Friday, April 6, 2012

"D" is for Desert, But Also for Dentist

I like it when things go smoothly. This was not one of those weeks though. First we took a trip up to Salome to visit our buddy Steve from Georgia and to drive out into the desert to see his new mining property. We had a lovely visit and gab session at his new place at the campground, then took off for the claim. We ALMOST made it. But we took the truck and the van instead of the ATVs and that turned out to be a mistake as evidenced by Steve's sinking of his rear axle into the fine sand of the wash we needed to drive across. Long story short- Steve has a lovely new mining property as viewed from the corner of it closest to where the truck sank. It took me til nearly 5 o'clock to get chains and haul him out of there with the 4-wheel drive Quigley van, which didn't leave any time at all for looking over the mine up close and personal. There's always next year. Actually, there would have been plenty of time this year, except that the day after this episode I was scheduled to visit the dentist in Goodyear, nearly a hundred miles each way from our locale....and THAT didn't go any better than the sink-in-the-sand thingy.

In fact it went considerable worse. Well, better...but also worse. I broke a tooth a few weeks back. It wasn't my fault. It was just that tooth's time to go south I suppose. I was nibbling of a piece of licorice (chocolate licorice none-the-less) and felt the back of the tooth separate from the front of the tooth...and may I say - without just cause! Well that forced an issue that we had been contending with- should we or should we not have doctors and dentists here for when needed. Asked and answered now. So we located a dentist close by (by desert standards), set up an appointment, and trekked off to see what we shall see. The conclusion: yes, the tooth is broken. It is broken below the gum line. But worse, it is broken below the bone line. uh-oh! So a plan of action was formulated and committed to. And yesterday, armed with tons of x-rays and sterilized tools, the dentist set out to extract the tooth- as there is no saving them once they break off below bone line. After resolving a blood pressure issue that for some time looked like it would scuttle the plan, the decision was made to proceed. I LOVE injections of lidocaine into the roof of my mouth. They are just so fun. And having the dentist grab onto an upper tooth with a pair of pliers that look like they were once used in the space program and wrestling that tooth and my whole head with it for minutes that seemed at the time like endless hours is also quite a treat.

"Ah," said the dentist, that tooth is nice and loose now and I am just going to tease it right out of there now."

Well sir, the only teasing that got done was to me and my tooth, because while that tooth may have been broken, it had also evidently decided that its function in life was not yet finished and it would fight for its very survival at this hour in my life. It lost. But it was a yeoman fight and even the dentist was flabbergasted that it could hang on that aggressively after all it, and I, had been through. It finally did pop out, but only after the pliers had been upgraded several steps to one with hard core rasp like grips. Now at this point I thought perhaps the worst was over. Wrong again. Because upon further inspection, the sinus cavity that had looked suspiciously close, but narrowly out of the way of an implant turned out to be not out of the way at all, creating the need for an additional procedure called the "sinus lift."

Sinus lift. Sounds like a gentle thing, doesn't it. About as gentle as gutting your entire kitchen in a remodel on the same day you will be hosting a party for a hundred or more at 6 that evening. I saw the "punch" get picked up by the dentist, then the hammer, as he said, "Now you will feel a little tapping."

Tapping, my ass! Tapping is dance. This was war on a bone that was still very solid and wanted nothing to do with having something in my head be re-routed through a permanent detour in a 20 minute period of time. It is a good thing that the blood pressure monitor was no longer hooked up to my arm- it would have broken. Open heart surgery without anesthesia would have been less stressful than having a team of medical/dental professionals in yellow haz-mat suits hold your head against the back of the chair so the team leader could hit that chisel still harder. Marilyn had joked earlier in the day that I should be wearing my heavy duty undershorts "just in case" for this appointment. I hate it when she is right- most especially when it comes to deciding which undershorts to wear.

Even the sinus lift got completed. But that didn't mean that the plate to "hold the spot" for the implant until the now heavily stitched gum could heal would fit, did it??? Noooo-oooooooo. "Is that anesthetic still OK or am I torturing you by putting this in and out after each adjustment?"

"Uh, let me think about that for a moment please......HELLLLLP!"

