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The Healing Trees: How I Fixed My Aching Back

Saturday, October 24, 2015

So I'm not invulnerable, it turns out. I messed up my lower back bigtime with a perfect storm of 
1. cleaning out, on Wednesday, our dying refrigerator/freezer, hauling three contractor's bags of gone food, and then putting what I wanted to save into the new one and the very next day 

2. filling all paid orders for my jigsaw puzzle. I packed about 40 boxes in a single day. If you've paid via PayPal, they're on their way!! Let me know how you like it!

 Both of these activities entailed a LOT of bending and lifting. Because neither was apparently enough for the Energizer Zicky, I finshed Thursday with a six mile celebratory lope with Chet Baker.

And when we got back after dark Thursday, I found to my great surprise that I couldn't get out of the car without making a high keening noise. I couldn't bend over or even sit down. 
My God. What have I done? I am NEVER sore. Ever. I've run through all that pain. 
Nothing fazes me. 

And now every muscle in my back was howling out loud.

Chet, looking like I felt. (This is what he does when he feels cold and there is no one around to come cover him up. He covers up his nose holes and breathes the hot air and feels warmer all over). 

It's been bad. I am not used to being infirm. What I'm used to is
 testing myself daily and finding myself strong, invincible. Well, I've met my match, and my match is me. I have to say, not being able to sit down is a problem. The only thing that felt OK was moving around, walking. As long as I didn't try to bend over. Or sit down. 
Thank God lying flat on my back didn't actively hurt. As long as I didn't try to roll over in bed, I could sleep. After a year without using it, Ibuprofen and I got close again.

On Friday, I could barely hobble on rising from bed. Shila, always my healer of first resort, gave me some stretching exercises to do which involved lying face-down on the floor and assuming weird positions, lifting my torso, lifting one leg at a time, balling up, arching, flattening my spine. They helped. They helped amazingly, instantly, from the first time I did them. I did them five times over two days, and as I finish this post Saturday evening, for the first time I can sit comfortably, and get up without weeping. I don't hurt any more. If you've screwed up your back, whatever you do, don't just give up, lie down and suffer. Please try these amazing exercises.  
They release the clenched muscles, the ones that are hurting you.

Remember the otolith that got stuck in my inner ear, the one that gave me vertigo? Shila gave me a head-rolling exercise that fixed it. Poof. Like that. This was only slightly less fast and dramatic. And it actually felt wonderful to feel those muscles release. I even heard a loud pop. Mmm. That felt great!

Friday evening I went for a walk on uneven ground. That, we have a lot of. And that often helps an out-of-whack back. Because I was moving very slowly, I had a lot of time to take photos. The shadowed driveway held the promise of an enchanted kingdom, just ahead. 

This is the time of year when just stepping out the door is like the moment Dorothy pokes her head out of her tornado-tossed cottage, opening the door on Oz. 

Who could keep feeling bad when this is going on all around outside?

There's a special right now on red maples. They're at peak, and they're everywhere, and they're stupendous.

Spicebush fruit pale by comparison. You can barely see them against the flaming red maple leaves.

Chet knows how to make me feel better. He strikes pose after pose, holding them until he sees me 
raise my iPhone and take each one.

If you don't believe me, just look at these photos.

Most dogs can't be bothered to stop what they're doing to please anyone. This dog is hooked right into my eye, my brain, my aesthetic.

He knows. 

The light just got moreso.

I flexed my aching back and visualized being whole again, being out of pain. When you're in constant pain, just being out of pain seems like heaven. 

The moon smiled down to tell me I would be OK again, in time. It won't be fast, she said, but it will end. 

A gigantic hickory, as gold as it gets. 

I said it was big. Dog for scale. 

I'm drawn to an odd break in a fenceline tree. I stop to ponder this. I'm especially taken by the tortured broken tree, in contrast with the baby-smooth trunk of the red maple just behind it. I watch the leaf shadows dance on that slick pale bark skin. I look into the aching shattered square the broken tree has made.

Looking down, I see it's been crippled by having fencewire tacked onto it. Then it's grown around the wire, but at what cost? I've little doubt that's why its wood was weak enough to break in this strange formation.
What we do to trees without even thinking about it. Run wire through their waists, because it's easier than sinking a fencepost. 

Looking down into the woods I'm mesmerized by the tapestry of color. Sassafras' mittens of gold against the maples. 

