Shortly afterward, I slathered my arms and legs in sunscreen and went for a walk. That's what I've been doing since I found out about my wonky thyroid levels: going to the gym, and hiking — short distances and nothing strenuous. Strangely, or maybe not strangely, I've been feeling symptoms to a deeper degree. Knowledge has made my head even more foggy, my body even more jittery. I think this escalation of symptoms is psychosomatic, so I stare at my hands, willing them to hold still. They never do.
Seventy degrees felt unconscionably hot, and I'd lost my will to even bother. Still, as it always has, hiking does improve my mood. I hiked my way through a difficult breakup in Juneau, back in 2009. At the time I was fairly certain I would be alone for the rest of my life, and embraced mountains as a solid if indifferent companion. Maybe I'll hike my way through this most recent breakup with my health. (I know, poor health is likely temporary, but it never really seems like it in the midst. Just like solitude at the end of a relationship.)
I have been sad about dropping out of Iditarod. I know, of course I know, that it's such a small loss in the scheme of world events and even my own life. I want to believe this emotion is not my own, but the dastardly work of wonky hormones. Right now, though, it feels like a threshold crossed. The end of something.
Sweat beaded on my skin as I picked my way through tangles of fallen trees to South Boulder Peak. Implausibly, given that it's been virtually summer for at least two weeks, the ridge was still coated in ice. I continued anyway, even after a man coming down the mountain warned me that the trail was too treacherous. I didn't feel like being careful, so of course I fell. A few yards later, I fell again. Blood glistened on my shin. I was angry, with myself of course, and plopped down on a boulder just fifty feet shy of the actual top.
The afternoon was so warm that I could stop as long as I wanted. So I sprawled out and turned up the iPod. Earlier in the week, I realized my playlists were hurting my feelings, so I refilled one with music I mostly listened to before I started endurance racing. Near the top of South Boulder mountain — just far enough from the actual peak to concede I hadn't fully climbed it — I nearly dozed off listening to early-90s Catherine Wheel songs:
Bye bye long day.
I need to sleep so much.
Nineteen hours straight.
Too much is not enough."
Again I thought about those tough little goldfish, who I think I've grown to love, and how they survived the winter without any help from me.
"It's going to be fine," I said out loud, sitting up. "Shake it off, shake it off." My hands were still quivering. I felt a little bit dizzy and hand't brought any food with me. It crossed my mind that I could take an unlucky slip at just the wrong place on the upcoming, treacherously icy downhill, and that could be the end. It was just as plausible, maybe even more plausible, than my heart stopping in the Alaska wilderness. Life is fragile. Maybe I have an autoimmune disease and maybe my lifestyle is to blame, but I don't regret a thing.
The downhill hike passed without incident. Still, I remained little out of it. As if in an instant, the sun began to set. Beautiful pink light filtered through the trees.
"Needle stings and blisters breaking.
Swinging moods and conscious fading.
All the things you dream while spinning 'round.
Always it seems to bring you, bring you down."