But all's well that ends well. The heart did not give out to the over pressurized blood vessels either in my heart or my head- so good there. The pain on the two hour drive home kept me sharp as a tack at the wheel- no way was I falling asleep. And thanks in part to modern chemistry, a half hour after I took that pain pill that I was not allowed to take right away because I had to drive...kicked in and pulled my psyche back into a position where I started to expect to live again and thought that may be a good thing. A check up in a month. An implant in 5 or so months. Me thinks I feel a sequel coming on.

Just one question. Do they still make Valium?

Monday, April 2, 2012

A Desert Pilgrimage

It's not often that one thinks of the desert in general as a worthy destination for a great pilgrimage. At least I never had. But the more I get to know what actually goes on in the desert the more I come to appreciate it. Our first visit was just that- some prospecting, some riding, some looking around. Our curiosity was peaked, so we came back again, stayed longer and started to get to know the ins and outs of life in the desert. We developed a particular interest in the cactus and the cactus blooms, which are most surprisingly spectacular and seemingly come out of nowhere. It is somewhat miraculous that the cactus can live out here, let along produce some of the flowers that they do. So when we came back yet again to the desert, we set about landscaping our surroundings with as many interesting and varied species of cactus as we could find that would do well in this area. We had begun a pattern of annual pilgrimages to the desert and found it hard to believe even for us how anxious we would get to return every time we pulled out for parts unknown. We had a degree of success to be sure with creating our "Gundyville West" space, but never imagined for a second that we might in fact be creating a focal point of a desert pilgrimage for others.

Basically, what happened is that the more we planted and built, the more other people began to contribute to the effort. It is not unusual for us to return from a day's adventure to find cactus or cactus cuttings or saguaro ribs laying in the driveway for our use. Others stop by and say they have this or that that they no longer want and could we please stop and dig it out and take it out of their way. No problem! And so it was that one camper had a small lot with a single small cactus that was in the way, if memory serves me correctly, of her putting in a wash line. We dug it up, carted it back to our place, and because of its upright structure, found just the place for it on the corner of our lot- perhaps the single most visible intersection in the whole campground. We had no idea what it was (other than a cactus) and no idea what it would produce over tine, if anything ever. When we arrived back here early December of last year, it had added a couple "pups" that were peaking out of the hard dry desert ground, but nothing more exciting than that. But about a month ago, it began to put up two flower buds that kept getting bigger and bigger and bigger. It began to attract the attention of anyone walking or even driving by, and as time progressed, more and more people came and then returned to check on the progress of the cactus on the corner. We did the same.

Soon it became apparent that this was a species of night blooming cereus cactus- the flowering of which occurs only once a year, and only one day of the year, and fully opens only at night, and then lasts only about 24 hours. This specimen was, it seemed, a real gem. Long story short: On March 31 at 4:00 o'clock in the afternoon, it signaled that it was about to perform. A knowledgeable passerby told us to expect it to bloom that night, starting as soon as the sun went off of it for the day. He was right on the money. A few minutes after four the location where it resides fell into the shade of a nearby shed and the dilation and manifestation began. Word spread throughout the park and beyond that the cactus was ready, that tonight was the night. And so it was. By dark it was nearly fully open and spectacular. By morning it was just about perfect and then as the light of April 1 touched it, the decline and reversal of the development began to take its slow toll. By day's end, the flower was exhausted and the process was pretty much complete.

I should have, but didn't, count the number of people that made the pilgrimage to see the flower. Perhaps more that a hundred packed themselves into the tiny arena in which this drama played out- you will note one small group among many doing some observation in the slide show. Photos? Certainly hundreds, maybe many more were taken and sent to friends and relatives back home or posted to a web page or printed for hanging on the wall. We were not expecting all this, and we chuckled and marveled a bit through the whole event and enjoyed sharing the beauty of the cactus with all those who came by. And the really wonderful part is....God willing, it will all happen again next year. I'm thinking about setting up a lemonade stand!

A couple notes: Note the photos begin and end in daylight but were taking continuously well into the night. And also, other photos that appear in this post are of some of the other species we have that are also blooming this week. There is much more to come. Already attention is shifting to what will seemingly be some additionally spectacular bloom events to follow. Oh, yes- even the chuck-wallas made the pilgrimage to the grand event, as they began emerging into the 90 plus degree weather of the daytime. And while this is essential an April 1 Fools Day edition of the blog- it's all for real, no photo-shopping going on at all- just desert doing its thing.