Peabody’s Difficulty Selling Mines ‘Doesn’t Bode Well’

first_imgPeabody’s Difficulty Selling Mines ‘Doesn’t Bode Well’ FacebookTwitterLinkedInEmailPrint分享Jacob Barker for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch:Peabody Energy’s survival looks increasingly tied to its sale of two coal mines in New Mexico and one in Colorado, a transaction announced Nov. 20 that Peabody expects to close by the end of March.Without the $358 million in cash Bowie Resource Partners would put up for the mines and the $105 million it would assume in Peabody liabilities, Peabody “believes there is substantial doubt as to whether the Company can comply with its financial covenants under its 2013 Credit Facility,” the company said in a regulatory filing Monday.Last month, Peabody drew down the remainder of a $1.65 billion revolving credit facility. It also had $1.17 billion in principal as of Sept. 30 on a $1.2 billion term loan governed by the 2013 credit agreement.Those secured lenders are concerned that Peabody isn’t pursuing a bankruptcy restructuring, Peabody disclosed in a separate filing Monday.But Peabody wants to negotiate debt swaps with its unsecured bondholders and second lien bondholders. It’s in talks with holders of roughly $5 billion in bonds, who stand to be paid after Peabody’s creditors under the 2013 financing agreement in the event the coal miner files for bankruptcy.Without closing the Bowie deal, however, Peabody’s adjusted earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization could fall below its net cash interest charges, causing a breach of the 2013 credit agreement. If that happens, Peabody would have to ask those lenders, who want it to go into bankruptcy, to give it a waiver of that provision to avoid a default.The Bowie deal contains a $20 million penalty if the coal miner with operations in Utah and Colorado can’t obtain financing to close the deal. When the deal was announced, Louisville, Ky.-based Bowie said it already had equity financing from an undisclosed partner. Four weeks later, Bowie said it would refinance its existing debt as part of the financing package to acquire Peabody’s mines.Bloomberg reported last month, citing anonymous sources, that the deal was on hold while Bowie tried to renegotiate the terms.This doesn’t bode well for Peabody’s ability to sell other assets in the future.“The hope for monetizing anything else is a bit weaker if you couldn’t do this,” said Kris Inton, an analyst at Morningstar in Chicago.Full article: Peabody’s survival hinges on sale of three coal mineslast_img read more

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Colorado legislators propose major changes to state’s oil, gas drilling regulations

first_imgColorado legislators propose major changes to state’s oil, gas drilling regulations FacebookTwitterLinkedInEmailPrint分享Associated Press:Colorado Democratic lawmakers released a plan late Friday afternoon for a major overhaul of oil and gas regulations that would make human health and environmental protection the state’s highest priority, not energy production.The bill also includes provisions giving local governments the authority to regulate the location of new wells and to impose fines for spills and pollution. Currently, only the state has those powers. The bill would also put a hold on some new state drilling permits until the revised rules are in place.The legislation would bring a fundamental change to the way the state oversees one of its biggest and most contentious industries. State law currently requires regulators to encourage oil and gas production and says health and environmental protections are limited by what is feasible and cost-effective.Drilling often leads to conflicts in Colorado, where growing suburbs overlap lucrative oil and gas fields. The state has repeatedly revised regulations over the past few years, but the changes did not go far enough to satisfy health and environmental advocates and some local governments.Republican lawmakers blocked previous attempts at major changes, but Democrats now control both houses of the Legislature after capturing a majority in the state Senate in November.Newly elected Democratic Gov. Jared Polis supports the overhaul. At a news conference Thursday that previewed the bill, he said change was overdue.More: Colorado Dems unveil plan for big change in oil-gas drillinglast_img read more

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Indonesia moves forward with plans for 145MW floating solar project

