first_imgStuck in the mud.“It’s just like delivering a placenta,” my brother-in-law — a doctor — says helpfully.I fail to see the humor.Dan and I are trudging through the Alaskan bush on the Canoe Portage From Hell, trying to keep phalanxes of black flies from chomping our exposed skin, while board-stiff alder branches are whipping our faces.Moments before, our torturously slow slog ground to a halt when I planted one of my crutches in the wrong spot and leaned on it, hard. The smooth metal shaft promptly sank two feet into the state’s infamous “suck mud,” and my heart sank with it. I tugged gingerly and heard just what I expected: the distinctive slurp of the rubber tip being suctioned off and entombed in the muck. Without their tips, my custom-made titanium crutches were useless on the soft terrain, like trying to post-hole through deep snow on stilts.So now I’m up to my elbow in the ooze and groping blindly—hence the obstetrics joke—while the flies drink deeply from their stationary target. Suddenly, my fingers brush something hard… and immediately slip off. I probe again, stretching, clawing, swatting at my winged tormentors with the other hand, which comes away blood-streaked as I smash their engorged bodies against my skin. This time my grip holds, and I finally manage to free the critical piece of equipment.Our goal is to circumvent a difficult rapid that rips a frothy white gash through a remote river in a corner of Alaska that tourists rarely visit. Because I was born with spina bifida and am partially paralyzed from the waist down, the portage is taking a while, to put it mildly—eight hours so far, hauling gear through dense vegetation devoid of anything resembling a trail, in prime grizzly bear habitat. Visibility is only a few feet in many places, which means that surprising one of the beasts is a distinct possibility. It has taken me 20 minutes to crutch, stumble, claw, and crawl the last 20 feet, and suck mud, downed trees, grabby vines, and spiny alder stretch as far as we can see. Not to mention that we barely know where we’re going or how far it is back to the river. Discouragement begins to descend like an Alaskan squall.Sometimes I ask myself why I do this stuff. What’s the point of a grueling portage when, even on a paved surface, a mile for me feels like five or 10 for most people? Why kayak or scuba dive, when just hauling my gear to the water can leave me exhausted? Why crank a 33-pound handcycle up punishing hills?Today, I’m intensively reevaluating my decision to trudge waist-deep through a mini-swamp filled with rainwater, mud, and shattered branches. At any moment I expect a 900-pound grizzly to spring from the woods and swipe me dead with a plate-sized paw. Meanwhile, Dan labors somewhere behind, heroically schlepping our folding Ally canoe and the other gear that I can’t carry. Which is all of it. The thought is emasculating, and it resurrects unpleasant memories from my youth. Like sitting alone in the grass at recess while my classmates played a giddy game of kickball. Or searching lists of extracurricular activities for something validating, something I could be good at, but finding only sports.And then there was that unforgettable blue-sky day in the fourth grade. I was playing alone in the schoolyard near a group of cute pre-pubescent girls who were chattering about secret girl stuff.“Shhhh!” one giggled. “Someone might hear!”“Oh, there aren’t any boys around,” another said.“Unless you count Jeff.”The afternoon shadows are growing longer, and still there’s neither sight nor sound of the river. At some point Dan materializes out of the woods after a scouting mission.“I think I heard it,” he says. I look skeptical.“No, really. About a half-mile through those trees.” He points. “See that tall spindly one? Head to the left of it.”I squint into the bush, trying to pick out said tree from hundreds of others. I’m from Maryland, where trees along trails in public parks are smeared with blue blazes every 10 feet or so, in case you think the wide, sidewalk-like path in front of you is naturally occurring. So my navigational skills aren’t exactly Shackletonian.“Go on,” Dan says. “I’ll get the rest of the gear.”My mood doesn’t really improve with Dan’s discovery. A half-mile on this demonic obstacle course might as well be 20, and even if we make it to the river, who knows if we’ll have skirted the rapid? At the same time, we can’t exactly hunker down for the night in a fly-infested alder thicket. So I press on, straining to discern the course Dan pointed out through the trackless terrain. And then…A low, indistinct sound, like white noise. But not the wind. Rushing water. Another hundred feet, and the forest gives way to dazzling, warm-hued sunlight glinting off the churn and froth of a swift but manageable current. I collapse at the river’s edge and plunge my face into the bracing, gin-clear liquid, giardia or not. I expect a wash of euphoria or exhilaration or something, but mostly there’s relief—relief for finishing the task uneaten by large carnivores, and, except for some blood donated to the bugs, largely unscathed.Looking back conjures a keen sense of joy and personal accomplishment that went missing in the heat of the moment. At the same time, I’m reminded of something that too often gets lost in the noise: the futility of trying to be the toughest, the smartest, the most accomplished. Chase those things, it seems, and only madness awaits. For me, the wiser goal is to use whatever I’ve been given to the fullest, to play the hand I’ve been dealt rather than coveting someone else’s. There in the Alaskan bush, I like to think I took a step or three in that direction—with or without my crutch tips.last_img read more

