Progress?

 

I imposed a deadline on myself last week, that Monday, yesterday, I would call the surgeon whom I expect to do my hip replacement. Before I felt I could do that, I had to be sure I had a CD with my X-rays on it. One thing that NEVER happened in California was that people would have what you need for you RIGHT now, so I was a little stunned when the radiologist at the hospital in Del Norte (14 miles away) said, “Oh, no problem. We’ll have the CD ready for you in half an hour,” followed by, “Is that soon enough?”

What? I jumped in the shower (ha ha), dressed and went to Del Norte. On the way I was privy to a lovely western scene. A cowboy with a front loader had just dropped a huge bale of hay on the pasture and was breaking it up. About 5 yards to his right, his little herd of Angus steers was strolling over to it for lunch.

I arrived, parked and walked (ha ha) into the hospital. I rang the bell for the radiologist who came out and said, “Martha? Wait here. I have it ready.” She knew it was me, but she checked my ID anyway. I just said, “It’s nice to be carded.” The irony THERE is by carding me I can prove I’m a 66 year old crippled person not that I’m actually 21, in spite of looking 16.

Time was. Fuck it.

She laughed. I appreciate the dark humor of many who work in the medical field.

I hobble/limped back to the car and drove home. There I said to Bear, “There’s one more thing I have to do.” I picked up the phone and she prepared to climb on my lap — her standard thing when I’m talking to someone on the phone. Among Bear’s many traits there is a little vein of envy.

I asked to make an appointment with the doc, got transferred, said my say, and was offered an appointment not in a month or two months or sometime early in 2019, but this coming Friday.

The bells in my brain clanged out the message, again, “You’re not in California any more!”

I’m going to shoot for surgery in June. There are several reasons for this, but the main one is just the simple convenience of getting around in summer vs. winter. Spring is often when we have the heaviest snows and the hospital is over a mountain pass from Monte Vista. Also, I remember what it was like just getting dressed 11 years ago when I had the surgery on my other hip — it was annoying and difficult. In summer? I wear shorts, simple, plain old LL Bean shorts with a drawstring and elastic. Glamor? Maybe if you’re really weird… Putting on shoes and socks after hip replacement is fun, too. There is actually a tool for the socks, but if I don’t absolutely HAVE to wear them, all the better.

With all this arranged, I felt a dark sense of “Fuck it,” and took Bear and Dusty for a walk. It was a lovely afternoon, and we were accompanied briefly by a hawk, flying very low in front of us, looking for carry-out. That almost fixed everything. ❤

Two Miles to the River and Back

Today is my 66th birthday, so yesterday afternoon, Bear and I went out to attempt a challenge.

Below is the map of the Rio Grande Wildlife Area where we like to walk. Our trails are marked in white. Our most common trail is the loop you see over the word “Homelake.” Homelake is a veterans home built in the 1880s for Civil War Veterans. It’s historic, beautiful and is still a home to veterans. The white line that is directly across from it follows the Rio Grande for about 1/2 mile. Then we turn around. It is the trail where I have seen the owls and have taken most of my photos of the Rio Grande. It’s a wooded, shaded hike in summer, mosquitoes and verdant beauty.

Yesterday Bear and I took on the hike you see starting at a parking area near Sherman Lake. We’ve gone on it before, a short distance. It’s (clearly) a trail that goes on for miles and miles (maybe four miles). It’s a “road” through the wetlands, bordering a few farms. In the fall I saw many, many cranes feasting on fallen grain.

On some level, for a while, I’ve been working (psychologically? physically?) toward reaching the river from this trail and yesterday Bear and I succeeded. It is a two mile round trip.

Rio Grande State Wildlife Area marked up

I tried not to think of what I was once able to do. I tried only to think of what I was doing AT THAT MOMENT and, mostly, succeeded. Bear enjoyed all the (apparently) incredible smells. I saw tracks of badger, deer, birds (mostly ravens, I think) and raccoon. For a while we got to watch a red tail hawk hunting. There was a flock of ducks that took flight when the thump of my cane on the ground vibrated through the water. There was one crane.

We were completely alone and except for the sound of a well being dug in the distance, it was silent, country silent, winter silent.

We reached our destination and I was so happy! I couldn’t have done it without my new friend and its shock-absorbing properties and the pointy end that sticks into the dirt.

komperdell-walker-cane-grip-trekking-pole-anti-shock-in-walker-asst~p~7678u_01~1500.3

I’m OK riding the “bike to nowhere” as a way to maintain some fitness and be in shape for what I know to be the inevitable hip replacement, but sometimes a person (me, for example) wants to go SOMEWHERE and see SOMETHING. My ultimate goal is at least once a week to manage a 3 mile hike on the kind and generous surface of the San Luis Valley. It doesn’t matter how long those three miles take me. I have already won all the races I need to.