first_img FacebookTwitterLinkedInEmailPrint分享The Jakarta Post:State electricity company PLN’s Pembangkitan Jawa Bali (PJB) unit is looking to begin construction of the $129 million Cirata floating solar power plant in West Java next year with support from Abu Dhabi-based renewables firm Masdar.The companies will kick off development of the 145-megawatt (MW) Cirata floating solar photovoltaic (PV) power plant next week, when PLN signs a power purchase agreement (PPA) with Masdar, said PLN strategic procurement director 1, Sripeni Inten Cahyani.“After signing the PPA, we aim to reach a financial close within a year. So, by early 2021, we can begin construction,” Sripeni told reporters on Tuesday.Once fully operational at 145 MW, Cirata will be Indonesia’s largest solar power plant, taking over the title from the 15 MW Likupang plant in North Sulawesi. The project will help boost renewable energy development in Indonesia, which is high on the agenda of the Energy and Mineral Resources Ministry.Indonesia has set a target to have renewable energy account for 23 percent of the country’s energy mix, while the Indonesian Renewable Energy Society (METI) estimates that renewable energy will contribute around 9 percent to the energy mix in 2019.In its first stage of development, the Cirata plant will have a capacity of 50 MW, Sripeni said. PJB aims to increase the capacity to 145 MW by 2022. She also said PLN would pay 5.8 US cents per kilowatt hour (kWh) of the plant’s electricity.[Norman Harsono]More: UAE’s Masdar to support development of Indonesia’s largest solar power plant Indonesia moves forward with plans for 145MW floating solar projectlast_img read more

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Pat Keller Makes First Descent of Linville Falls

first_imgPat Keller, 24, boldly made the first descent of Linville Falls last Tuesday, August 24, 2010. The triple-tiered waterfall has been eyed by many experienced kayakers over the years, but the intimidating upper drop had been, until now, thought to be un-runnable. During Keller’s descent the upper waterfall (partially obscured in photo) proved to be the most difficult and nearly ended with disastrous consequences. Here’s Pat’s description of the descent:In the entrance slide, i thought to myself, “You’ve wanted to do this you’re whole life, you better get it right.”I boofed into the chasm and caught the set up eddy. No time for any thoughts but good ones.Peeling out of the pocket, i wanted to stay as low as possible, so i could generate enough drive to get the ramp i wanted. Taking my boof stroke, i knew i wasnt going fast enough. I yanked on my Right blade of my Werner as hard as i could, but my boat still turned and pointed down, launching me into the protrusion off the wall. My bow pitoned into the wall with a huge slam, turning my boat to the Left in the crack. My Nomad 8.5 had the rocker to allow the bow to shank off without sticking, but my Right elbow and wrist slammed down on the same protrusion that caught my bow, popping my paddle out of both hands. As my brain was processing this new BIG problem, the death cave went by on my left side. No time to reach out and grab for it, possibly knocking me off balance. With determination but in a calm state of consciousness, i hand-backferried into the safety eddy on river Left, between Jones and Murf. Both were ready with ropes in hand, about to release if i were to miss a beat. I smiled at both of them, giving them the thumbs up – big hit but im ok. Five seconds later, my paddle floated past the cave and directly into my hands. It was like a dream.Not waisting any time, i grabbed excalibur from the waters, smiled at the Billys through my mouthguard and started paddling for the big falls.Lining up just Right of Center, i paddled in to this unreal view of the horizon line. Just past my big red bow, the explosion came into view and i was at damn near the perfect angle. Boofing as hard as i could, i got my bow out and past the nasty part of the bounce and to my amazement, my brand new shiny kayak combined with the angle of landing and the angle of the rock underneath me – gave me the most spectacular bounce i’ve ever felt. Up until this point, i was expecting to get bucked over the bars, but visualized the clean line anyway. Soaring out away from the explosion and past the horrible second shelf, i was extatic. I knew that i was going to land flat and it would be a huge hit, so i slammed my upper body forward to try not to let my spine stack up – thus breaking my back.Weight forward, a little heavy on my left edge, time slowed to a near standstill. I was watching the far wall go up and up and up, waiting for the hit that i knew was coming. An extra mental two count went by beyond what i was expecting (a testament to the bounce, and the size of the drop itself) and BOOOOOM! Pat Keller Dropping Linville FallsLanding on my Left edge allowed the surface area of my kayak to slow my landing by about 2 feet, as opposed to the approx 6 inches that my boat would’ve gone into the water, had i landed dead flat and balanced. Although the hit was large, and my ribs were a bit bruised from the water’s impact, i was stoked.As stoked as Keller and many others in the outdoor sports community of Western North Carolina were when first hearing of his descent of Linville Falls, the National Park Service isn’t feeling the same way. Keller’s descent violated several laws and he has been charged with multiple misdemeanors, all of which, if convicted, could result in up to $5000.00 fines and the possibility of jail time for Keller.For Pat’s take on the story, click to http://www.teamdagger.com/profiles/blogs/the-day-of-a-lifetimelast_img read more

