Prostate Cancer Adventure

Phone Call Sets In Motion Action

In early 2005 Rich received an attention-grabbing phone call that set in motion a prostate Cancer Adventure.

“Are you sitting down?” Dr. Rippentrop asked.  “Yup,” Rich replied. “You have prostate cancer. Come to my office tomorrow and bring Marion. I’m going to give you options,” he said.

A cancer physician with a robust sense of humor is worth his or her weight in gold, and Dr. Jon Rippentrop shared his wondrous humor that’s stacked on solid medical credentials. As we sat nervously in his office he winked and said, “You have no symptoms and feel good. You don’t need to do anything about your prostate cancer……and the good news is you won’t have to do any retirement planning!!!!”   We chuckled at his humor because we knew he was about to give us hopeful options.


Then he presented several possible treatments for this prostate cancer adventure. We chose to proceed quickly with surgery and, later, radiation. On December 27, nearly 18 full years after his prostate was removed Rich had a semiannual meeting with Dr. Rippentrop. Rich’s PSA test showed undetectable.  “Looks great!” said the doctor.

Science works. Wise researchers developed the PSA test and our astute family doctor noted Rich’s rising psa during annual blood tests before physicals. She referred him to urologist surgeon Dr. Rippentrop, who conducted robotic surgery. It worked.

Rich has enjoyed good health all these years and is appreciative of the outstanding science and wise physicians who helped him along his cancer journey. Fortunately, prostate cancer, like some other cancers, responds well to early detection and treatment.

Back Sliding in Receptivity to Scientific Knowledge

Modern medicine is amazing but there is sad news. Charles Kenny’s relatively new book, THE PLAGUE CYCLE, is a history of how medical researchers learned to prevent or cure many contagious diseases that felled millions of people in years not far back.  Both Rich and Marion remember receiving the then newly developed polio vaccine they took as children. Certainly, their parents were appreciative of the new vaccine. The polio scourge that struck so many children is now virtually unknown. Thanks to science. While cancer is different from microbes that spawn contagious diseases, scientific advancements over decades help ALL live healthy lives. Sometimes we take this for granted.

Kenny’s last chapter reveals disturbing medical backsliding. Far too many people believe Internet hucksters who plant unfounded fear of modern medical treatments and vaccines.

Ruining Everyone’s Day

A diagnosis of a disease or contagion alters people’s lives. Avoiding vaccinations puts lives at unnecessary risk.

Prostate cancer isn’t caused by a microbe and has no symptoms in its early stage. The PSA test helps a physician identify and treat it using a variety of techniques while there’s still time. It’s a lifesaver.

Winding Pathways owners Marion and Rich Patterson urge everyone to get annual physicals, appropriate medical tests, and vaccinations.

Find Joy in January

Lots to Experience in January

(reworked from the Patterson’s “Iowa’s Wild Side” column
originally in the Cedar Rapids Gazette)

Winter in Iowa is erratic. Mild. January thaws. Grey, damp, and achy mornings. Frigid. Blustery. Sunny, sparkling days when all is right. We have it all. Here are ways we a find joy in January.

Some people escape to warmer regions. Most of us hang tough and grumble. At Winding Pathways, we’ve found that simple observations can enliven and deepen our appreciation for the change of seasons.

Sit Still

Bundled up in his Carharts and sitting quietly downwind at dusk, Rich notices deer begin to move. Stars and planets glow. Five geese honk and wing across the waxing moon. A photographer’s dream. An owl’s call fills the stillness left behind.

Wildlife freeze as the great horned owl’s ghostly shape floats silently to a branch near our home. Puffed to twice its size, a buffer against the cold, it waits. Several long minutes pass. Then, a rabbit cautiously emerges from the prairie stubble. An opossum noses hungrily at the compost heap. A startled mouse scurries across an open space. With talons extended and yellow eyes gleaming, the owl drops.  After a brief scuffle, only bits of fur remain.

Observe When You Drive

Another way we find Joy in January is by taking drives. Across a frosty Iowa road, we slow as four deer race across a field, leap a barbed wire fence, and dash to safety beyond busy Highway 30. We speculate what startled them.  A short time later we observe a face-off between a grazing cow and a foraging hawk. Neck stretched out, nose to the wind, the cow eyes the hovering hawk.

From the comfort of our home, we watch birds. Siskins, when the weather is cold, Carolina wrens when winters are mild, hang around the feeder and shrubs loaded with berries. A red-headed woodpecker pecks at suet. It rattles noisily and jabs its lance-like bill at the less aggressive birds. Its strong bill is great for hammering insects out of frozen trees and pounding holes in ice-encased water baths.

