Best Spring Ever

In spite of wintry cold just now, spring began with a burst of early warmth and high excitement. All those spring truisms about renewal and rebirth felt personal, as I began to relearn how to walk and to regain strength in my leg. At first I’d clump along with the walker outdoors, awkwardly picking it up every other step.

But now I’m like a teenager with her first wheels! Wheels – yes on my walker – so I can walk almost normally. The surgeon says I’m a third of the away along my nine month path to full recovery, I have six more weeks with the walker, but can begin to wean myself from the brace.

Each walk reveals more spring – the flowering fruit trees in Winslow began the cascade with a haze of pink or white. Here, the bulbs planted in the pumpkin patch last fall – jolly jonquils and large Greigii tulips in intense shades of orange and pink – open wide in sunshine. On walks in the nearby neighborhood, I see little gardens where grape hyacinth and violets emerge under returning perennials, old gardens coming back to life. This Sunday at Bloedel, on a real walk, rhododendron blossom and tiny wildflowers graced the sides of the trail. I’ve been so very aware and grateful for climbing out of the tunnel of winter and gray and limitation.

The eggs illustrating this post do dual duty – really the Easter Rabbit painted them to accompany the clues leading Sweet B and Baby Brother on a hunt for their Easter baskets.

I can hardly wait!

London, the Hebrides, and Crawdads – Books

These long three months I’ve been even more grateful for books. I spent most of the early weeks in “London: The Novel” by Edward Rutherford – a birthday present last November that seemed a joke. How would I read 1100 pages following family descendants, from an encampment on the River Thames during pre-history all the way to modern London? Easy.

And I read Peter May’s “Lewis Trilogy,” a reader’s fine suggestion, about a Glasgow detective returning to his home island in the Outer Hebrides – all wild ocean, rugged terrain and rugged people. The narrative alternates from childhood to present, as the mystery needing solving becomes personal. The descriptions bring to life the sky and weather, rocky cliffs, hidden beaches, and smaller inhospitable, isolated islands – and the culture – traditions still strong after hundreds of years, meeting modern sensibilities.

During a few nights in a not-sleeping-very-well period, I devoured Tessa Hadley’s new book, “Late In The Day.” Now I want to revisit it. Of all her books I love, it stands out – contemporary London, interesting people, complicated marriages, and Hadley’s pinpoint prose.

In a Guardian interview, Hadley, said that one of the most satisfying aspects of the book for her is the character of Christine who is sustained by her art when her marriage falls apart. Hadley said: “I was thinking about how I feel about work and its importance, and I was pouring that into writing about her and her painting.” Hadley also speaks of her own late success as a novelist, “after all those years of writing between the school run and doing the laundry,” and her plan to “continue writing about people just getting on with the business of living.”

But – of all these wonderful books – the standout is a recent recommendation from Mrs. Hughes, Delia Owens’s “Where the Crawdads Sing.” It’s the story of Kya, a six-year old abandoned – first by her mother and eventually by all her family – in the shack where they lived in the North Carolina coastal marshlands.

Never have I rooted so hard for a heroine, wanting her to make it. I relished the totally unfamiliar setting of the marsh, byways of water overhung with Spanish moss, glades of sunshine and tumbledown shelters, herons and gulls. Kya, as she grows up alone, becomes part of the flora and fauna of her marsh home – her desires and longings much the same as the animals and insects around her. Mocked by the other students, she attends school for just one day, but another marsh dweller teaches her to read – and reading saves her, opens her world and makes her a scientist and artist. Steeped in the heat and humidity of her surroundings, the book is suspenseful and romantic and amazing.

Thankful for books!

 

Missing

You miss a lot in this situation – walking, planning trips around walking, the grocery store (never thought I’d miss the grocery store), being a help rather than helped, but above all, I miss Lady B, Sweet Baby, and Baby Brother! In all their lives I’ve never gone so long without seeing them. Their parents try hard to keep us up-to-date with the young lives, FaceTime and videos help, but still.

Last week Sweet Baby turned four attending a birthday party for a friend in the morning and having a party with friends and family in the evening. She now has a big girl bed, and a cradle next to it for her favorite doll, Baby. For her birthday, I managed to make little pillows from pillowcases her great-great-grandmother left for Poppa Jim’s “bride.” When we spoke the next day, Sweet Baby proudly showed me sleeping arrangements and suggested I could come on Thursday – or maybe in September – revealing developing knowledge of days and months. In my favorite videos, she “reads” books aloud – or lately sings the pages!