Within these plantations of God, a decorum and sanctity reign, a perennial festival is dressed, and the guest sees not how he should tire of them in a thousand years. In the woods, we return to reason and faith. There I feel that nothing can befall me in life,—no disgrace, no calamity, (leaving me my eyes,) which nature cannot repair. Standing on the bare ground,—my head bathed by the blithe air, and uplifted into infinite space,—all mean egotism vanishes. I become a transparent eye-ball; I am nothing; I see all;the currents of the Universal Being circulate through me; I am part or particle of God. The name of the nearest friend sounds then foreign and accidental: to be brothers, to be acquaintances,—master or servant, is then a trifle and a disturbance. I am the lover of uncontained and immortal beauty. In the wilderness, I find something more dear and connate than in streets or villages. In the tranquil landscape, and especially in the distant line of the horizon, man beholds somewhat as beautiful as his own nature. Ralph Waldo Emerson, “Nature.”

360 Degrees

Last night, I gave up on the hiking book. I’ve published five OTHER books using Createspace, and they did NOT fuck up those covers, but EVERY cover I’ve put on the hiking book, Createspace has defiled. I’ve complained, tried different designs, done everything I could think of since it’s the inside that matters most, but in this case…

And the inside. I thumbed through one of the ten horrifically ugly copies I had ordered as Christmas presents for people, and found two mistakes, just at random.

As I went to sleep last night I decided it was just fucking hopeless and maybe the book is not meant to be a slender paper back volume. Maybe it’s supposed to be something else or maybe it’s not supposed to be at all.

cover My Everest 12:8.001

RIP Hiking Book

***

IN OTHER NEWS, the temperatures have arrived at their early winter manic state; 2 F degrees at night, 45 F in the day. It’s gorgeous if the wind isn’t blowing. My professional trainers (Dusty T and Polar Bear Yeti T Dog) took me out yesterday for a long walk. They were determined to test my abilities and we went farther than we have been going.

“You’re not going to get anywhere if you always do the same thing!” said Dusty T. Dog who hates change. I was completely startled by that; first, talking dogs don’t exist, and second, Dusty would never say that.

“It’s the voices,” I say to myself in one of those voices. Still, sometimes we give ourselves good advice.

The trail is a rough dirt road on which only BLM vehicles are allowed. It’s in one section of the Rio Grande State Wildlife Area. Dusty wears his hunting vest like a magic cloak although there is no one there in the middle of the day in hunting season. The slough, a marshy collection of lakes coming off the big ditch and the river, is a nesting area for geese in spring and it is closed to people from early March to my dad’s birthday in July. I watch the ground. It’s uneven enough that I could trip on something. There are some HUGE human footprints, but not many.

There’s a north wind and I wear the Hellnarian Icelandic wool cap I bought in Bogarnes at the supermarket after going to the Settlement Center to see the exhibit of Egil’s Saga. Those must have been the days. Little Egil, six years old, in trouble with his dad for getting drunk at a party.

Truth be told, the walk is boring. It’s flat. There is nothing but dried cattails, tall grass and distant bare cottonwoods to look at. And, I have to pay attention. BUT, the light this time of year is exquisite and mysterious. It lies almost flat against the ground. A herd of Angus cattle in the pasture to the south are silhouetted against it, but they’d be cattle of color anyway. A hawk flies low over the pasture. A couple of magpies fly past against the wind. I think the cranes have finally left the valley.

At .75 miles, I turn around. My goal is 1.5. Nothing, but not that easy with arthritis all over the damned place. My NEXT goal is FARTHER. I’m aiming for 3 mile walks two or three times a week.

In every respect, I have a ways to go.

Rio Grande State Wildlife Area

 

https://dailypost.wordpress.com/prompts/degree/

Hip Arthritis Update

I know what’s ahead, I don’t know when, I only know one thing. I don’t want rehab to take long or be difficult. I really don’t care about the rest. At a certain point I’m going to surrender to whatever arrangements I have to make. And then, as the last time, I’m going to be cleaned and dressed in appropriate surgery attire. I’m going to be lain on a gurney and put in a pre-op room. Probably, like last time, a priest or something will come in and ask my permission to pray over/with me. I’ll say yes. Why? Do I believe in prayer? That’s probably another blog post, but I do believe in being kind and whoever is going around from gurney to gurney is offering up the best they have to strangers. I appreciate that.