January Ice

Black ice is another winter phenomenon. While not fun to drive on it is intriguing on rivers, ponds, and lakes. One Kansas winter an Arctic airmass plunged into the heartland and gave us a chance to peer into the dark depths below.  A snapping turtle slowly swam through the thick water.  Ice skaters reveled in the unusual event.

Nowadays we enjoy Arctic air from the inside. A small pool is just outside our window near the feeders. Sometimes, when temperatures drop quickly, and black ice forms we can see “through the looking glass” so to speak.  A small aerator keeps a circle of water open. Small birds hop to the edge and drink.  The overwintering goldfish appreciate the extra O2.

And we enjoy hot chocolate during January’s dormant month.




Lessons From A Terrible Car Accident


While working on my computer in the early evening of December 15th I (Rich) heard a loud crash from nearby 30th Street Drive and felt the cabin shudder. My first reation was, must be a car-deer collision. Grabbing my flashlight, I dashed out and found two mangled cars. A head-on collision.

Fearing casualties, I was quickly relieved to find one driver and her small child standing by the car shaken and apparently uninjured. The driver of the other car had a small leg wound that didn’t seem to need immediate attention. After calling 911, I directed traffic away from the smashed cars and rattled people.

Witnessing Tax Dollars At Work

Soon, the Marion Fire Department, a Linn County Deputy Sheriff, and the Area Ambulance Agency arrived. My role switched to being an observer. I was pleased to watch about a dozen people from three agencies coordinate rescue and clean up.  One agency parked the firetruck across the road to prevent other drivers from coming through.  Others gave immediate attention to the people involved and examined and assessed the cars and situation. As others tended to the people one man swept up the debris and spilled antifreeze, while another took photos, and others continued to direct traffic.

It was well done. Our Tax Dollars at work! I have heard nothing since but hope the people involved in the accident are OK.

Here are my takeaways:

  • Airbags and seat belts are lifesavers. The airbags in both cars inflated almost instantly.
  • I believe the child had been securely strapped in a car seat in the back seat……..another lifesaver.
  • Emergency responders are well-trained, fast, and coordinate perfectly with first responders from other supporting agencies.
  • Traffic laws have a reason. Drive the speed limit or a tad slower.  Pay attention.  Buckle up.


Thanks, first responders!

Mother Nature’s Stitches

Wisdom From “Johnny Appleseed” of Prairie Plants

“Weeds are mother nature’s stitches,” prairie restorationist Corliss “Jock” Ingels told us years ago.

“If you badly cut yourself, a physician stitches the wound closed so it can heal. If you bare the ground, weeds quickly sprout, shading the soil with foliage and filling it with roots. Weeds reduce erosion until more permanent plants take hold,” he proclaimed.

Western rag weed bloom

Even rag weed has a purpose. Birds love the seeds.

On a hot summer morning, we pedaled along the Grant Wood Trail, seeing mother nature’s stitches alongside the new pavement. Recently the popular bicycle trail was paved.   Machines bared the soil at the edge of the pavement that’s now covered with bright yellow trefoil, crown and purple vetch, golden dandelions, white spurge, sweet clover, ragweed, and poison hemlock. All are so-called invasive weeds, but they’re providing a service by holding the soil and giving homes to trailside wildlife until more “desirable” plants establish. Some of those pioneering weeds sported an array of bright flowers that made our morning ride delightful.

Beyond Human Centric

Weeds have a purpose, but must a plant or animal need to have a “human-centric” perspective?

The night before our bike ride we sat on our back deck with Neil and Renata Bernstein.  He’s a recently retired biology professor and remarked that sometimes people ask what purpose a particular plant or animal has.

Purpose! Must plants and animals have a purpose from a human perspective?

Trailside trash

Easily recycled cans become trash.

Dr. Bernstein sometimes responds to these questions by saying, “What’s the purpose of people?” Indeed, our observations are that modern humans have forced out original people from their lands. We have done a great deal of harm by polluting the air, siphoning off life-giving water to maintain green grass, and stripping the land of topsoil, precious metals, and crystals. We greedily take a resource, convert it to our own purpose, then throw it away. “What’s the purpose of people?”

More to Purpose Than Our Perspective


We can learn much from turtles.

Some living things certainly have a great purpose. Without wheat, cattle, corn, penicillin mold, lumber, trees, and thousands of other plants and animals we couldn’t live. Others may seem to have a negative purpose. Think disease-causing microbes, poison ivy, ragweed that spews allergic pollen into the air, mosquitoes, and a host of other creatures that cause human misery. To view them negatively is human-centric.

