Doubtful Heart

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Farley cites, led by Feng J. He of the London School of Medicine and Dentistry and published this month in the journal BMJ Open, is only the latest salvo in a long-running debate over the links between health and dietary salt, and several experts this week described the new research as flawed.

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Indeed, a report commissioned by the Institute of Medicine just last year found that there was no scientific reason for anyone to aim for sodium levels below 2, milligrams a day. A study published in found that low-salt diets may increase the risk of death from heart attacks and strokes and do not prevent high blood pressure. The new study relied on data gleaned from four surveys of random samples of about 8, people on average from to in England.

He and her colleagues found a decline in stroke deaths of 42 percent and in heart disease deaths of 40 percent over the period. But other researchers are unconvinced. Cardiovascular problems may have fallen in the population, they say, but the study does not prove that a reduction in salt intake is the reason. Indeed, the authors themselves acknowledged that their study has significant drawbacks in design and execution. I was meant to go there, just not when and how I thought I was.

This Quote Is From

These experiences changed me, and they changed my understanding of God. How do I know it is him? Is it really Him guiding me, or am I looking for divine intervention in random circumstances?

Is it His voice guiding me, or simply my subconscious hearing what it wants to hear? I always believed I was meant to live overseas. So did my husband. As he finished up his undergraduate degree, we prayed and contemplated. We waited for a sign, and when none was forthcoming, we made plans to move to Saipan to teach in a school there. We unpacked our stuff and decided to wait a year. When Serena was about six months old, we resurrected the dream of teaching overseas, and this time we were in conversation about positions in China. We were hammering out the details when we found out Serena was sick and our lives were sucked into a whirl pool.

I thought about it, but felt no inclination to pursue it. For years, we were wracked with grief. Like a leaf caught in an autumn wind, we were dried out, brittle, damaged.

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We were blown wherever circumstance chose to take us. We could barely keep our heads above water much less think about going overseas. Eventually, we felt less brittle, but the dream of moving overseas was replaced with a need for safety and security. Losing Serena had taught us of the transience of life, the unfairness of it. The hand of fate could reach down at any moment and tear our world apart.

So we attempted to fill this lack of control with things we could control.

Doubtful heart weakens mind.

We surrounded ourselves with stuff—stuff that gave us the illusion of permanence. We got a big house in the suburbs complete with pool and hot tub in the backyard. We got a shiny new SUV. I signed my kids up for football and baseball, ballet and gymnastics.

“Doubtful heart weakens mind.”

In essence, we became the typical suburban family, living the stereotypical suburban life. I feel like we have been in stasis the last three years, a holding pattern. We have lost the brittleness. The desperate need for security has lessened. My heart is a web of cracks, any one of them can start throbbing or even begin bleeding again with the slightest of pressure. Its seven massive turbines are actually hidden within an enormous granite-walled cavern inside the mountain, two kilometers underground.

We'll visit it on the way back from Doubtful. Certainly an astounding piece of engineering, the plant is New Zealand's largest hydro-electric power station and supplies energy to an aluminum smelter kilometers away. Water from both Lake Te Anau and Lake Manapouri is channeled through the turbines and then through a trail race a total vertical drop of meters to Doubtful Sound and the sea.

Lake levels are maintained within a natural range by control structures. At the nearby wharf we disembark and begin stage three of the Doubtful experience. We now go by coach along a rough-hewn 22 kilometer-long road up and over the Wilmot Pass to Deep Cove and en route we pass through a botanist's dream.

The mountains we are crossing are inset from the Tasman Sea and form a rain shadow of prevailing westerlies that in turn have engendered over the millennia a remarkable wilderness rain forest. As we climb the sinuous road, we enter clouds and from time to time emerge into semi-light. In these intervals, the clouds drift by below trapped here and there on the tortuous old growth to our left like sodden cotton batten. On the right, granite walls are overlaid with rich alpine mosses bryophytes in multiple hues of red, green, and blue. These high vertical gardens are splendid and astonishing in their eccentricity and purpose.

When tree landslides occur as rain-soaked old growth in the minimal soil tears away from the granite, great gashes result and it is the luxuriant superabsorbent mosses that first appear, laying down a natural balm.

Doubtful Heart, Dark Demons

Suddenly as we come over the pass, we come face to face with Doubtful Sound at the lofty Lookout, a breathtaking view. From this height we gaze in awe at the depth and expanse of the fiord, truly understanding for the first time the scale and dimensions of our ultimate destination. And from this perspective it is visually quite accessible; the sensation is quite marvelous, quite enticing. The fiord that fills our entire field of vision is 40 kilometers in length and over meters at its deepest point. When a chain of volcanoes shattered Fiordland million years ago, the sediment layers that had been hardened by the earth's deep heat and pressure fractured and were thrust up from the earth's floor.

The resultant rocks, however, were submerged under the sea. It took another 40 million years of awful shifting tectonic force, twenty ice ages, and one monumental glacier to carve out Doubtful Sound. According to Maori legend, the demi-god Tu-te-raki-whanoa shaped Doubtful with his ko or digging stick and working assiduously from south to north he sculpted long meandering inlets and towering cliffs, all the while singing a powerful karakia chant. As the great walls shattered and acquiesced to the god's labors, great waves of sea water flooded in creating a deep body of water, untroubled by the raging waters beyond.

Tu-te-raki-whanoa fashioned a geological marvel as well as an enchanted shelter from the turbulent sea.

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At Deep Cove—the place names are simple and precise—we board the Commander Peak for a three-hour cruise through this stunning geological phenomenon and primeval experience. Doubtful, in contrast to the more popular, theatrical, and better-known fiord, Milford Sound, is less frequented by humans. Except for a small research zodiac and a couple of rock lobster boats, we are the only vessel on the Sound.

We become part of its moods, at times peering out at its beauty through rain, other times proceeding vaguely and uncertainly through its mists, occasionally reveling in piercing blue skies and shimmering tannin-stained water. The dense forests on the high granite cliffs funnel the annual average of 5 millimeters of rain through the vegetation into the fiord creating a top layer of fresh water that is between three and four meters deep, a layer of "dark tea" that like a colored lens restricts the amount of light entering the water.

Marine life is in turn restricted to the top 40 meters; below is darkness. Floating on the surface of the Sound in our vessel that is quite tiny in comparison to our surroundings, we feel as if we have merged with Doubtful. It is deceptively easy to feel proprietarily about the Sound; ownership is of course irrelevant, foolish, and in the past injurious. In , the Italian navigator Malaspina was the first European mariner to actually explore Doubtful. The early nineteenth century saw extensive sealing and whaling by many nations, which depleted these species in the Sound. In , a cruise ship hit an uncharted rock in Doubtful Sound and sank.

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Today, like the rest of the immense Fiordland National Park, Doubtful Sound is a protected environment, serene, secure, and removed from the threat of human excess. Our passage through Doubtful is slow and deliberate. There is ample time to appreciate the great vistas that blend one into another and the abundant flora and fauna. The towering sides of the fiord are covered in native beech and tall conifers, prefaced at the water's edge with lichens, ferns, and more mosses.

The scarlet-blooming rata trees interspersed high up among the beeches and conifers are like blushes in the variegated green. And as like meets like, cascading waterfalls continually feed the Sound. Splashing water falls in stages from great heights looking like delicate sheer draperies. The fabled Lady Alice Falls tells the story of a real "lady" who made the trek to Doubtful in the company of two male guides and in the process scandalized polite society and lost her considerable social standing.

I suspect she saw the value in her audacity.