Then the drugs will kick in and I won’t have a clue for several hours, after which I don’t have to decide any more what I’m going to do. It will be a fait accompli and I will be in the early stages of rehab.

I lay it on Bear every single day, “This is for you,” I tell her. She’s cool with it. It’s not like it’s a guilt trip or something. All I want to do is walk my dogs. If I can’t walk Bear, I can’t keep her. I love her too much to make her live with an old lady who can’t walk. She’s young and fit and happy and LOVES going “hunting” with me. Our “hunt” doesn’t even have to be long or interesting. Sometimes I am only up to a half-mile walk around the hood, and that’s fine with her. She has always met me halfway. I have the same duty to her, I believe. She hates “rest” days, but they’re necessary. Today is a dog rest day; tomorrow a person rest day — they’ll get a short walk while I recover from three days of pretty intense “training.”

An article I read about “pre-habbing” for joint replacement said to view it as training for a major sport event. That’s pretty accurate. Joint surgery is strenuous.

A study by researchers at New England Baptist Hospital, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and Harvard Medical School, all based in Boston, found that knee and hip replacement surgery patients who had participated in water- and land-based strength training, and aerobic and flexibility exercises for six weeks prior to their surgeries reduced their odds of needing inpatient rehabilitation by 73 percent.

“Even in a fairly brief time period, the exercise paid off for the participants,” says lead study author Daniel Rooks, PHD, former clinical research investigator and professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School. “Their level of function and pain stabilized prior to surgery, whereas those who did not exercise got worse. The benefits of exercise before surgery are very clear.” (Source)

And it’s OK with me. I like exercise. I’ve always done a lot of it. I don’t mind riding a stationary bike, though I prefer walking outdoors. The bike — a Schwinn Airdyne —  is zero impact and addresses the conditioning of more muscles than does walking. I can also ride it longer (meaning “farther”) than I can walk. But walking is not so bad with a stick or a cane. My goal for walking is 3 miles in an hour. That’s a respectable and doable goal. The bike will help with the walking goal. At the moment I CAN walk 3 miles, but not that fast, but I CAN walk 1 mile that fast.

And more exercise actually does translate to less pain.

Exercise can actually help to relieve joint pain in multiple ways:

It increases the strength and flexibility of the muscles and connective tissue surrounding the joints. When thigh muscles are stronger, for example, they can help support the knee, thus relieving some of the pressure on that joint.

Exercise relieves stiffness, which itself can be painful. The body is made to move. When not exercised, the tendons, muscles, and ligaments quickly shorten and tense up. But exercise — and stretching afterward — can help reduce stiffness and preserve or extend your range of motion.

It boosts production of synovial fluid, the lubricant inside the joints. Synovial fluid helps to bring oxygen and nutrients into joints. Thus, exercise helps keep your joints “well-oiled.”

It increases production of natural compounds in the body that help tamp down pain. In other words, without exercise, you are more sensitive to every twinge. With it, you have a measure of natural pain protection.

It helps you keep your weight under control, which can help relieve pressure in weight-bearing joints, such as your hips, knees, and ankles. (Source)

I know that is “up to a point.” If my hip were at “end stage arthritis” that wouldn’t be the case.

Just a few minutes ago I finished riding the Airdyne. Bear was waiting outside the spare room where the “bike” is. I came out and said, “It’s all for you, Bear.” She waited until I sat down and she climbed on my lap, her way of saying, “You did good, Martha.”

Old Lady’s Preoccupations with Her Arthritic Hip, Part 2

Monday we had snow. Today we have a Red Flag Warning — high winds/warm temps. In between, temps in the high 60s/low 70s. “I have no idea what’s going on.

Fall doesn’t want to succumb to winter, I guess, nor summer to fall. I’m here to tell them that what they want has NOTHING to do with what will happen. THAT’S a lesson I am very good at learning, but I also understand the desire to resist the inevitable…

In thinking about hip surgery, I realize that the parts of it I dread most are not the surgery or the possibility of dying on the operating table. That would be OK. I dread the prep, the waiting time and the recovery. If I could just go there, do it and come home to my life I wouldn’t mind at all, but it doesn’t work that way.

