Sunday, May 13, 2012

Every journey begins with a single step...

Today marks the 4th month since I got a new and vastly improved knee.  This was an arduous journey to say the least and it made me think long and hard about the simple, precious act of walking - the first and  most basic means of travel.   If anyone reading this has a knee replacement in their future, it is scary, it is a very big deal and it is only successful if you do everything they tell you to do especially the most painful part...physical therapy, that was far more painful than the surgery but most important and necessary.  Grit your teeth and do it.  While I inched my way to recovery I read lots of things to stay motivated.  I re-read many parts of "Wanderlust", a terrific book by Rebecca Solnit and was blown away by "Born to Run" by Christopher McDougall.  Now I don't run, never did and never wanted to I am a tortoise in a world full of hares.  But McDougall's book is about much more than running.  It's a great window into a mysterious culture in the Copper Canyon's of Mexico.  It's also full of great philosophy, ideas about food and outrageous characters!  I had no idea there even was a community of ultra-marathon runners let alone barefoot runners!  One of my favorite lines in his book is a call to remember how it felt to run barefoot through the a grassy field when you were young.  It was such an easy and free feeling.  Of all the things that were revelatory about these books what struck me most is that no fancy, ultra expensive, high tech footware is involved.  In Solnit's book I was particularly fascinated by Wordsworth and his sister who regularly set out for extraordinary walks in all kinds of English weather to go visit someone who was maybe 25+/- miles away.  That's when I really got to thinking about what did they wear on their feet, it had to be simple handmade shoes.  Which is all anyone ever had for all of time up to about maybe 10 years ago.  That's what brings me to McDougall's book and his insight into footwear.  The reclusive Tarahumara Indians of the Copper Canyons of Mexico only use sandals mostly to protect their feet from ferocious cactus thorns as they run 60-100 miles regularly.  I needed these inspirational books to get me through the hard parts and they did.

If I had not gotten a new knee I would have been in a wheelchair by Summer, if not sooner.  I could barely walk a block, every step was excruciating.  I could not have gotten through any of it without my friends and I treasure them for being there for me.  I don't know yet whether or not I'll need my other knee done, it seems pretty strong and healthy now that it's not doing all the work.  But I know if it needs to be done, I'll do it and hope my friends will help me out again.

As I walked around the other day I thought about range of motion and distance...before surgery my world was rapidly shrinking one block at a time, now it's expanding - I don't see an end to it.  My artwork started to show the strain as well, the work got tighter and tighter, now I'm outside painting again and the work is beginning to be more relaxed.  As an artist one of the most important aspects of my work is  s-p-a-c-e  I need a lot of it in my work as well as my life and the last 8 months have felt like house arrest.  Now all I can see is space, it has helped me stay energized to do PT as all is not perfect yet.  But I see my world expanding and only possibility and adventure lays before me, what a wonderful feeling!