Saturday, October 6, 2012


When I started this residency in early September, twelve months earlier to the day, I had come home in a wheelchair, after a freak accident in Dallas. What was supposed to be a two week art-centric vacation, which turned disastrous on the second day. After a couple of months on crutches I was able to switch to a cane, and by Christmas was weaning myself off that. (It was my hip. That's what I told people. Because I didn't want to say that it was my ass, even though it was; people get the wrong idea. "Hip" isn't really accurate, "leg" doesn't tell the whole story; "pelvis" is only partly accurate. "Left buttock and upper posterior thigh at the pelvis" is too unwieldy.) Physical therapy has been a constant: laser therapy, ultrasound, balancing exercises, and general torture. No, not really; those PT folks are all fantastic. It's really been a godsend.

But I'm missing physical therapy to be here. So I'm substituting made-up exercises at Cabrillo, and being tough on myself. Pushing a loaded cart up the hill to the whale overlook, for example. Mimics something I'd be doing at PT right now. Practicing balancing by walking on uneven, unpaved trails is good too.

Back in February, Kathryn Law, the first AIR at Cabrillo, was just finishing up her residency when I came to visit her. After we talked I drove down to walk the coastside trail. I'd only gone about 10 yards down the trail when I realized with spreading dismay that I wouldn't be able to do it. Not even with the collapsible cane I still kept in the car, just in case. Because of the geology that's particular to Cabrillo, much of the loose dirt underfoot is made up of  tiny pisolites, round particles you can see if you look closely. And I'd developed a habit of examining my footing closely. Ball-bearing-like stuff, very intimidating. Especially on slopes. 

By the time I interviewed for the residency in July, I'd had more therapy, my balance was improved, and I'd just come off a round of prednisone. The pred wasn't for my ass, but for complications from a couple of months with whooping cough, a sinus infection, then pneumonia and complications. A side effect was that it made my torn leg and butt muscles seem to work almost like new. I was feeling mighty good. Ranger Tavio and I hustled up the hill to the whale overlook while we talked, and I didn't have a bit of trouble.

Then the prednisone wore off.  My first week at Cabrillo, I tried the bayside trail...shorter and easier than the coastside trail. (Cabrillo occupies the end of a  pennisula; one side faces San Diego Bay, the other side is part of the California coastline.) And I couldn't get even halfway down the trail. It took four attempts that week before I could finish it, my butt and thigh stinging like mad the whole time. 

It's gotten better and better with this Cabrillo-therapy. Hurts less, functions more. So yesterday I wondered if I could manage the coastside trail. Part steep stairs and part hilly dirt paths, it winds up and down along the rocky cliffs.

Slow and careful, I did it. All the way down, and all the way back. 

Mostly I kept my eyes on the path, knowing I was missing a lot of birds and pretty views, but keeping my footing and my head down. I thought a lot about Dallas while I walked. That awful day, the Nasher Museum which I missed seeing; and Dallas artist Michelle Mikesell; and La Reunion which I did see, and was lovely.

I might be ready to go back to Dallas. Definitely ready to hike some more. 

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