Recovery is a messy and complicated business. Some might say, “You won’t mind. You’l be taking narcotics,” but I don’t like narcotics. I’ve already been there. What a lot of people don’t know is that whether you get psychologically hooked to them or not, you will get physically hooked and the withdrawal isn’t fun. And then there are all the antibiotics. I can’t take penicillin and, as a result, whenever I need antibiotics, they have to give me something that would kill the bacteria in the dirtiest lake in the world. The after-effects of that aren’t fun, either.

So… I will have X-rays Monday. I don’t know how they WON’T say what I think they will say. And if they don’t? Then I’m here with this pain for what — forever? Hip surgery removes the source of pain and returns the joint to normal functioning. Why wouldn’t I want that?

Meanwhile, I’ve amped up my activity on the Bike to Nowhere and find it relieves the pain a LOT. Walking the dogs is not a lot of fun right now, but as they are as happy with a stroll around the high school as they would be with an expedition to the Antipodes, it’s really OK. In fact, they are helpful in a strange canine way. Dusty was around for my first surgery and he was trained professionally to help me out. Bear is extremely empathic, but while her crawling up on my lap to save me from whatever is hurting me is always a morale booster, sometimes it’s not convenient and she CAN’T do that after my surgery. Mindy is just there, a kind spirit.

My job will be to find the best surgeon who can do this with the least fuss and the greatest success. I’ve learned Medicare will pay for 3 weeks in a rehab facility and I might need that since I don’t have kids or siblings to stay with me and drive me to physical therapy and stuff. That’s OK. It could work that I drive myself to the hospital and drive myself home if that’s the case. Friends have stepped up and I’m very grateful for that.

Meanwhile, I have brought my “horse” out of the closet. To you it would probably look like a cane, but it has a story.

When my other hip “went south” (2005) I bought a cane at the drugstore. I liked the cane. It was adjustable and functional and helpful. I arrived with it in Montana, much to the shock and horror of my Aunt Jo and my Uncle Hank. “What happened, Martha Ann?” Since I was always running in the hills, they were always sure I’d hurt myself sooner or later.

I explained I had end-stage osteoarthritis in my hip and was trying to find the best solution, meanwhile, I had to walk with a cane.

One day after lunch, I went to “my” room to take nap. Pain is tiring. My Uncle Hank said, “Leave your cane outside your room.” I did. I hung it on the door. When I woke up there was a beautiful wooden cane hanging in its place.

It matched the cane my uncle (who’d had a stroke) used to walk with. He loved working with wood and tried to make useful things. You have to know he’d had retinal detachment so he had mostly peripheral vision. He couldn’t drive and was essentially, mostly, blind.

My uncle and I took our walks together, morning and evening, both of us with our canes. When we would go out somewhere, we had our matching canes. If one of us forget his or her cane, the other would say, “You got your horse, cowboy?”

I also have an adjustable, shock absorbing  “hiking cane.” I have been relying on a trekking pole, but I think I’m going to use this thing instead on dog walks since I can lean on the handle. Bear will have to learn to walk on the other side.

image

https://dailypost.wordpress.com/prompts/succumb/

It’s Mostly in the Genes

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “From the Top.” If you had the chance to be reborn, would you choose to return as your present self, or would opt for a fresh start? Tell us about what motivates your choice.

If you believe as I do that most of who we are is determined by luck and the rest by genetics, you’ll think this is a pretty dumb prompt. But, since most people DON’T believe that, here goes.

I was born in 1952 to a set of people who had grown up during the Great Depression and been young adults during WW II. Only recently have I understood how CLOSE WW II was in time to the years of my childhood and what a profound effect it had on the world in which I grew up. If I’d been born 20, 10 or even 5 years earlier chances are the trajectory of my life would have been different. 20 years earlier I’d have grown up in the Great Depression and gone to school during WW II. I’d have known rationing and fear and my dad would have been gone. If I’d grown up ten years earlier I’d have hit young adulthood at the point where employment opportunities were starting to open up in a big way. Five years earlier and I’d have been old enough to have experienced the counter-culture movement of the sixties.

All that is just related to the historical moment in which I was born.

Then there is genetics. I’m a “victim” of genetics. I’m 5’1″ just like my grandmother. I am short and roundish with white, white, white hair. Just like my grandmother. The palms of my hands have the same lines as my other grandmother. The backs of my hands look like my dad’s. My “bird” fingers are my mom’s (a sweet bit of genetic irony). My doc alleges that my arthritis is genetic. I have no idea. No one on my mom’s side had a problem with this, nor did my paternal grandmother and my paternal grandfather didn’t live long enough to find out. I’m myopic — as was my father and several relatives on my mom’s side. I have higher than average IQ. My brother’s was higher still. We didn’t buy those at the store. I was lucky to be born in a time when girls could go to university and into a moment when Feminism was pushing against the walls of the male dominated world of business — but, the other side of that, all those men coming back from WW II, now I think they needed meaningful work and to know they were the king of their castle. I also know that the world changed during the war from overwhelmingly agrarian to burgeoning industrial (in my part of the world — the American West).

