post about Cindy Abbott from Irvine who competed in the Iditarod last year, the musher in the lead is a women, Aily Zirkle of Two Rivers, AK. Mush on Aily, may the iambic gods propel you to the streets of Nome. I read about Cindy who in my mind symbolizes what being a human is all about, the ability to with drive and determination to overcome all obstacles. " I can" is a phrase that is almost reflex and "I can't" is a phrase that does not exist.
     Cindy was 54 in 2013, an extreme scuba diver and underwater videographer and at the age of 48, she took up mountain climbing with the single goal of standing on the top of the world. A few months after she began training, Cindy was diagnosed with a serious and rare disease (Wegener’s Granulomatosis). Did that stop her? No! On May 23, 2010, after 54 days of working her way up the mountain, Cindy stepped onto the summit of Mt. Everest.
      I wrote this poem in pencil on March 15, 2013 after reading an Orange County Register account and found it late last night. All of us have endured pain, loss, or disappointment. The secret, and it is really not much of a secret, on how to overcome, is to  purge the phrase "I can't" with "I can" and do it get back up at a time, one try at a time, one step at a time, one day at a time, or if lucky enough to be mushing either in or out of Galena, one checkpoint at a time.

A Woman’s Place
Time to toss the myth of members of the Golden State
As laid back surfers with waves and sun only to motivate
Go to Silicon Valley or here along the Tech Coast
To find hard work and creativity as a common host
Put to bed the myth of women as frail, not strong but only weak
Marathons, channel swims, Transpac sails, mountain climbs, and even combat women seek
Add to that growing, grueling list, the Iditarod Race
Where dogs and humans are fused in a freezing 1000 mile embrace
Irvine’s Cindy Abbott should be a hero to all although maybe out of her mind
At 54, a mother and prof she enters the Last Great Race although half blind
With special gear to see at night, a lot of weight to top the sled scales
Maybe her children canines were  already looking tired at start of trail
No vials of vaccine to spur her on to sick children near death’s bed
Only awareness of a rare disease that must not life’s spirit cause her to shed
Briefly near the top ten, only to slowly fade
Facing a never ending mushing up and down icy grades
Onward, onward, “can’t” is a word only for fools
A thousand miles of solitude where to find the finishing tools?
Global warming or a fluke but on slush her balance on the first day failed
Broken pelvis, hand swollen, no one but her dogs to hear her painful tale
Forced to on hands and knees her dogs to tend
A wrist so swollen it would barely bend
Bone pounding on bone with each step, yet she refused to quit
New meaning for the phrase chiseled into the Alaskan ice—True Grit
After 600 miles and close to 400 left to Nome
Dogs fading and her being chilled to her inner bones
Shivering and throbbing more each hour, losing the hypothermia race
With frostbite eagerly awaiting the chance to shape her face
“I have scaled Everest, mush on, mush on, as long as my “children” last
Must link awareness for my disease to the serum run’s lifesaving past”
Dreams die slowly, but reality 25 miles from Kaltag finally sank in.
After 24 hours resting on the Yukon, denial of pain no longer to spin
A race checker found her and her dogs almost totally spent
Scratched her from the course and to a clinic she was sent
Iditarod once again has lived up to its name—the Last Great Race
But in the halls of heroes this woman has earned her place
Broken pelvis, blind in one eye, mush on one checkpoint at a time
Shed from the vocabulary the word “can’t”, almost all goals you can climb
Pity those jihadists who women’s achievements block and belittle their brains
About as smart as racing the Iditarod in T-shirts and shorts with parkas to deign
© March 15, 2013 Michael P. Ridley aka the Alaskanpoet    

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