I’m Back (or so it seemed, when I walked the trail)

Mineral Wells State Park, Red glare on winter grass

Sunset glare at Mineral Wells State Park over winter grasses

April 15, 2013

I’m Back


From the day they replaced my worn out left hip

with a titanium ball and socket,

my one looming goal has been to return to

the hiking trails of Mineral Wells State Park:

red to yellow to tan sand, the remnant of broken down sandstone,

trails littered with iron-rich red stones, rocks, and boulders,

cut through second growth woods of oak and ivy and wildflower meadows.

That was where I wanted to be, moving along at speed.

Yesterday, I did it,

It’s what titanium was made for,

moving fast, feeling no pain

— for as I like point out, titanium has no nerve endings.


Before I could get to the trailhead

a large turkey hen had tried first to outrun my car

on the road from the park entrance,

then remembered she could fly and did so,

taking off over the crown

of a 20-foot oak to the right of the road

with more lift and speed than any turkey I’ve seen.


Once on the trail, I was greeted with more wildlife than usual:

A young jackrabbit let me approach to 15 feet and calmly posed;

an armadillo allowed me to get so close that both he and I jumped

when he fled from two feet off the trail to a safer rooting spot;


Five wild pigs beside me and ahead of me, reacted chaotically to my presence, swirling and rearing and in general acting as if they weren’t sure what to do next, before a group consensus could gel in their piggy brains, and move them off to the right of the trail. The clattering of their hooves was more equine than porcine. Since they ranged from 175 to 275 pounds, it was scary as hell and very important for me to know whether what I was witnessing was flight or fight;


One white-tailed dear waved its flag of a tail in a backwards greeting as it fled into the woods.


As I entered the final leg of the trail, having hiked the five miles the day’s fading light would allow, I saw the last of the animals of the day.


Arising beyond the woods at the far edge of an open field, I heard them before I saw them, a pair of Canada geese honking and flying with the combination of grace and speed and joyous sound that seems unique to them. Their twin flight paths headed directly over me as that cacophonous, beautiful honking approached, and I heard the strong swishing of their wings as they flew directly over my head.


My face was still lifted to their flight when I laughed aloud, thanking God for this special welcome back to this place of so many long, satisfying walks. I was glad I hadn’t read the program, so that the closing came as a surprise. Nothing so dramatic as a two-goose salute.


April 23, 2013


“I’m Back” near the beginning


Then Tuesday, a week later

just back from a lunch break,

cup of coffee in hand,

it was announced that the desert sampling

offered by a local hotel seeking our business

was beginning in the conference room at my workplace.


All I wanted was an oatmeal raisin cookie…


Seated at a round table with co-workers,

laughing, swapping stories

during an unusual face to face break,

my hip popped out of joint,

my thigh muscle pulled the femur higher,

and suddenly – and I was standing by this time –

my left leg was an inch and a half shorter than my right,

my left foot was turned out 10 degrees,

and I was in great pain.


Six hours later, a very large doctor

with four medical personnel assisting him,

pulled my leg back into joint

and gave me the gift four milligrams of morphine could not;

freedom from pain.


An overnight in a hospital room on the orthopedic wing,

intensive physical and occupational therapy the next day,

and out the door to home, using a cane again,

something I’d only had to do on walks of a half mile or more

for the last month or so of my recovery.


Depression followed the realization of how far I’d regressed

(or what has turned out to have been an exaggerated

version of how far I’d regressed).


Three days later, with just enough rest and recovery from trauma

under my belt, I returned to work for a half day.


And this was the week of the Boston Marathon bombing

(My sister had to check with all her Boston friends, who,

thanks be to God, were NOT at the finish line as per their normal routine,

but enjoying an annual luncheon of their own tradition on the South Shore.)


And this was the week of the West, Texas fertilizer plant fire and explosion

(My former associate editor, Jordan’s parents — still living in his hometown of West — had sustained only two broken windows.

Some of their neighbors had not been so fortunate.

Though they could not leave their area and return, due to security perimeters,

they had plenty of food and bottled water.

All of this says nothing, of course, about the trauma

they must be experiencing, but praise God for limited physical damage.)


April is indeed the cruelest month. The week before had seen the arrival of the first bright green American anole on the back screen above the kitchen sink, the first scissor-tailed flycatcher had arrived from Central America; and the first red-winged blackbird, with flaming red-orange epaulets signaling he was more than ready for mating season, had flown in from stage left, and I’d walked five good, challenging miles once again of Mineral Wells State Park trails.


Tragedy and Comedy, like two rag dolls, leaning against each other on a shelf, limp arms entwined, the irony totally escaping them. Cruel indeed, a fact the common finch just now at the birdfeeder seems totally unaware of.

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