Luck and genetics.

I’m lucky now to live in a world in which I can have my joints replaced. 100 years ago? By now I’d be completely chair bound. The ONE ancestor I know of who had arthritis was my maternal great-grandmother on my grandfather’s side. My grandparents met when my grandma — then a teenager — came to care for and help my great-grandmother. When the old lady died, my grandparents married.

Is it luck?

Dogs…

Yesterday, Susannah, whose blog I follow, posted about her family’s dog, Gannon, a big, handsome Malamute whom they had had to put to sleep. Of course, since just a month ago I had to do the same with my dog, Lily, my heart went out to Susannah and her family. But it would have anyway.

Bella

Bella

Two days ago, I found a great dog at the local shelter — a white Siberian husky/German shepherd mix, a two year-old female named Bella. Wow, I thought, that’s my kind of dog and she’s RIGHT HERE and the adoption fee is so low and I’ll have so much fun with her! Yay! But I’ve learned not to make serious decisions on impulse, so though I contacted the shelter, and a couple of friends about the beautiful dog, I did not rush down and adopt her. I slept on it.

When morning came I realized that the person I WAS fifteen years ago wanted that dog. That person ran trails every single day and the greatest companion possible was a free active young herding/snow dog. I saw so clearly that the person I am now could not give that dog the home she should have and that I would want to give her. I contacted the shelter right away and told them. Later on that day I went to the vet to pick up pain meds for Mindy, my sweet, arthritic elderly Aussie. I noticed how I walked and was pleased that it wasn’t lopsided or painful. And then I noticed that I pay attention to that.

I thought about Bella off and on all day. I knew I’d made the right decision for the right reasons though part of me thought, “But the dog needs a home and you understand dogs like her!” Understanding her wouldn’t be enough. I would have to be able to act on that understanding in exactly the same way I act on understanding that Mindy has pain from her arthritis, can’t walk too far and needs medication.

I decided not to look at snow dogs any more because it just makes me feel sad that I can’t be a snow dog person now because of physical limitations. It seems that getting older means saying good-bye to lots of things that I couldn’t have imagined. I decided that what I have to do is just close the door on what I cannot do and open the door to what I can. But…Dusty is lonely. All his life he’s had at least two dog-girlfriends. He’s stopped looking for Lily which is a good sign. Still, he needs a pal. Mindy is just not the kind of dog that cares about playing with another dog. Dusty’s very active and lively and Mindy just isn’t.

Today I went online to look at Australian shepherds that need rescue. I found two beautiful Aussies who could live in my life. One is five years old and suffered some injuries that caused her to have arthritis in her back legs. She’s on pain meds and needs a house with no stairs. She’s beautiful and smart, she looks a lot like Mindy — a black, white and brown tricolor. Her name is Sophie — which means wisdom. I thought about that, too. I am being…wise.

I have filled out the adoption application and now we’ll see! I hope I get to have her!

Sophie

Sophie

Mindy

Mindy

Lily

My dog Lily is in her 16th year of life and I know that her days are numbered. Our days together are numbered. She’s weak in her hips. Sometimes she’s confused about where she is. This is compounded because she’s blind and deaf. Sometimes she falls and I have to help her up. She still likes her breakfast and dinner. She’s still happy when I find her and pet her. She likes to do yoga with me (I have to do yoga in my kitchen). She’s not in much pain (good meds) but she gets frustrated when she can’t get up from her bed. Normally all I have to do to make her fine is to stand beside her in those moments; then she gets up. I don’t know exactly what’s going on in her mind, but somehow my being near makes it better.

I’ve had old dogs before. I’ve had to help many of them find their way into the next world where, I hope to God they’re all waiting for me. I imagine this as a forest — a Swiss forest — with a little stone house and all my dogs. That’s Heaven.

I have much less equanimity about Lily’s approaching “transition” than I have had about any of my other dogs I’ve had to put to sleep. I’ve been trying to figure that out so that when the moment comes I’m up to the job. Today, I figured it out.

Lily knew me “when.” We hiked miles and miles together; ran on snowy trails and climbed mountains. When she came to live with me, my arthritis had not manifested symptoms. The first day I had Lily, she and Jasmine, whom I adopted with Lily, and I took a hike in the mountains. It was the dogs’ first mountain hike and they loved it.

