Monday, October 10, 2011


Before September 1, I had a busy life. So busy that I slept in my exercise tights so that I was ready to roll as soon as I woke. It was very satisfying to hurtle through darkness toward Montpelier, then challenge myself with a killer ab class or a weights workout customized just for me. By the time I settled at my desk, I was physically and emotionally ready for whatever the day might offer.

Now my life is not so busy. I fell, you see, down the stairs. In my sleep. After some unknown period of time, I woke up on a living room sofa, bleeding. Based on the puddle of blood at the bottom of the stairs, it seems I had lain there for some time as well. But at the time, all I noticed was that my wrist hurt. Once I wake up, I thought, I’m probably gonna have to go to the doctor for that. And I walked through the puddle of blood and went back upstairs to bed.

When the alarm went off at 4:30 (my normal time to get up), my arm still hurt, so I put on a sweater and some shoes (how did my feet get so bloody?) and drove myself to the Emergency Room. Nice parking spot, close to the entrance. Registration staff looked at me horrified—although I had tried to wash off the blood from the head wound—and immediately put me into a wheelchair and skipped all their usual questions. The staff proceeded to take excellent care of me, starting with a catalog of my injuries: an H-shaped laceration on my forehead at the hairline (25 staples and stitches), a broken wrist (30 little pieces), a cut on my right leg (19 stitches) previously held together by my exercise tights, 2 black eyes, a big lump on my left shin, and numerous other bumps and bruises. I really should have called 911, but my battered head was not working very well.

By today (October 10) most of my injuries are far, far better. The shattered wrist is still healing. Anyone who knows me might expect me to be chomping at the bit, ready to re-engage fully in life. It is true that I am working half time (thanks to the federal government’s push for telework), and I am grateful to be able to keep my clients rolling along, not to mention grateful to be able to stretch leave a little longer. I am driving short distances to get myself to hand therapy or to the grocery store, and it is nice to regain a little independence. I’m even on the treadmill a couple of miles a day, so distressed I am at how much my muscle tone has diminished in a few short weeks.

And yet, I’m not really in a hurry to resume my life exactly as it was. Not that there was anything wrong with it. I take care to try to be thoughtful and responsible about my choices, so there have been no “Aha! I must stop (or start) doing that” moments. I wouldn’t wish to have the injuries again, and I still have a lot of healing to do. But to have life stop, to have others care for me, to have the patterns rearrange themselves, to be required to exercise ingenuity to accomplish the tiniest task…this has been an unexpected gift.

This interruption has to it the feel of a divine message. One that I cannot yet parse. So far I know only what it is not. Not a call to find a new friends—if anything the interruption underscores the rightness of these choices. The degree of help and support that came my way in the last few weeks has left me startled, humble and grateful beyond words. Not a call to find a new job—just doesn’t seem to apply right now—job hunting is one thing it is hard to do with one hand. Not moving, no right now. Not a push in any particular direction. So what is it?

Maybe it is the gift of time to sit still and listen. To pare my life back to basics and then add back what really matters. For example, it was only yesterday that I added back treadmill time—oh, how was missing my exercise routines! And for the last several days, I have been thinking how much I have missed writing every day. Maybe time to add that back.

If you have ever lived in a cluttered environment, your own or someone else’s, then you know that open space can seem like the ultimate gift. This time in my life feels like that kind of gift. I can’t figure it out, not yet, but I am enjoying the space.

Tuesday, May 03, 2011

Planting nasturtiums

I have relatives and colleagues with obsessive compulsive disorder, and from time to time, I find I understand them very well. In the morning in the gym, when I put my shoes in exactly the same spot as the day before, and the day before that, I understand. When I put my favorite water bottle into one of my shoes, I understand. There is something about making sure I don’t lose that water bottle that gives me control over my world.

Then there are certain things I do every year. Starting at Christmastime, I save the skins of yellow onions so that I can use them at Easter to dye eggs. They turn out the most amazing shades ranging from pale yellow to deep maroon tie-dye. These eggs delight me over and over again.

And in the spring, I plant nasturtiums. I have twelve (isn’t twelve a wonderful number?) galvanized window boxes, an even dozen fitting perfectly along the tops of my porch rails. I used to buy plants, but I found that nasturtiums grow reliably from seed, at least they do with a little care. Soak the seeds overnight, nick each one slightly to give the burgeoning plant life a start, and plant them. Miraculous!

I am an enthusiastic but not a very good gardener. In the back yard, I have a circular herb garden in a space once occupied by an above ground pool. (Now that was a bad idea. Never got the maple leaves cleared out, and really, I am not the pool bunny type!) Gave it away to someone who regretted accepting the gift, hauled in a load of topsoil, and presto chango! It’s an herb garden.

I specialize in invasive species. I pretend I am a gardener, but sometimes I think all I do is weed out Siberian iris, lemon balm, mint, and fern-leaf tansy. A few old reliables come back every year—oregano, chives, catnip, and horehound—without taking over. Thyme is fussy, as are lamb’s ears. Lady’s mantle and peonies are steadfast. I take great comfort in the return of plants that do not run rampant. I am so happy to see them.

Out back, there is much that is unexpected. But on the front porch, there are twelve window boxes planted with nasturtiums. They grow reliably and they look beautiful. I am obscurely grateful to them for being a gardening project that I can manage. I put the seeds in the ground, they come up, and the flowers come. How amazing is that? None of my other gardens act like that, and I love them for their wild and crazy nature. But I love my nasturtiums for being exactly what I expect them to be.