Monday, September 10, 2018

Marathon health, lava stroke, and natural resources

Mike Medberry's book, On the Dark Side of the Moon is available on Amazon, where I recently reviewed it.

Mike Medberry's legs carried him uphill to finish a half marathon the day before a clot in the 44-year-old's brain stopped blood flow, immobilizing his right side and scrambling his speech. His was the kind of stroke you want to have in the ER parking lot. But Medberry was hiking across lava at Craters of the Moon National Monument in Idaho. He spent most of a day waiting to be found and whisked to a hospital.

Medberry "became pure observer" while wounded and waiting on the lava. He describes the stroke clearly enough that I don't have to experience one myself to feel I have a working knowledge of the condition.

Recovering, Medberry learned to brush his teeth, drive, navigate phone trees, speak, and write. His struggles to organize his thoughts are heart-breaking. "…[T]he pieces of [his] brain were a blizzard of blowing pages ripped from a book." Medberry's emotional struggles are inspiring. His falling in love and recovering enough to say, "I do," are triumphs.

Interwoven with Medberry's own story is the story of Craters of the Moon. He was working to expand the national monument when the stroke found him there. Even after the stroke, he hiked and found peace on the lava.

I enjoyed Medberry's descriptions of Idaho landscapes, but I wondered about a few points in his discussion of cheatgrass. He's correct that the exotic annual grass fuels wildfires that damage native vegetation and the wildlife habitat it provides. But I cringed when I read that cheatgrass is "[a] poison brought here by cowboys, for cows." In its native range, cheatgrass is an insignificant grass that doesn't inspire purposeful sharing. Researchers understand that the grass was inadvertently introduced to the U.S. West.

The stark black and white cover photo of a hiker leaning against gravity to climb lava echoes the contrast between Medberry's marathon health and lava stroke. Natural resource issues are rarely as clear cut and the actors, both people and plants, are rarely completely good or evil.

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