Jasmine and Lily soon after they came to live with me. Lily was 3; Jasmine was 8

Jasmine and Lily soon after they came to live with me. Lily was 3; Jasmine was 8

Over the few years we could do this we tracked deer, chased ground squirrels, drank from a well, looked out at the Salton Sea and watched the sun set on the Pacific — all standing in one spot on a wonderful wild trail in the Lagunas that led to Hays Peak. Lily and I once tried a short cut and learned a lot about how mean a chaparral hillside can be — but we had fun.

Lily is the last “person” in my life who knew me when I was “real.” That’s what I thought today. Lily isn’t “real” any more, either. It’s been a while. I have photos of the last “real” hike of her life — and it was my last hike, too, in a way. A former student, friend, from Germany came to visit and he and I took Cody and Lily up Garnet Peak. It was very hard for me to climb down (up was fine) that mountain and when we all got home, I saw how terribly sore Lily was. That was it.

Lily Garnet Peak-1

Lily on Garnet Peak

Lily still loves snow, she just loves it more slowly.

Lily enjoying the snowstorm, 2/22/2015

Lily enjoying the snowstorm, ten years after, 2/22/2015

I realized today that the sadness, for me, won’t only be the loss of Lily, though that will be terrible, it will also be that she is the last link to my own lost joys.

All I can do is have faith that when the moment comes it will be all right as it has been for my other dogs. My job now is to make some peace with my future and develop a new sense of what it means to me to “be real” for myself, but also so that Lily’s last moments in my arms will be peaceful with no sad telepathic messages coming to her from me to disturb her passing.

 

Mooooooooogrhg! Mooooooooogrhg!

Daily Prompt A Moment in Time What was the last picture you took? Tell us the story behind it. (No story behind the photo? Make one up, or choose the last picture you took that had one.)

Dusty and Mindy and I were walking around the Monte Vista Golf Course. There might be a lot of golf courses like this one, but I’ve never seen them. In my life, this one is unique. The driving range is a pasture, no domestic animals in it, but a pasture still. The edge of the golf course is the open vista of the San Luis Valley. A freight train runs along one edge for a distance. On the other side are houses, small houses, but houses, and the high school.

1

The morning had hung gray with freezing fog. Generally, I like freezing fog because it makes the trees beautiful, but it’s a little treacherous in the places where it’s glazed the sidewalk with an invisible coating of ice.

Around 1 pm the fog was gone. I leashed up the two dogs. It’s not like they would ever go anywhere; I’ve tested them. We headed down the alley, across the fourth hole and the little bridge over the irrigation ditch to the MAIN event, the big part of the golf course where I let them “run” free.

2

Dusty, Mindy and I running free on the driving range of the Monte Vista golf course

Running free in their case (and mine…) is kind of laughable. Mindy is old, overweight and arthritic and she never runs or even goes very fast (unless there’s dinner on the horizon). Dusty, bless his heart, is terrified to be away from me. His “early childhood education” involved being pushed out of a car, kicked to the side of the road and left behind. After that, all he wanted in the world was a human to love him. Though he has one now, in his little Dusty heart, he’s never sure. He never goes farther than 10 feet away from me. I would like him to run free, but that’s “free” for Dusty. As for me, even though (or because?) I used to run on trails across the hills almost every day of my life, because of damaged joints, and learning I must be a little careful, I don’t even really remember HOW to run. See? Freedom IS relative.

Time was I would have thought a winter walk on a golf course was beyond lame. Now I’m happy I can do it. I think sometimes of the news reporter who asked the great ski racer, Jean-Claude Killey, how he felt now that he could only walk in the forest. Killey replied, “Ah, but I can walk in ze forest!” It isn’t nothing.

After we’d walked twenty minutes or so, the residue of a mildly bad mood had lifted. We turned around and headed home. Mindy was somewhat more frisky at the thought of the possibility of a TINY cookie at the end; I think the main reason she begs to go on walks is because she might get a cookie when she gets home. There, under a big elm tree, were tracks in the snow. I could have seen them on the way out, but I didn’t. Once more, too preoccupied with stuff like, “C’mon Mindy!” and “It’s OK, Dusty. Just GO!” to pay attention to what was right in front of me (or under my feet).

The TRACKS were LARGE, sort of deer-like and cow-like at the same time. I thought “elk” because elk is common here, and I honestly didn’t know. Whatever they were, it was extremely cool to see them.

