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Friday, October 28, 2011

9: Positive is Negative

Remember Labour Day weekend? Ah, glorious warm sunshine! On Sunday, Greg and I drove out to Drayton Valley to join our son Lindsay and his girlfriend, Hailey, on the North Saskatchewan River. They had found a quiet place to camp, right on the riverbank. Soon we were putting the canoe in the water. The four of us piled in, and away we went, swept along by the current. What utter delight! I leaned back on a thwart and extended my arms, letting my hands trail in the cool water. I couldn’t remember ever feeling so contented, so full of joy, so at peace with the world.

I thought about a fascinating article I’d read in the Flyer in early August, about the abundance of negative ions released by moving water; about how healthy they are and how uplifted they make you feel. I began to tell Lindsay, behind me on the stern seat, about the article.

“So you see,” I concluded at length, “it’s not just that we feel fantastic to be in such a beautiful place, away from the everyday pressures of life. There is something electrical going on that gives us this feeling of well-being.”

Hailey was privy to my monologue also, being seated in the bottom of the canoe facing me. Greg was out of earshot, way up in the bow seat, deliriously waving his fishing rod around.

The river carried us along swiftly. It was all going by way too fast. Lindsay turned on the quiet little battery-run motor and turned the canoe upstream into the current in an effort to prolong our ride. Greg let out a hook and let it drag. Suddenly—what a surprise!—there was a strike on the line and Greg was whooping and hollering and reeling like mad. Moments later I was netting a four- or five-pound pike. It would make for a great dinner. And so it did, once we had loaded the canoe back onto the truck and returned to our campsite.

Darkness came quickly. We lingered at the campfire until bedtime beckoned. When I stood up, I was suddenly dizzy. I staggered a little, feeling rather disoriented. “I think my equilibrium is off from all the motion on the river,” I said.

The view from our bed was breathtaking, a half-moon shining on the river. The embers from our campfire still glowed, sending wafts of wood smoke into our open window. I drifted into a peaceful sleep.

I woke up several times in the night. I was very aware of the smoke, and it seemed to be bothering me. I closed the window. When I finally woke up in the morning, I felt horrible. I figured it was from breathing too much smoke, and I pulled on some clothes and went for a walk to clear my head. I felt irritable, depressed, and sick to my stomach. I walked and I prayed, not wanting to bring this attitude back to the campsite with me.

Over breakfast, Hailey wasn’t feeling well. She had woken up in the night drenched in sweat. Now she was nauseated and had a pain behind her eyes that felt like a bad headache coming on. Lindsay didn’t have much of an appetite either, which was very unusual. They packed up and left right after breakfast as Hailey had a shift to work that afternoon.

Greg and I walked up a quad trail beside the river and then out onto a sandbar. We stood holding hands, gazing at the beauty around us. I felt terrific now, the strange malaise of the morning having lifted. We were both full to the brim with happiness and gratitude.

Back at the campfire once again, we shared a pot of black currant tea. As we sipped, he suddenly said, “I don’t feel very good.” And I realized that that sick oppression had fallen on me again like a weight. “I think it’s those power lines,” he continued, glancing up. I had hardly even noticed, but there were huge high-voltage power lines crossing the river there, directly over our campsite. “I think we’d better move our rig,” he said.

So we did, and we went on to enjoy a blissful afternoon. When we got home, I did some quick googling, and here is what I found: “High voltage power lines are giant positive ion generators,” and, “Positive ions ... may cause ... sleeplessness, irritability, tension, migraine, nausea, heart palpitations, hot flashes with sweating or chills, tremor and dizziness. The elderly become depressed, apathetic and extremely fatigued.” Hmmm. I hadn’t realized I was elderly quite yet.