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This website is now published on my mobileme account. Any opinions expressed, however, are totally my responsibility.

The original website was published through the courtesy of Southern Illinois University Edwardsville.

Jim Andris, Sept. 17, 2003.

Christmas 84

December 4, 1984

Dear friend:

Yesterday, I was 46 years old. Of all the 46 years I have spend on this planet, I do believe that this one was the most challenging. On January 3 of this year, I sustained a reinjory to the bottom disk on my spine. Most of Winter Quarter was spent in bad pain. Yet I continued with my classes, including one for which I had to drive 150 miles each Saturday. These classes were in my new field of microcomputers and education, but I was scarcely able to enjoy them. this usually patient and understanding teacher was unusually short tempered and short attentioned.

But then Spring Quarter was much better. I had gotten into doing Feldenkreist work with tom Driscoll, which is a system of postural integration. My back was healing. and I was quite enjoying my classes. On May 15, I reinjured the disk. I continued to teach until the last part of June, but things were getting worse. A trip home to Marietta for July 4 didn't see an improvement; I was scarcely walking then. But my sister's chiropractor put me onto a new line of treatment, and when I came back to St. Louis, I began to heal again.

Now begins the final drama. I had been planning a trip to Alaska for nearly a year with my friend Tom Manuel in NYC. I stubbornly clung to these plans, and immediately after my last class of the Summer I flew to Seattle to meet Tom. I am now going to tell you about Alaska, but bear in mind that this whole memory is tinged with pain.

We first took a 3 day cruise up the coast of British Columbia. high, green hills sloped into green-grey gentle waters. 90% of the trees are Sitka spruce or western Hemlock. Dall porpoises, humpback whales, orcas, beluga whales, and sea otter were frequent traveling companions. Occasionally, we would see a "blue cloud"—a patch of blue sky. Misty-mild temperatures were made chilly by the constant movement of the boat.

Southeastern Alaska is dotted by small cities nestled in green hills, and ringed with higher, snow-capped peaks. This is the home of the Tlingit Indian, the fishing trawler, the totem pole, the tidewater glacier. Juneau is a delightful place with a bit of west coast flavor. Other communities, such as Ketchican, Wrangell, Petersberg, Haines, and Skagway, sport a rougher, more natural face: trapping, fishing, hunting, mining, prospecting, oil, canning, forestry, and tourism based on a late America frontier past.

On August 23, Tom and I saw the mountain the Native Americans call "Denali"—the great one. the sun rose full on its north face. A cold plane, jutting to 20,000 feet at a 30 degree angle from just over 2000 feet. So large, it creates its own weather, this mountain caused my heart to leap in a strange combination of awe, joy, and love for Nature. We could see the snow swirling down its back, and the miles long east ridge. And this giant of a mountain was set in a chain of mountains the size of the Colorado Rockies. Great God, how marvelous! I took many pictures of it, reflected in lakes, as I stood in Arctic tundra filled with blueberries and salmonberries. round this range, in the valley of the Nenana, roamed grizzly, caribou, Dall sheep, moose, wolf, fox, eagle. Yes, we saw all of these and many, many of them.

Equally majestic was my trip to the Columbia Glacier, driving Denali highway, crossing Isabel Pass in 4" of snow, looking over Nanilchik from the hilltop Russian Orthodox church, and seeing Anchorage set in four mountain ranges from Earthquake Park. But I must leave Alaska and bring you to the tale of my healing.

After resting a week with Mariam in Santa monica it became apparent that the disc problem was not going to resolve. I went on sick leave Sept. 23. I sepnt 4 weeks in bed with little improvement. To avoid being railroaded into the operating room, I attended a three week intensive session at the Shealy Pain and Health Rehabilitation Institute at Springfield, Missouri.

This experience turned out to be one of the best of my life! This clinic is 5 - 10 years ahead of any place else in the U.S. in the holistic treatment of pain. The focus there is learning how to live with, control, and reduce your pain. I have learned how to put myself in an alpha relaxation state, first by using machines such as brain synchronizers, biofeedback devices and tapes, and later just by "willing" it. second, they emphasize stretching and limbering exercise. i have been on a home program now for about one month, and I am about 70% healed. My activity is slowly returning to normal and my pain is slowly decreasing. It looks like through my strong will, holistic medicine, and God's help, I shall heal my back without recourse to surgery. I'm now planning to return to work with the new quarter beginning January.

In all of this I have had a lot of support from my loving friends. god has always blessed me with friends. I especially would like to mention Stephen, who has been a major reason for my recovery. He has been living here now a few months, and took care of me the month that I was bedridden. Now I also have a cute little doggie in my house. Stephen's dog is Wink—Wee Prince William of Wildwere—a 12 year old Yorkshire terrier. We had mom and dad out for thanksgiving dinner this year.

Well, I know this is a long letter, and I hope you didn't find it too long. I will close with this thought. I have learned that everything in our life is for our own good. And so I won't wish for a better year next year. I am just grateful to be alive, and I do have the peace of God in my heart. May that peace descend and remain in your household now and in the coming year.

Love, Jim Andris