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Trauma Tuesday: Downhill Longboarding Edition

first_imgThe idea of hurling oneself down a steep incline with nothing more than a board and four wheels underneath you is daunting, maybe even insane. Doing that while contorting one’s body by sliding, carving, pumping, and drifting.. now that takes some skill. In this week’s Trauma Tuesday, we have assembled some of the most treacherous longboarding wipeouts on the web.First, a video of James Kelly tearing it up in this Arbor edit.Some serious wipeouts in this compilation.This clip gives road rash a new meaning. Someone needs to get this guy a shirt.last_img

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Saving the Red River Gorge’s Greatest Treasure: Muir Valley

first_imgStory and photos by Stuart PeckOn an oppressively humid Saturday in June, Roger VanDamme walks the trails of Muir Valley. He’s not looking for a route to climb but instead making his rounds to see what work needs to be done. The valley is kept in pristine condition, and trails are maintained and bridges and staircases are designed not only for climbers to access the towering sandstone walls but also for rescue crews to get to injured climbers if there’s ever a situation. Every detail has been thoroughly thought about, every possible scenario played out in the heads of the owners of this crag. Now comes a new hill to climb—the changing of the guard from the longtime owners of Muir Valley to the nonprofit group that will oversee this venue into the future.Ten years ago, Rick and Liz Weber stepped into Muir Valley, a hidden wonderland, nestled in the hilly region of eastern Kentucky that sits at the doorstep of the Daniel Boone National Forest. What they saw amazed them beyond belief and they immediately set out to buy the property.“We were overwhelmed by the combination of a blank canvas of wall after wall of incredible Corbin sandstone cradling a valley of natural beauty,” said Liz Weber.With hundreds of routes conveniently packaged in a highly maintained, natural, rock climber paradise it’s no wonder the valley sees tens of thousands of visitors each year. Muir Valley’s popularity isn’t slowing down. The number of people hiking the trails and roping up at the crags is growing exponentially, and the Webers realize they won’t always be able to act as the keepers of the valley. That’s where Friends of Muir Valley (FOMV) enters the scene. A nonprofit group formed in 2004 (not long after the Webers bought the valley) was created to maintain and manage the operations of this world-class climbing area.“This valley is a tremendous resource for entry level climbers, and that community of climbers is growing quickly,” said VanDamme, the chairman of Friends of Muir Valley. “Muir Valley is one of the rare places where you can go park at a single parking lot and access 30 climbing walls without shuffling your car.”This year, Friends of Muir Valley, along with the Webers, announced their intention to transition the property to the ownership of the nonprofit group so it could remain in climber-friendly hands for future generations to enjoy. The transition comes with a few stipulations, the largest being FOMV must raise $200,000 to cover costs of maintaining the valley to the high standards the Webers have put into place. A fundraising campaign began in March and the funds have to be raised by the end of the year in order for the transfer to take place.“It was always the Webers’ idea, when they bought the property, to eventually turn it over to the climbing community,” VanDamme states. “The support has been fantastic from the climbers. I’m confident we’ll meet our goal.”Friends of Muir Valley has tapped into the expertise of the Access Fund to help with the transition. The national group, which works to ensure access to climbing areas around the United States, has helped with grant proposals and used their vast network to get the word out about the transition.“Climbing on private land is a privilege,” says Joe Sambataro, director of access for the Access Fund. “We have so much to be thankful for to Liz and Rick Weber for opening up Muir Valley to the public to enjoy over the last decade,” Sambataro said. “Across the United States, climbers have lost access to other cherished areas due to a variety of circumstances. As a climbing community, we can never take access for granted.”Sambataro recalls first climbing in Muir Valley in 2004, while still in college. Like many others who visit the valley or call Muir their home crag. He didn’t realize the land was a privately owned area that had been opened to climbing through the grace of the Webers. VanDamme says that’s one of the big challenges: educating the community of climbers about this treasured outdoor destination.Raising $200,000 is a formidable challenge and already the organization is well on their way to reaching that goal. As of publication, Friends of Muir Valley has already received over $60,000 in donations, most of which is directly from the climbing community. FOMV, with the help of the Access Fund, has also submitted a grant to the Conservation Alliance, a powerful group of outdoor-minded businesses, in hopes of receiving a sizable dollar amount to add toward that goal.In the eyes of VanDamme and the rest of the board of directors, lowering the standards of Muir Valley to save money is not a viable option. The group is getting creative with ways to raise money and all options for future fundraising are on the table, according to the board chairman.“If the climbing community continues to support [Muir Valley] through donations the way that it has, there’s no reason to change anything,” he said. “We’re not accepting a gift from the Webers and then changing the dream. It’s our mission to carry on their dream.”###UPDATE AS OF 3.1.2015! The FOMV has reached their goal and will be taking over ownership and operation of the Muir Valley property beginning in March of 2015. Congratulations and here’s to many more years of climbing in the Valley!last_img read more

