Hike: Escape the Stagnant Stench of Suburbia

Hike: Daily Prompt, Sept 19

“Even the most beautiful of the stars are taken for granted night after night.”

-Veronika Jensen

Sorry for the buzzkill, but here’s a healthy dose of reality for ya: The older you get the more probable it is that life will throw some unfortunate happenings your way. It’s a numbers game, really. And may the odds be ever in your favor. But when statistics do come for ya, try to take it in stride.

In the meantime, stop taking everything you love for granted. And I’m not just talking about your pseudo-significant other or your annoying little brother.

I’m talking about all of it. All the little things.

That giant old oak out back at your parents’ house, harboring decades of memories you’ve yet to revisit. One day, in the late-spring perhaps, that one bad storm will finally force them to part ways with it and you’ll see… each ring in that old stump hides all those forgotten secrets you shared while hanging upside down on that thick branch near the bottom, the only one you guys could even reach.

Old faithful Oak has forever fossilized the echoes of all that laughter that bounced around each autumn afternoon spent diving into the leaves it loaned you for the season. It’s still faintly adorned with the remnants of your first crush. You’ll both carry that same scar with you until your dying day.

A walk at dusk after a long day’s work. In solitude or good company. With a loyal critter companion or the more complex human kind. On a warm summer night or a brisk and breezy winter one.

These are the moments that maintain your sanity. These are the small parts of the day you may rush through or neglect to do at all. But these, my friend, should not be taken for granted.

The feelings you get just from sensation. 

Hearing a bird sing, a child cry, or the waves of the ocean crashing onto shore. Seeing a sunset, or van Gogh’s Starry Night. Petting a fluffy puppy or getting goosebumps when a lover’s hand grazes past the thin skin of your inner wrist. Savoring a medley of skillfully crafted flavors at your favorite restaurant in your favorite little town. Sipping a robust cup of java or a tart apple cider.

The sweet, indulgent aroma of freshly baked waffle cones, wafting your way at an amusement park. Summer’s trademark scent of freshly cut grass, sneaking through cracked windows. The crisp scent of crackling leaves under your feet, reminding you that it’s sweater weather. Sensing winter’s first snowfall, despite nary a flake sighting yet.

We are all one accident, one diagnosis, one emotional meltdown away from losing the little things.

So awaken your senses. Take a hike and take it all in. Look for weird plants and weirder bugs. Search for wild things that are free. Observe them from afar, if you’re so lucky. Listen to how they communicate. Note the way the world smells when you step away from the stagnant stench of suburbia.

Let your legs ache as you push your body beyond its usual limits. Climb, walk, run, play. Gaze into the horizon. Let the sun wash you with its warmth. Let the breeze carry your concerns to the clouds.

Look at nature and how it all works. Really, watch it. Appreciate its beauty and its power. Let it humble your sense of self and significance. Surrender to it for a little while. Let it exonerate you from the shackles and confines of the rat-cage… along with its committments and stresses of the rat-race.

_______________________________________________________

Today, my physical therapist pushed my bum knee the furthest yet since surgery on August 8th. It went like this: a woman grabbed a goniometer (tool to measure angles) and held my hip down. My PT grabbed my foot and asked if I was ready. Another PT asked if he could watch. A man on the bed-table beside me was groaning and yelling in pain.

I grabbed the edge of my own bed-table and tried not to grit my teeth too hard. I might have yelped, groaned, and maybe even screamed out once or twice, but she pushed my knee to 102 degrees, with my hip straight and flat on the table.

Everyone was elated. The PT watching high-fived me. The PT that held my hip down apologized. Then, my PT took me to the treadmill for the first time in my three weeks there to teach me how to walk. I know, I’m basically a toddler again.

I’ve been weirdly limping since June 13 when I first tore the ACL, and in crutches or a brace after surgery until last Friday. I have to re-train my brain the proper walking technique. It sounds so simple, but it’s been 3+ months since I’ve walked properly and it’s taken me three weeks to even get enough strength and range of motion at PT to attempt to learn again… the numbness and nerve damage adds to the difficulty. I think it’ll come more naturally once I can fully straighten and bend my leg.

It was a routine surgery, but I was an outlier. I had saphenous nerve injury (it was likely accidentally cut when the surgeon was harvesting my hamstring to reconstruct the ACL) and still have no feeling other than severe internal nerve pain from the inner right side of my knee down to my inner ankle. I now take a medication to treat the nerve issue — it’s one my sister used to take to control her epileptic seizures.

I also was one of the 3-5% of people that get stiff knee after lots of hard scar tissue builds up inside the knee after surgery. It’s tough to explain this to someone that’s never felt it. Basically, I have very limited range of motion and work at physical therapy ~20 hours a week just trying to bend and straighten my leg. It feels like there is human tissue made of concrete we have to break through, so we need creative (often painful) exercises to do it.

I could only bend my left knee to 36 degrees on August 30. Today’s Sept 19 and I’m at 102. Yay(ish).

Today, I told my PT I was disenchanted about having to bail on all my fall hiking plans. But she is helping me stay optimistic. She is amazing and I’d probably be a depressed mess without her. She says I can hike/jog in four months.

Last week I walked (okay, I limped around outside with my brace on) with my dog for the first time since August 8th. It was slow and exhausting, but it felt like a huge breakthrough.

I’ll find out Friday if I need additional surgery to remedy the stiff knee problem. And even if I can’t hike in four months, I’ll tell you one thing…epic-hike

When I do hike again, it’s going to be the most epic of experiences.

Until then, I’m going to torture myself to get my knee to 110 degrees by Friday.

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