Tuesday, November 29, 2011


I'm in a hippy cafe in North Carolina. I have a busted ear.

My husband and I were feeling very optimistic lately because I was doing so well, so we decided to do one of our favorite things - take a road trip somewhere new. I love traveling, and it lets me participate in my recent favorite hobby...

Salamanders. So, there are hundreds of different kinds of salamanders (you know, frogs with tails). I track down new ones and take pictures of them. It's called herping, especially when combined with snake-huntin', and it's a mix of geocaching and Pokemon. But slimier. I'm really not sure why I love it so much.

With salamanders in mind, we made our way to Georgia to meet a good friend. We climbed into a muddy cave, hiked up a hill in a rainstorm, and generally roughed it. Our reward for getting mud-covered and occasionally drenched with freezing streams of water was discovering four new (to me) kinds of salamanders.

One was like a slender orange dragon, and we found it in a cave, gazing out from a crack with its big amber eyes. One was tiny and silvery and crawling across a cave floor. One was multicolored and peered up at me from wet leaves. And one, a very special and rare salamander, was clinging to a lichen-covered rock, its back a shimmery mix of green and black. Amazing.

Then we retired to a hotel. We were planning on driving home the next day, but all of the elevation changes seemed to have mucked up one of my ears. It felt full, and everything sounded off. It was worse the next morning, so we declared a day of rest.

We took a brief trip to a nearby aquarium, curling up in an alcove while sharks sailed overhead, separated from us by just a little bit of glass. I touched a sturgeon (for the very first time!). But despite the fishy rest, my ear still felt wrong. Now we're on the road, and my ear is still having problems; it's not painful, but something is definitely wrong, judging by how the hippy music in this funky cafe is being hopelessly distorted in one ear, but merely boring the crap out of the other one.

I called my primary care physician, and she told me to get checked out before I fly home, so tomorrow I see a local doctor. Argh. Part of me is so adventurous (the brain part), and the rest of me is so darn fragile, especially after all that grueling treatment - one doctor told me I temporarily have the body of a 65-year-old, and I'm not sure if that's more insulting to me or to 65-year-olds.

I wish I knew how to resolve this tension. Maybe more sharks would help.