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Mountain Mama: Resolve

first_imgI rode my bike for the first time this year today, barely managing to get my seat in the saddle before January ends. When I cut images of women on bikes from magazines and pasted them onto my vision board, I vowed to make a few solid changes to my daily routines. Riding bikes feels like play and I get that giddy high that comes from endorphins and spending time in the woods. Plus I’d get fit, I figured.How had almost a month passed and I hadn’t gotten on my bike? Maybe the snow, ice, and freezing temperatures were to blame, or the muddy conditions left in their wake. Probably, though, my general tendency to hibernate until spring unfolds was the culprit.I’m not alone. One third of resolutions don’t make it past the end of January and over half of resolutions fail over the course of a year. Even as I doubted that resolutions really work, I felt a pang of guilt every time I walked past my mountain bike propped up on the screened porch as I rushed out the door to meet a work deadline or pick up my son on time. I missed riding bikes with my friends, reminding me of something important – riding bikes wasn’t a chore, I actually wanted to get out there.Looking to make a long-lasting change was going to require more than pasting a photo of someone else riding her bike. It was going to require me to make room in my already busy schedule. I wasn’t going to go far or ride anything tough, I just had to get started again, reminding myself that any ride would be better than sitting in front of my computer.I pulled out my calendar and added group rides, making them sacred, uninterruptable time the way work and time with my son are. If a ride was on my calendar, I wouldn’t bail if I didn’t feel in the mood or wasn’t particularly motivated. I’d put on my biking clothes, pump up my tires and meet the group at the trailhead.Getting to the trailhead was the most difficult part of riding.  Once on my bike, the miles rolled by as I caught up with friends and met new ones, sharing rides we’d love and ones we wanted to tackle this year. The searing burn in my hamstrings subsided as I found a groove, one pedal stroke at a time.Big smiles and high-fives were shared, and I remembered the power of making a plan and sticking to it.last_img read more

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Fridays on the Fly: Standing In A River Thinking

first_imgYou turn a corner and you see it: the perfect 100-yard rippling trout run. It flows from a barrel-rolling ripple into a maze of boulders misted with the bouncing current that drops into a swift plunge pool framed with eddies, slowing to a flat tail-out. Not a soul has been here in years, or so you like to think. This is why we have a fishing license, favorite fly, or volunteer to face the contempt of the spouse when you return four hours late due to “car trouble,” which they know is just a huge fishing story.For over a decade, I traveled the country, singing songs from dirty bars to country clubs to hip hidden brewpubs, but it wasn’t until a few years ago that I became a two-tool troubadour: folk songs and angling. Recently I have written too many mediocre fishing songs that no one will ever get to hear. Come to think on it, I only can name a couple fishing songs that are worth even talking about.Scott LowNow I am getting older, and have had my first beautiful daughter. I knew I should be fishing and singing closer to my home in Rabun County, Georgia. We have gorgeous lakes and blue lines running down every mountainside with wild- and hatchery-supported fish. Television shows have covered our fishing. Books have been written. Now I love to hook a big largemouth or chase crappie on topwater as much as the next, but once I was given a Sage Discovery Fly Rod and hooked a 16” holdover Rainbow trout on the Upper Tallulah, my target was obvious.Now I have gathered too many rods and leaky waders. Thread, feathers, fur, and hooks are also entirely too plentiful. As I started fishing on the Tallulah and began noticing few fly fishermen, I began to seek out where they fished. I learned that the good fishing for the wading feather slinger seems to be a well-kept secret or you must leave Rabun to White county or cross into North Carolina. North Carolina has some great water protected as delayed harvest/catch and release streams or tucked away high above the corn slingers. Oh yes, Rabun has a delayed harvest on the mighty Chattooga, but it is serviced by South Carolina. And we do have a small but satisfying fly shop at Reeves. For a tourist town, it seems we are missing a usually well-to-do clientele of fly anglers.Rainbow TroutMy time touring this great country as a musician is less with two kids, a gorgeous wife, and a broken music industry. So, before the daughter came, we began looking for a house that we could pay off in 30 years. Twenty properties later we found a spot listed as “A Trout Fisherman’s Dream.” The previous owner had built the spot in 1978 and lived here until his passing a few years ago. In those few years, all his gardens and bird sanctuaries had become jungles of briars and poisonous things. But that water looked very “trout-y.” I had to find out.So one morning I ventured out and waded thru the weeds and overgrown trails down under the bridge. Within a minute, a large streak under the water came hurtling toward me and bumped my leg. It was too large for a fish in this creek, though my mind did immediately think catfish. After some days of pondering, I decided it was a muskrat who hadn’t seen a human in this water in a while. Although I did see evidence of some “fishing,” i.e. cans of corn and Busch Light, I started connecting with trout and horny heads immediately.As I reached the top of the property, I had held 13 trout and lost a few more. There is a small section I later learned from DNR, right above the property, that is grandfathered in as public access right on the road. While casting from the sliver of land between the road and creek, a huge splash hits upstream from me. I turn upstream and a huge deer is swimming down the creek towards this hole. She doesn’t care I am already fishing there and comes right through. No less than 20 seconds later, I hook the biggest fish of the day from under the deer’s path: a 15” brown trout on a cream mopfly.Big Ol’ BrownI rush home to the wife and tell her this is our future. My life of dim light bars and rickety stages may have to take a hiatus. I can see a future for the family. We can build a utopia. I mean, isn’t that what we all yearn for? Happiness, sustainability, community? I had found  a private trout stream with a campground, set on the creek with a stage for songs and a field for permaculture. I had chased my dream of singing songs to change your day for a long time—not knowing if these shows were for me or them. But now I see a place for all of us and for the art of fly fishing and conservation of our beautiful region and culture: Hatch Camp and Art Farm. Search for happiness. Fish for peace. Live for art and culture. We can try.Scott Low is a songwriter, fly fishing guide, and owner of Hatch Camp and Art Farm, a private Fly Fishing camp and guide service in Clayton, Georgia.last_img read more