Baby Brother is always willing to talk to us – especially to Poppa Jim – usually while eating dinner. He explains the meal and speaks of dinosaurs and heavy equipment – he would love to be here and watch the daily comings and goings in the gravel pit behind us.

We heard that during an illness this winter, he took to routinely waking up at night and crying out – “Momma, Daddy come quick!” When recovered he was encouraged to stop calling to his parents at night, an edict he took seriously, because that night he tried “Winnie, Cora – come quick!” – no word on whether the canines responded.

And Lady B – I have seen photos of her on the north face of Mount Alyeska, her little body planted firmly, skis edged, the valley spread far below. I’m told she can ski the entire mountain, including a famous and steep mogul patch! She turned seven after Christmas – such a magic age of competence and exploration – always her strengths. I love the photos of her deep in a book reading to herself now, or sitting with her dad and brother at a restaurant – eyes fixed on the pages of “Baby Bears.” One day she updated me on her latest thoughts about super heroes – but that’s been a while, and I miss a good natter at the top of the stairs!

Hope glimmers! The Alaskans are coming at Easter, and maybe Sweet Baby in May. And I just registered both girls for summer camps here for different weeks in July. Lady B will go to Sewing Camp (a great but surprise choice – I thought she’d choose mountain biking camp), and Sweet Baby will attend the Little Athletes Sports and Fitness Academy with other small fry for a couple of hours each day (her first choice, Troll Camp, the wrong dates).

No better incentive to me – to bend and bend and be ready!

 

 

Spring Survey Two Years On

Last Christmas our young friend and her parents gave us a tall prayer candle refitted with a photo of Robert Mueller looking thoughtful, surrounded by tiny, glittery stones. We’ve burned it most evenings all winter. Now the wick is hard to reach to light, the sides smudged with smoke, and that beacon extinguished.

Today I’ll just post a spring image from a more hopeful year – this spring doesn’t care, never held out hope for answers anyway. Flowers still bloom in our gloom – for now.

Zimmer Tales

My neighbor tells me the Brits call a walker a Zimmer – that sounds so speedy – skimming along on my Zimmer. Not. But, along with a leg brace when upright, it is my constant companion.

At first I bore all weight on my arms, at three weeks I could toe down for balance when not moving, then (if locked into my brace and holding the walker), I could stand still with weight on both legs. Now, at seven weeks, my brace is unlocked 10°, but my arms support most weight. In three weeks the plan calls for all weight on “lower extremities,” as the pros say, and none on arms – just holding the walker “for guidance.” Progress – but weeks left of Zimmer support.

Everything takes a long time. Never before did I realize how many things we carry all day long. Pockets prove invaluable – now I can often walk to physical therapy (just 162 steps each way), phone in one pocket and garage door opener in the other. To move my computer it goes in a tote bag, along with needed papers or books. To move objects from one side of our small kitchen to the other or from kitchen counter to table, requires sliding dishes or pans along the counter till I can make the reach to the landing spot.

Outdoors the Zimmer gets stripped down for speed, but indoors I tip ridiculously large things into a little basket velcroed on the handle. I can balance a glass of water for drinking or painting, a heavy book, charger, ibuprofen, a bag of popcorn (all at once would be pushing it). I chuck things a lot – tossing balled-up socks toward the laundry basket.

But now we have a spring week here – welcome sunshine and warmth. Birds sing, bulbs stand tall with buds, and rose bushes and trees sprout tiny leaves. The other day I clumped around the little patio trying to clean up winter debris. Grateful to be outside and for healing, but all the while wishing I’d stopped in the past to appreciate wholeness – using hands and legs at the same time – a Zimmer-free life!

Milo

By all accounts, Milo was somewhat disreputable in life, yet much beloved. When he crossed the “rainbow bridge” this winter, his mistress (a good friend of my Alaska daughter-in-law) asked me if I would paint him. I found the photos irresistible, and my enthusiasm for the new year included painting Milo. Then the rough drawings sat on my table for a long non-productive time, and when I returned to attempt to capture his cuteness, Milo, in spite of his dodgy reputation, proved a genuine spirit lifter!