I got home and posted the photo of the tracks here, on WordPress. Serendipity asked if they might be moose tracks. I did a little research, and VOILÁ! They were…

And last night, when I took Lily, the geriatric Siberian Husky Princess, out front to pee, I heard the moose on the golf course, “singing” the songs of the moose, in voices resembling the lowing of desperate cows.

https://dailypost.wordpress.com/dp_prompt/moment-in-time/

 

Freedom

Daily Prompt Happy Happy Joy Joy We cry for lots of reasons: sadness, pain, fear . . . and happiness. When was the last time you shed tears of joy?

I’m pretty easily moved to tears of happiness; tears of sorrow? Not so easy. That’s something to hide, the vulnerable underbelly of our lives, a soft spot. But happiness? I’ve learned that the moments of life’s beauty are fleeting and I want to be fully present when they arrive. Most of the time the moments are bits of the passing parade. My neighbor’s third grade daughter pretending to be Laura in Little House on the Prairie and collecting snow for maple syrup. A little boy running toward our shared fence yelling, “Martha! Martha! Martha!” as if the sun rises and sets with me. The look on a student’s face that says, “I got it!” My friend’s mentally challenged son helping me make Jello. It sounds, maybe, Pollyanna-ish but I think it’s healthy to turn attention to the beautiful moments. Once in a while, though, I’m the central character in a beautiful moment.

That happened last week, Christmas Eve.

I used to be a contender. I mean by that I used to run and hike on hard hills almost every day. If you do that, you’re going to fall and you’re also going to put a lot of wear and tear on your joints. I knew this. I knew that sooner or later (I hoped later) I’d have problems. I’d been told this but no one went farther and said what the problems would be. So, when I was 52, 2004, I started experiencing terrible pain in my hip not just when I was hiking, but all the time. I thought it was a pulled muscle or??? Time passed. I went to the doctor who misdiagnosed it because I was so young — but truth will out and it was advanced osteoarthritis in my right hip. Three YEARS later I had surgery — hip resurfacing — to repair it. By then, other damage had accrued. My knees, both with historical injuries, had been carrying more than their fair share of the burden of me. They were not in good shape, either.

After that, because of that, I was different psychologically. Formerly, the best part of my life was out in nature, challenging my body and seeing what there was to see. Afterward? No. I tried to return to my former pursuits but with the restrictions I had (no running among them) and the knowledge that I could be HURT, it was not the same. It was confusing. All I’d wanted during those three or four painful years was to get back on the trail. When I was able again? There was a core of sadness and fear where there had been nothing before except maybe joy and anticipation — and freedom.

So…move on, right? Other things — good things — found their way into that hollow place and pushed the sad part further and further down. Each age has its beauty, they say.

But…it wasn’t what I wanted. It would be OK. I would make it fine. Great other things existed, right? I could do them — did them. Then, one morning in January I walked out my front door and saw…

A HORSE.

I’d known about him. I’d talked with my neighbor and explained it was OK with me if he used one part of my fence as the horse’s corral. I explained I didn’t mind the smell of horse and I basically liked horses, not with any grand passion. I was never a horse crazy girl, but horses were OK with me.

In fact, in 2005, I’d had an experience with horses related to my arthritis that had made me regard them with respect and affection. The day when my (inept) Dr. had finally made a correct diagnosis, and had his office staff call me, the day I learned I had osteoarthritis in my hip, I was completely bewildered by the information. No one explained what that meant and I was scared. That evening I took my Siberian husky, Lily (then a young dog) for a walk in the pure mountain darkness of Descanso, California. Walking always helped me think.

We just walked down the road — a mile. At the end of the road was a large paddock filled with horses. I never paid any attention to them on my walks, and they never paid attention to me. I knew they were there but? So what. There were more horses than people in my town and, anyway, I’d never related all that well to horses. But that night…in the dark I heard them nicker. I walked over to the fence. In the pitch darkness I couldn’t see them. There were eight or ten, I don’t know, all pressing against the fence asking to be petted. I stroked necks and noses and felt them push each other away to get close to me. I stayed for a while petting them then turned toward home, passing the next paddock, also filled with horses, who did the same thing. That night I must have patted sixteen or twenty horses. It was a strange and intense experience, and I felt I’d been given a gift. Until the next day, I didn’t know the magnitude of the gift.