The vast majority of living things neither produce tangible benefits nor problems for people. Like turtles, they simply live.  Probably they have a valuable ecological role that may not be obvious but they are here. They have a right to be here whether or not they provide human impact. As we have learned over millennia, different plants and animals, offer benefits to us.  We simply have to observe and incorporate.

To Everything…There is a Purpose

Every living thing has a purpose in the great scheme of things that people barely understand.

So, as we cycle along, we doff our bike helmets to the diversity of life we pass and silently thank them for sharing the world with us.

Sitting – a Rewarding Outdoor Experience

Sitting: it’s a rewarding outdoor activity. How can that be when everyone knows that being outdoors means movement? Hiking, cycling, skiing, canoeing, and swimming all get the heart beating and muscles working.


We love all these activities but recently were reminded that sitting quietly is a fascinating and productive way to spend time outdoors. On a gorgeous May morning, we stopped at the road’s end in Iowa’s Brush Creek Canyon Nature Preserve. A narrow informal path lured us past a rock outcropping high above a gurgling brook.

We carried the sling chairs and binoculars that we keep in the car down a narrow informal footpath. Just a hundred yards later we found a level spot with a perfect view downward through trees to the water.

Sit we did. Enmeshed in secluded quiet we sat so still that warblers and vireos flitted among the trees. Even a hummingbird buzzed in front of us. A fly settled on Rich’s pants, explored a bit, and then went on its way.

Active outdoor activities are good for the body and mind, but sometimes sitting is the best way to notice our world and its inhabitants. When we scurry down a trail, wildlife hides or flees. When we sit and become part of the landscape, wildlife ignores the human presence and goes about its business.


Moon through trees

Tree branches help you watch the moon move across the sky.

Here’s our favorite sitting exercise that can be done almost anywhere. As a full moon rises, position a comfortable chair with tree branches or even overhead wires between it and the moon. Sit very still. Using branches or the wire as a reference it’s possible to watch the moon move.




Oh, Brush Creek Canyon. We recommend it as one of Iowa’s wildest natural gems.  It’s just north of Arlington in Fayette County. Go outside. Have fun.

The Blue Bridge Blues

Blue Bridge sags into Indian Creek.

A good friend

The Blue Bridge is gone! Well, it was still there, but when we saw it on April 4, 2023, its back was broken and its span sagged down into Indian Creek. Seeing the prostrate structure and after thousands of crossings on that historic iron bridge, we got a case of the Blues.

From Horse-Drawn Buggies to Modern Vehicles

Spanning Indian Creek near the Indian Creek Nature Center, the blue bridge was built in 1876 for horse-drawn vehicles. It easily made the transition to cars early in the 20th Century but only got its name in 1991 when Linn County painted it bright blue. For decades it was one of several iron bridges in Linn County. Few remain, that we know of, all dating from the late 19th Century.

The old span was rugged. We watched it flex when flood water pushed against it. When the water receded, the county was able to quickly reopen the undamaged span.

The old bridge remained functional but, in the eyes of traffic engineers, it had a major flaw. It had but a single lane, meaning when two cars approached from opposite directions one had to wait for the other to cross. It also wasn’t aligned perfectly for speed.

Civility vs. Speed

“I loved the lesson in civility the Blue Bridge provided. I’ve crossed it every day for years and when I wait for another car to pass that driver waves and smiles in thanks. The bridge may have lacked efficiency but it fostered courtesy,” said Jean Perkins, a local resident.

Speed counts these days, and the County is building a modern double-lane concrete bridge with a straight alignment. It is expected to open this fall, allowing faster-moving cars to pass each other as they cross Indian Creek with nary a nod to acknowledge the other.

What’s Lost

Here’s what society lost with the passing of the Blue Bridge:

  • History.
  • Courtesy, smiles, and polite waves from waiting and passing motorists.
  • While waiting for another car to transit, a motorist had a few seconds to enjoy the balm of Indian Creek, nearby trees, and trail users passing under the approach.

What’s Gained

  • About 15 seconds of time gained by not having to wait and a faster speed limit.
  • Heavy vehicles can transit it.

Goodbye to History and Beauty

The new bridge is a concrete structure that will look like dozens of similar bridges. The Blue Bridge lasted 147 years. It’s hard to imagine its replacement having a useful life that long.

We’ve traded the history and beauty of the old bridge, along with courtesy, for speed and efficiency.   Perhaps we’ve lost more than we’ve gained.  That gives us the Blue Bridge Blues.

Rebuilt steel bridge replica that retains the feel of a by-gone era and is functional.

Bridge at Motor Mill in NE Iowa.

Post Script:  Recently we visited Motor Mill in NE Iowa and found a lovely steel bridge that had been rebuilt to modern standards and which retained the old feel.