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Mountain Medicine Part 5: Labyrinth

first_imgAppalachian Ecotherapy and Why We Need it Now At the center of the labyrinth, I searched for a stone to represent what I wanted to fill the void I’d created by leaving my pain behind. It wasn’t difficult. From the very top I plucked a smooth blue stone, clearly worn down after a millennia of water erosion. A river stone, like the ones my father and I would search for when we’d skip rocks on the lake. “Life’s not fair, kiddo.” “It’s not fair.” As a science geek I’ve always been skeptical of things I cannot explain, and I’d never really given much thought to the merits of sage smudging. Still, I was determined to take this exercise one hundred percent seriously and, truth be told, something about the whole affair felt ceremonial. Official. (And, with a quick Google search after the exercise, I learned she was right.) With bits of sage tickling my nostrils, I took a deep breath. — Regret. Regret that I didn’t come see him on Father’s Day, the week before he died. He said he wasn’t feeling well, and didn’t want me to bother with the trip. I should have gone. I’d bought him a card with a drawing of three kids in the backseat of a van, dad in the front with a speech bubble that read, “Kids, remember when someone cuts you off, it’s okay to use your special finger!” Inside the card: “Thank you for teaching me the important things in life, Dad.”  He broke into a wide grin. “Yeah, just like that.”  Eventually, my list of things to do ran out. By then, it felt too late to grieve, inappropriate. I’d missed my window. In the stillness of everyday life, inconvenient emotions loomed in the foreground: anger, regret, sadness, confusion, fear, disappointment, resentment. And now I was finding them harder to ignore. In that moment I felt awkward and stupid. To me, all the stones looked basically the same. What made one better than another? It wasn’t logical, half of my brain yelled at me. Who cares what rock? Would it really make a difference? The other half of my brain berated me for being such a rigid square. Suspend the disbelief a little, why don’t you? My competing halves squabbled while my eyes scanned. When I returned to the room, I found the curtains drawn. Sweeping them to the side, I was accosted by the sight of my father completely naked on the hospital gurney, sending me backpedaling to sit outside the door. The nurses emerged to explain he had vomited on himself and needed his gown changed. As the father of three girls, the man had been painstakingly modest about nudity, and somehow, after twenty-seven years of success, I bungled it on the last day. Small indignities of watching someone you love die. Forty-eight sleepless hours in the ICU. I was getting dizzy from scanning doctors’ faces as they passed, hoping for liberation from the purgatory of not knowing. The nurses were cheerful, but they always were. It was put on, of course. How could anyone be cheerful in this place straddled between life and death? Patients groaned in agony behind pink, plastic curtains, every room full of alien instruments, wires, and tubes. He chuckled but gave me a subdued smile. “Me too, but someday I won’t be around.”  As a man with chronic road rage, he would have loved it. I’d planned to give it to him the next time I saw him, but I never got the chance. It burned with the rest of him at the crematorium. “My dad,” I told her. One step forward. But this didn’t take away all the horrible memories. Like cracking Pandora’s box, snippets of horror rushed to the forefront of my brain. When I agreed to try one of her therapeutic exercises, she asked me to think about what no longer serves me in my life. What is holding me back? “So what do you want to let go of?” she asked. For months after my father died, I buried myself in the busyness of death — making calls to relatives and the utility companies, negotiating with the funeral home, writing the obituary, designing memorial cards, transferring car titles at the DMV, yelling at the HOA for harassing me about mildew on the side of his house.  His tongue. The image of my father’s purple, swollen tongue came into my mind. Poking between his lips when they removed the ventilation tube, dark in contrast to his pallid, lifeless skin. My heart ached at the memory. I didn’t want to remember him that way. I pictured the image seeping like a toxin from my fingertips into the rock. One step forward. What did I want to release? No right or wrong answers, I reminded myself.  I held the blue pebble in my closed palm and pressed my fists into my pocket to warm my cracked, dry hands. Between my thumb and index finger, I rubbed its smooth surface like a prayer bead. And, in my own way, I prayed. — My lip poked out in a pout, as though this fact were his fault. He nudged my chin with his knuckle, lifting my face to meet his gaze. “At the end of the day, we’re all worm food, and that’s the circle of life.”  “Good,” Cheeks encouraged. “Trust your instinct, but think about it carefully.” — The nurses left me again. I was determined this time to maintain my post, listening to the rhythmic click and sigh as the respirator filled his lungs with air. The balloon pump kept his heart beating. IV bags perched on shiny chrome racks dripped drugs into his bloodstream. So many damn machines — I wasn’t sure how much man remained.  