There's a planted patch of rye at the upper border of the field, the dark green slice before the trees to the right. It's been planted for deer, who love to graze on tender grass when they get a chance. And there are three deer there, grazing and resting.
As we walk closer, two of them lie down. Oh. 
So this is where our walk ends.

When we reached the rye field
an emerald runner on autumn's table
Two deer had just lain down
folding thin hocks
and begun to chew their cud.
I couldn't make them run
so I called you to me and we started home
leaving them in peace
And us, aglow in knowing
they had nothing to fear.

And the  moon rose over an open field...

A field like a blanket, rolling down over the hill. The contrails, that ever-present track of man, on a thoroughly man-tracked landscape. And yet to me it's all so beautiful. I do love the hand of man in agriculture, when it's not a soybean/corn/ethanol wasteland.  When it's not eating virgin prairie, but holding open space for meadowlarks, kestrels, woodcock and bluebirds. A good hayfield like this one is a beautiful thing. Ask the meadowlarks.

The same view, later...the smiling moon, higher than a kite.

The little black dog, still making sure I see him posing for me.

Hearing a fluttering in the hedge, I move closer.

A field sparrow pops up, a seed in its bill, to peek at me. I hope I've gotten him in the photo, but I can't tell on my phone. I look for a long time on the laptop screen until I find him. How sweet!! Hint: he's on the left margin of the tangle in the blow-up below. If you click on the photo, you'll get an even larger version.

 What marvelous habitat this is for me and Chet. I feel so much better, having walked this meadow, the same one where I found a shed antler late last winter.
As hard as it is to say goodbye to color like this, I'm already looking forward to walking here, looking for sheds next February and March.

I thrive on the season changes here. October is my favorite month. Spring's too busy, too full, too hurly-burly. October is reflective, alone, and so heartbreakingly beautiful, ephemeral. October is a leavetaking, not a coming on. It's bittersweet. The poet and painter in me has to mix sadness with joy, dreary tones with color. They make the color all the brighter.

I look back at the deer, and they're still lying down. Score one for the walker and her dog. My goal is always to avoid changing the behavior of the animals and birds I observe. If they feel safe enough to lie down and start ruminating, who am I to walk up on them and put them to flight?

These three tulip trees are my second string Three Graces. I don't get to see them as often, but they sure dress up the hayfield.

 Time to head home, little Chet Baker. We'll leave the does in peace.


Good medicine. Good dog. Good trees.

Rubbing my eyes--did you post two blogs in one day? Or is it just Blogger helping you seem even more amazing. This post is such eye candy (although I must send sympathies along for your ailing back).
Just looking at these photos and reading your words is enough.

Thank you for a wonderful start to my day. You make me me appreciate these Ohio hills even more.

Oh how you find and weave the words to convey the experience of an Autumn journey. I went with you, seeing, smelling, hearing, sensing and feeling the beautiful, bittersweet season. Thanks for sharing. And I so empathize with the back pain as well as the indignation of momentarily not being invincible. Glad you're healing.

what a way with words you have! You could read these words without the photos and see the very pictures in you mind's eye that you have posted!

Thank you so much for the beautiful pictures and inspiring words, as always. Could you check on the link to the back exercises? When I click on it, all I see is a chiropractor's advertisement . . .

@Nancy F. you need to read through what looks like an ad (it is an ad for his DVD's and videos) and scroll down. Play the second video that appears. It's free. The hope is that people will be intrigued, try the exercise, see that it works, and be willing to pay for more of his products.

Found the video this time! Thanks, Julie, for taking the time to get back to me. I can't tell you how many times reading your blog, or your BWD articles, or your books, has made my day. Now looking forward to that Baby Birds book in the spring!

I'm going to throw in one more piece of health info. I was taught this in the good ole Post Office and it was almost as valuable as, well, the pension. Everyone knows about keeping your back straight and lifting with your legs, right? Sure. But you should also use a wide stance. I got so used to that that I even routinely keep my feet well apart when picking up a dropped pencil. It's a habit now. You can prove it to yourself by approaching a box (make it a light one at first) in the usual fashion and picking it up, back straight etc., and then picking it up again with a wide stance. You can feel the difference easily. You'll look like a goofball for the rest of your life, but you won't have so many back epizootics. (And another thing: when you are in that kind of pain, one very comfortable position is on your back with your feet up in a chair, all right angles as though you're sitting in a chair, but 90 degrees off.)

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