Grateful to them, I decided to buy a big bag of carrots and visit them in the day time. When I did, I saw that they were all old horses with varying levels of arthritis. All of them returned to the fence, some slowly, each step painful and hard. One had a very hard time reaching me and when she did, I saw her teeth were down to nothing and though she wanted a carrot, she couldn’t easily take it. I chewed it and spit it into my hand and gave it to her. Somehow these immense and alien creatures had KNOWN everything about me the night before. From then on, I have loved horses and wondered about their abilities, their understanding, their empathy.

So, this past January walking out my front door one morning and seeing a horse essentially in my front yard was a real thrill. I’d have done a little dance if I could.

Horse

I got to know Brownie well and I really loved him. My neighbors tried to persuade me to get up on him and ride, but I didn’t think I could. I spent a lot of time with Brownie, though, talking to him, feeding him carrots, giving him his hay when his people were gone for the weekend. Mostly, though, I just liked hanging out with him. Knowing Brownie made me very happy and I missed him a lot when he and his family moved away.

I have known for a while that horses have been trotting into my heart, but what, I wondered, would I do with them if I couldn’t ride them? Could I learn to care for them and train them? Maybe. Could I work at a horse rescue, mucking out stalls? Well, the physical limitations that kept me off a horse also didn’t make it that easy for me to lift heavy shovel-loads of manure, but maybe. Then, last week when I was in Colorado Springs, I went with my friend to her riding/horse knowledge lesson at RCA Equestrian.

I was going to watch. That was OK with me. I liked it a lot, just being outside and being around horses and I am completely behind what my friend, LM, is trying to accomplish. I love it.

My friend’s lessons involve not just getting on a horse, but getting the horse out of the barn (putting the halter on and leading her out), brushing her down, saddling her, leading her to the ring, “talking” to her with body language and a whip (not to strike the horse but to talk to the horse). My friend is learning to tell the horse to walk around the ring to the right, the left, to come to her, to back away from her. My friend is learning to speak “horse as a second language.” Her horse is a good teacher.

When my friend got her horse out of the barn, the teacher, Rebecca, brought another horse out of the barn. She told us about the horse, how he was a lease. She told us about some of his qualities and that she’d only had him out to ride once. She tied him next to LM’s horse.

I watched for an hour or so and enjoyed it very much. Other horses were all around, some in fenced paddocks, a couple of them running free. It was a glorious day on the open prairie and except that I could feel my lips getting sunburned, everything was GREAT! The kind of compromised great I’ve known since my hip surgery. “I can’t ride, but I can be here,” kind of great.

There’s a lot to be said for acquiring that kind of philosophy. It’s the lesson of my experience. In a bizarre way, the pain and suffering and fear and so on led me to a peaceful resignation with each passing moment. Love it or lose it, what it amounts to.

Then, suddenly (it seemed to me) Rebecca told her daughter to saddle the other horse. “Use my saddle,” she said, “With the soft pad.” I imagined the next step in LM’s lesson was going to be “talking” to her horse while another horse was in the ring. I thought it would be cool to watch.

Rebecca’s daughter brought the saddled horse over to the ring and Rebecca called out, “Martha, do you want to ride?” I was stunned.
“I don’t think I can.”
“Do you want to try?”
“I don’t think I can get on the horse. I’ve had this surgery and I can’t swing my leg over the horse. I guess I could try getting on from the wrong side.”
“Do you want to try? I’ll hold him and you can use the steps. If it doesn’t work, it doesn’t work, OK?”

Oh, I wanted to. I was deeply tired of what I could not do and, anyway, I’ve never been afraid of trying.

“OK. I’m not afraid to ride, Rebecca. I’m not afraid of the horse. It’s getting on. It’s a mechanical problem.”

She uses horses as therapy animals for lots of physically disabled people, people with MS, MD, paraplegics. I KNOW I’m a person with no problems in comparison to that. I was simply afraid of dislocating my femur or cracking the femoral head or shifting the acetabular cup. I had also NEVER attempted to mount a horse from the right.

I climbed the steps. Rebecca held the horse (Spanky). I put my right foot in the stirrup, and awkwardly swung my left leg over the back of the horse. I was on. Rebecca is short like I am and the stirrups were already fine. She let go of Spanky. I felt an intense rush of absolute joy run through my body. I was on the horse. I began to sob. Here was something I could do. This wonderful species who’d shown me — out of no where — so much care and affection, I was ON him. I leaned forward on my saddle and wrapped my arms around his neck, I was so incredibly happy. I was embracing all those old horses and Brownie and this horse who held me standing perfectly still.

After that? I can ride. I rode. I was liberated from everything on Spanky’s back. Liberated from the arthritis in my knees. Liberated from the inability to move across the earth. Here was freedom.

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