One of my first memories was through the bars of my baby sister’s crib. My mother had placed the three of us there while the EMTs hauled my father out of our apartment on a stretcher after his first heart attack. I was 4, he was 53.  “Now,” Cheeks instructed with a gentle voice, “Look around and choose a rock that represents what you want to release from your life. There isn’t a right or wrong answer.” Cheeks nodded and produced a box from which she retrieved a lighter and a bundle of dried sage. Despite five minutes of joint effort, we weren’t able to keep the lighter aflame against the wind. Undeterred, she held the sage to my nose and told me to inhale. It was a grounding exercise, she explained. An effort to engage my senses and prime my brain to be mindful and notice the sights, sounds, and smells of the forest. “Plus, it’s cleansing,” she added.  And with the wind whipping hair against my face, I crossed the threshold. The beeping of the EKG machines were testing the last remnants of my sanity. Chinese water torture in the form of sound, a shrill metronome marking the growing distance between myself and reality. In theory, it was a rather simple exercise. But I was out of my depth and pre-occupied with the execution. How fast should I walk? How does one walk and meditate at the same time? Should I close my eyes? “Just watch me,” I’d snapped. I stood, straightening my back, feeling the relief in my muscles, the tension in my shoulders melting with my newfound lightness.  Here, in the wind and quiet, I took a moment with that heavy rock and placed a hand over its surface. Cold, rough. “Goodbye,” I whispered.center_img For a moment I stood still and silent, cradling the rock to my chest. Icy air leeched into my lungs as I steadied my breath. It smelled faintly like Christmas, splintered branches bleeding their sweet, piney scent into the atmosphere. The staccato thrum of a woodpecker echoed from the distance.  And sitting in plain sight, there it was. The stone was large, asymmetrical, gray, and ugly. Squatting to lift it, I cradled it in my forearms like an infant. A fat one — somewhere around 15 pounds. With its shape so ungainly, I found it difficult to hold, resting it partially against my pelvis for stability. Something to represent all those icky emotions I’d been avoiding for over a year. This thing would be hell to carry — it was the one. At some point the beeping from the monitors indicated that his heart was racing. I looked over to the bed and his eyes met mine, opened for the first time since I arrived. He tried to speak, but the ventilation tube silenced his voice, his tongue swollen and purple from biting it when he hit the floor. His expression was one I’d never seen him wear: fear.  “My ticker’s just not very good,” he explained when I was older.  Learning to skip stones with Dad. I needed air, but I settled for nicotine. I stepped out for a punishing cigarette — smoked fast and burned hot. Maybe I needed it that way. Click here to read the whole article The sound of a jackhammer in the distance interrupted my thoughts, ricocheting inside my skull. Anger bubbled inside me. How unfair, I thought. How am I supposed to immerse myself in nature with all that damn noise? Life’s not fair, came my father’s voice. One of his favorite phrases.  Stepping over newly fallen trees, I trekked through the Edith J. Carrier Arboretum until I reached a clearing hidden by pines and lined with rocks. Carefully arranged, they formed a winding labyrinth for walking meditation. At the entry stood ecotherapist Pat Cheeks, who had arrived an hour before to clear fallen brush, collect litter, and tidy stones. We greeted each other and made small talk about last night’s crazy storm, soon circling back to the reason we were both standing out here in the cold. At age six, the notion that life wasn’t fair didn’t seem good enough to me. “I think you should be here forever,” I told him, crossing my arms. A year and a half later on a frigid February day, I braced myself against blustery gusts of air, kicking myself for forgetting my hat and scarf in my truck. A brutal windstorm had torn through the Shenandoah Valley the previous night, bowing the windows of my apartment to the point I thought they might crack. Though the storm had passed, today’s windchill made the 40 degree air feel closer to 25. When the doctor told us he was braindead with no possibility of recovery, my sister had reached for my hand. I shook my head ‘no,’ recoiling from human touch. I didn’t want to carry anyone else’s pain, I could barely manage my own. ’Bad sister’ flashed across my mind, though I’d long since apologized and been forgiven. Into the rock and one step forward. “Why not?” I demanded to know.  After her experiences with survivors of trauma, Cheeks found surprising solutions for pain management besides the use of medication. Asking burn patients to imagine their body covered with cool river water, for example, took away some of the heat and pain. Eventually, Cheeks opened her own small business, Natural Transitions, to help clients adjust to major life changes using nature as a healing tool. With gravel crunching beneath my feet, I let it all go. In the last few years of his life, we’d grown distant. I had become tired of his nagging, prodding, pushing me to get a career, make something more of myself. “What are you doing with your life, Sarah?” he’d asked me. “You can’t kick the can down the road forever.”  