first_imgAdvertisement Chelsea 0-2 Southampton: Frank Lampard post-match press conferenceTo view this video please enable JavaScript, and consider upgrading to a web browser that supports HTML5 video Play VideoLoaded: 0%0:00Progress: 0%PlayMuteCurrent Time 0:00/Duration Time 6:41FullscreenChelsea 0-2 Southampton: Frank Lampard post-match press conferencehttps://metro.co.uk/video/chelsea-0-2-southampton-frank-lampard-post-match-press-conference-2077026/This is a modal window.Beginning of dialog window. Escape will cancel and close the window.TextColorWhiteBlackRedGreenBlueYellowMagentaCyanTransparencyOpaqueSemi-TransparentBackgroundColorBlackWhiteRedGreenBlueYellowMagentaCyanTransparencyOpaqueSemi-TransparentTransparentWindowColorBlackWhiteRedGreenBlueYellowMagentaCyanTransparencyTransparentSemi-TransparentOpaqueFont Size50%75%100%125%150%175%200%300%400%Text Edge StyleNoneRaisedDepressedUniformDropshadowFont FamilyProportional Sans-SerifMonospace Sans-SerifProportional SerifMonospace SerifCasualScriptSmall CapsReset restore all settings to the default valuesDoneClose Modal DialogEnd of dialog window.He added: ‘Let’s switch it back to Arsenal. Granit Xhaka may be off, so he picked what he thought was the best balance in midfield.‘As much as I like what Matteo Guendouzi has, he has been poor and struggled at times, but he will come good and may come back into the fold at some point. You see that he had to play Bukayo Saka at left-back, but he has done very well considering he is an attacker.‘Alexandre Lacazette is back in the team, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang is scoring, but Lacazette was sluggish – he needed that game.‘Mesut Ozil was subbed but was not finding the space, so you can see why. I enjoyed the desire and a bit of fight from the Arsenal team I saw at Bournemouth.‘This should lift the big players. He could make a few changes, but my heart is ruling my head here.’ Arteta is preparing for his opening home match as Arsenal manager (Picture: Getty)He added: ‘I think energy is everything, in life, in football and in sports. If we are able to generate this it will give us a lift.‘I was really pleased with how the fans treated the players [against Bournemouth] and I was happy that the players went to see the fans after the game as well because we need that connection.‘Slowly, we need to build that back to where it was. It’s going to be very powerful for us to use that. Hopefully we can change it.AdvertisementAdvertisementMore: FootballRio Ferdinand urges Ole Gunnar Solskjaer to drop Manchester United starChelsea defender Fikayo Tomori reveals why he made U-turn over transfer deadline day moveMikel Arteta rates Thomas Partey’s chances of making his Arsenal debut vs Man City‘First I need to convince the players and then, if I can convince the players, afterwards we can convince the fans.‘I think it’s very, very important in my job. At the end of the day they’re expecting a lot from us.‘We have to give them enjoyment, we have to make their lives better and, when we win, it will be better because they will be happier.‘It’s our responsibility and we have to do everything we can to achieve that.’ Advertisement Nicholas has backed Arsenal to get the better of Chelsea (Picture: Getty)Despite Chelsea’s poor run of form, Arteta expects his players to face a ‘really good test’ on Sunday afternoon.‘I know they lost at home again but they are a terrific team,’ the new Arsenal boss said.‘It will be a really good test for us.’ Comment Mikel Arteta’s Arsenal play host to Chelsea at the Emirates (Picture: Getty)Charlie Nicholas believes Arsenal’s players will be ‘lifted’ after their promising performance against Bournemouth and has backed his former club to beat Chelsea this weekend.Mikel Arteta sat in the dugout as Arsenal head coach for the first time on Boxing Day and the Spaniard took encouragement from a positive display despite his side only coming away from Dean Court with a point.The Gunners have managed just one win from 14 in all competitions and Arteta will be desperate for his opening victory on Sunday afternoon in what represents his first home match in charge.Chelsea have experienced a drastic dip of their own and have suffered shock defeats at home to Bournemouth and Southampton over the last fortnight.ADVERTISEMENT Bournemouth 1-1 Arsenal: Mikel Arteta post-match press conferenceTo view this video please enable JavaScript, and consider upgrading to a web browser that supports HTML5 video Play VideoLoaded: 0%0:00Progress: 0%PlayMuteCurrent Time 0:00/Duration Time 2:52FullscreenBournemouth 1-1 Arsenal: Mikel Arteta post-match press conferencehttps://metro.co.uk/video/bournemouth-1-1-arsenal-mikel-arteta-post-match-press-conference-2077072/This is a modal window.Beginning of dialog window. Escape will cancel and close the window.TextColorWhiteBlackRedGreenBlueYellowMagentaCyanTransparencyOpaqueSemi-TransparentBackgroundColorBlackWhiteRedGreenBlueYellowMagentaCyanTransparencyOpaqueSemi-TransparentTransparentWindowColorBlackWhiteRedGreenBlueYellowMagentaCyanTransparencyTransparentSemi-TransparentOpaqueFont Size50%75%100%125%150%175%200%300%400%Text Edge StyleNoneRaisedDepressedUniformDropshadowFont FamilyProportional Sans-SerifMonospace Sans-SerifProportional SerifMonospace SerifCasualScriptSmall CapsReset restore all settings to the default valuesDoneClose Modal DialogEnd of dialog window.And while Nicholas concedes it will be a close match at the Emirates, he is hopeful his former club will come out on top.AdvertisementAdvertisementPredicting a 3-2 victory for Arsenal, Nicholas told Sky Sports: ‘Chelsea are still up and down, with significant class and real quality.‘I touched on it last week, but Willian has been class this season – he was left out and they lose at home to Southampton.‘They are in a better shape organisationally. The movement of Willian, Mason Mount, Tammy Abraham and Christian Pulisic will cause problems. They have nice pace and nice balance, while Jorginho and N’Golo Kante have been good when they have time on the ball.‘What changes do Chelsea have to make? They are very limited to the changes they can make – the three at back worked at Tottenham but did not work against Southampton. There are too many mistakes within the defence. Metro Sport ReporterSaturday 28 Dec 2019 1:26 pmShare this article via facebookShare this article via twitterShare this article via messengerShare this with Share this article via emailShare this article via flipboardCopy link3.3kShares Charlie Nicholas backs Mikel Arteta to get first Arsenal win against Chelsealast_img read more