About Katy Gilmore

Katy Gilmore is an artist (watercolors and artists' books ) and writer living in the Pacific Northwest. She is the author/illustrator of "The Year in Flowers: A Daybook." Katy has had more than 25 solo exhibitions, and her work is included in public and private collections. Her blog "Her spirits rose..." explores art and inspiration in the everyday things of home and garden.

A New Sort Of Walking Adventure

Last week the physical therapist at Virginia Mason asked the date of my surgery, and then said: “Oh just three months? Bones can heal in that time, but then they must “remodel.” Using the image of extra mortar oozing out during construction of a brick wall, she explained that bones make extra material when repairing, and then need to smooth things out and shape the bone to meet particular needs, which requires more time.

At my low point, the surgeon told me that if he had to go through this, he’d need cheerleaders – and the physical therapists have been that. Yes, they force the bend, but they also encourage. A week ago, the therapist here asked me to walk with her – without any of my aides. I crossed a vast and empty space (or so it seemed to me), with no support except her confidence that I was ready for baby steps.

In the last three months I forgot a great deal about regular walking. The therapists encourage me to eschew the safety shuffle, stand up straight, look ahead instead of down, lift my toes, and engage the muscles of my leg. All those instructions, and my atrophied muscles and sense of balance, made me awkward and tenuous. But a couple of days later another therapist had me walk and swing my arms, humming “Tea For Two,” while she walked along with me. Steps to lift spirits.

And, as instructed, I weaned myself from wearing the brace in the house – and now in a giant step – no walker indoors either (small house, lots of walls and countertops)! Outdoors – albeit with brace, walker, and an element of pegleg – I can walk to town and back – steps to a real destination.

Blogs seem to fade away nowadays – and this one has come close – but in these months when the world has narrowed, work – being accountable to writing and image and reader – meant much to me. I often wish I had more energy to think up a project or to have some richer experience to write about. One step at a time, I tell myself.

It’s another three weeks till I can even hope to ditch the walker and brace outdoors – that will truly be a walking adventure. Not the Via Francigena or the Dingle Way – but a meaningful step all the same!

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!