During my winding walk towards the center, I’d only heard the wind through dry branches and an occasional woodpecker. But now, the woods were alive with sounds of life that I’d been too preoccupied to notice — gentle chirps of female cardinals, returned by the more rambunctious twitter of the males. The rapid chip of the sparrow, the quick-fire, five-beat note of the Carolina wren. Squirrels skittered in helter skelter spirals around the trunks of oak trees, their barks and squeaks intermingling with birdsong. Even in winter when the world seemed shriveled and dead, life sprung from every tree hollow. Stone from center of labyrinthPhoto credit: Sarah Vogel By the time I reached the center of the labyrinth, my forearms and biceps were shaking from fatigue. I was ready to put it down. In a way, it felt more final than when they put my father’s remains in the ground. At the funeral, my mother had hired photographers who stalked in the background, shutters clicking in my ears while I tossed a rose on top of his urn. My rage trumped my grief, unable to feel anything in the spotlight of spectators. I tried my best to understand. “Like the Lion King?” I asked.  “When you get old, things just wear out,” he said with a sigh. The cold raked my knuckles, white from carrying the heavy stone. It stole the heat from my fingers until they were completely numb. He was right, I thought. Life isn’t fair. I didn’t need that resentment, guilt, anger, and regret anymore. I didn’t need it leeching my warmth. A gust of wind rustled the branches of the evergreens above like the swish of long, sweeping dress. I closed my eyes and felt tears and sun on my face. They said he collapsed on his way out of the office to battle his way through rush hour. Some bystanders had given him CPR and used the defibrillator twice to get his heart started again. I hated thinking about him like that — surrounded by strangers from the vantage of the floor. Scared, confused. At least he wasn’t alone, I told myself. Cheeks is a woman who has spent her entire life dedicated to helping relieve pain — first as a nurse at the burn center at UVA hospital, as a volunteer for the Sexual Assault Resource Agency (SARA), and later as a psychiatric clinical nurse specialist.  I walked with shoulders back as I left that labyrinth behind, my dad’s voice still in my head. “Life’s not fair,” he’d said. And as I reached the end of the maze, I paused before crossing back over the threshold. The rest of our conversation flooded my mind. One step forward. I didn’t know who I was praying to. Maybe the universe, maybe myself. It didn’t matter. I prayed for the strength to be a better sister, to take their hands the next time they needed me. I prayed for the patience to tackle my life’s problems even when I felt I had no one to call. I prayed for the wisdom to recognize I could be resourceful and perseverant, and that I did, in fact, have people who would pick up the phone when I needed someone. I prayed for forgiveness from myself. The jackhammer stopped, but my heart was racing. I was furious. What did the man think he was doing having kids at that age? Didn’t he realize he wouldn’t be there when I needed him? When my truck was making that clanking noise, when I’d had a bad day at work, when I was proud of myself for life’s small accomplishments. Didn’t he realize I’d have no one to call? She pointed to the pile in the center of the labyrinth. “Once you can leave that stone behind, choose another to represent what you’d like to fill the space you’ve created by letting go of what no longer serves you. Meditate on that as you walk the same path out of the labyrinth.” “We’re going to set an intention now,” Cheeks explained. “As you walk through the labyrinth, focus your mind on what you want to release and visualize pouring it into that rock. When you get to the center of the labyrinth, place it down and give yourself permission to let it go.” Click here to read the whole article At the threshold, my hands now warm again, I felt the smooth stone in my pocket and filled it with the memory. With one last lungful of harsh but life-giving air, I stepped over that pine branch and back into the world. I didn’t know what to say, so I said nothing. Mom was back — when did she get back? — and held his hand and told him that we were here and we loved him. The nurse told me to hold his leg so he wouldn’t rip out his catheter. He looked hazy and sedated but he saw me. We saw each other. And then he closed his eyes for the last time. And without warning, singing a barely recognizable rendition of The Circle of Life, he snatched me up by the armpits like Simba on Pride Rock. I’d laughed until I cried. I nodded. At the entrance of the maze, Cheeks had laid a thin pine branch along the ground. It was the “threshold,” she explained, a physical barrier to represent the beginning and end of this emotional ritual. “Begin when you’re ready,” she said. Immediately, I was drawn to a small pebble of black granite with stripes of white quartz scored along the surface. Holding it between my fingers, I considered it, admiring the contrast of colors, the strangeness of minerals cracked and reformed over millions of years. I placed it back on the ground. “That’s not it,” I said. I liked it too much.last_img read more

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General Reports Relative Calm in Haiti

first_imgBy Dialogo January 20, 2010 WASHINGTON – For the second straight day, military officials have characterized the security situation in Haiti as “relatively calm” amid the country’s struggle to recover in the aftermath of a devastating earthquake. With the U.S. military footprint expected to grow to more than 10,000 by the day’s end, the positive assessment comes a day after official U.S. sources and Haitian residents reported that the number of violent incidents has declined to pre-earthquake levels. “The security situation here in Haiti remains relatively calm,” Army Maj. Gen. Daniel Allyn, the second in command of U.S. operations in Haiti, told Pentagon reporters today. “Distribution points remain orderly throughout our humanitarian assistance efforts, and feedback from the people of Haiti has been positive.” The remarks today come as some 7,000 U.S. troops are operating in Haiti, including 2,000 on the ground and more than 5,000 afloat off the Haitian coast. The 82nd Airborne Division’s 2nd Brigade Combat Team continues to flow into the country, with the last portion of the brigade expected within 48 hours, and some 800 Marines of the 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit arrived offshore last night. But despite an increasing military footprint to reinforce a security situation that has enjoyed two days of relatively upbeat appraisals, the top U.S. commander in Haiti yesterday reported that security incidents in the devastated country continue to impede efforts to deliver humanitarian assistance, and Allyn today emphasized the ongoing potential for violence. “Obviously, we are watching for signs of instability,” Allyn said. “At present, there are ‘pockets’ in areas of Haiti, and the U.N. security forces are working with the Haitian national police to address those pockets as they arise. And they have been able to effectively deal with them, and we’re confident they will continue to do so.” Such instability sometimes is caused by people who need food, water or other life-sustaining support, Allyn said, and some instability is created by criminal activity. Haitian prisons collapsed in the earthquake, he noted, allowing inmates back into the populace. The general cited progress among the decimated ranks of Haitian police, which was reduced to a 500-strong force in the quake’s immediate aftermath, but has since quadrupled, with 2,000 police reporting for duty last night. “It’s obviously necessary for the security forces of the government of Haiti, the Haitian national police, to increase their capacity,” Allyn added. The general praised the United Nations, which has the lead for security in Haiti, for helping to restore stability and security to the people of Haiti and its government. Under this rubric, U.S. military efforts are working in support of the U.S. Agency for International Development, which is orchestrating U.S. government contributions to the relief mission. For its part, the Defense Department has pledged up to $20 million in emergency relief funds for Haiti, and sprang troops into action following the quake, with the U.S. military footprint there expected to grow with the addition of more troops and the impending arrival of the USNS Comfort, a floating military hospital ship.last_img read more

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