The Rushing Waters of Time

The trees surrounding my perch in my tiny 6’x6′ deck have leafed out, mostly obscuring my view of the river.  The river has become my friend.  Its constant roar, modulated only by the volume of water crashing over the rocks of the small waterfall, used to give me a feeling of vague unrest, when I first moved into this primitive building.  Now I welcome its constancy, and the violent early-summer storms bring an exciting urgency to the swollen stream, as if by throwing itself over the waterfall it might relieve its own discomfort.

The waterfall, although small, is mighty dangerous.  There’s only one chute, and even at low water, or perhaps especially at low water, the hidden rock directly below the chute is a trap for inexperienced boaters.  The experienced ones take the placid flatwater bypass around the falls.  They know about the treacherous hole that awaits the nose of a kayak or canoe, to flip it over and dump its occupants into the swirling eddy.  If they’re lucky, they’ll get thrown free of the boat.  If not, they might hit their heads on the submerged rock, and if not rescued by their comrades, go the way of many an unsuspecting boater on this piece of an otherwise easy river.

I sit in my perch and grip the rail, as I would at any sporting event; except that this is not for competition or entertainment (except maybe in the boaters’ minds).  Whether they know it or not, this is a life-or-death moment.

I become morose sometimes, watching and remembering how I used to be an avid whitewater canoeist: the crazier the water, the better.  But these widow-maker rocks with a hole on the other side….no thank you.  I didn’t mind “going swimming” (the river runners’ term for getting dumped unintentionally into the water) occasionally, but notoriously dangerous falls were not on my menu.  I wanted to pull my boat out of the water at day’s end, exhausted and happy, and most of all, alive.

My body is past the point of boating.  Both of my wrists have been reconstructed, and the torque of a paddle even in flat water would be painful.  Whitewater would tear them right off my arms.  So I guess that’s history.  I am banished to my front-and-center box seat, where I sit and cheer the players on, breath held when they attempt the chute, applauding when they make it through, looking on anxiously when the scrape of boat on rock indicates a wreck.

Today two out of three in a party of four boaters bit the dust; or rather, went swimming.  The first boat, a two-seater, contained a couple of experienced and skillful boaters: they took their time, back-paddled for a bit, assessing the situation.  When they made up their minds that they were really going to shoot that rapids, they lined up perfectly with the chute, and paddled like mad.  They flew through the chute and hit the rock with the bow pointing up.  The boat shot up and they became briefly airborne, accompanied by amusement-park shrieks.  I could practically see their hearts pounding as they floated in the eddy and came to rest in the pool nearby the little beach opposite the falls.

Boater number two, a big guy in a single sit-in kayak, landed nose-down in the hole, got thrown from the boat–luckily, for he could have got stuck in the hole, or whacked his head on the rock and been no more.  As it was, he got himself scraped up on the rock.  Then he got caught up in the eddy while trying to get back into his boat.  He was altogether shaken, and when he finally got hold of his boat, he hauled it out on the small beach below the rapids.  The couple in the first boat paddled over and pulled out to help their wet and shaken comrade.  He had broken both paddles, which were fixed on his boat with oar-locks.

Boat number three fared no better.  Number four wisely took the flat-water bypass.

Sigh.  No more boating for me, not flat water, not rapids.  No more skiing, no more running.  No more this, no more that.

Thank God, I can still walk, although sometimes painfully.  I now use two hiking sticks: not for the exercise; rather, so as not to fall over.  My balance isn’t so good because of the weirdness of my spine.  I’m sure the effects of poly-pharmacy don’t help.

So today, being the Sabbath and having no other responsibilities, and the weather being perfect, I mixed up a spray of lemongrass and geranium oils, which makes a fine bug repellent; and taking sticks in hand, with with little Noga on leash because of the lamentably lush growth of poison ivy, set off on a walk into deep old woods.

When we got past the worst of the poison ivy I let Noga off the leash and she tore off, exercising her nose as much as her little furry legs.  I wondered if her anti-tick stuff was really going to work.  I would be sure to make a thorough examination when we got home.

The forest understory is rich with treasures now: blue and black Cohosh, St. John’s Wort on the edges, and miracle of miracles, some real ginseng.  There are lots of things that look like ginseng, but once you’ve seen the real thing you’ll never forget.  I used to have a patch of it in a little crease in my mountain, when I had one; but unfortunately my goats ate my ginseng instead of the multiflora rose they were purchased to eat.

At last Noga and I found ourselves swishing through the meadow that borders the creek, or “branch,” as they used to call it here.  The grasses were knee-high; both Noga and I became uncomfortable.  This year has already been a good one for snakes; and I am always wary of putting my feet or hands in places I cannot see.  A copperhead could easily be stalking the plentiful crop of frogs along the branch, hidden underfoot in the lush meadow.

So we turned tail and made for home.  The shadows were already lengthening, and by the time we got home it was dinnertime for both of us.  Leftovers from last night for me: Teriyaki salmon, home-made cole slaw, and a last-minute concoction of quinoa and various vegetables that tastes pretty good in spite of its improvised nature.  Dog food for Noga; she is disappointed, even though it is salmon-flavored dog food that cost me a fortune.  She gazed mournfully at my dinner, then grudgingly yet thoroughly ate hers.

I understand why so many “retired” athletes commit suicide.  One minute you’re out there tearing it up, the next you’re reaping the unfortunate consequences of the excesses of youth.  When I was young, I would never have applied the word “athletic” to myself.  Looking back, I glimpse myself running three miles a day, seven days a week, lifting weights three days a week, Shaolin Kung Fu every day, dancing Salsa/Merengue/Cha-cha several nights a week, running rivers on the weekends; and then, when I got too old for that, skiing daily, horseback riding daily, 6am aerobics–crazy stuff.

I never could do tennis because the first time I tried it I dislocated my elbow.  But raquetball was OK.

I see the pattern, and I felt it then: physical activity was my medicine.  I remember acutely how it felt to run off an incipient manic episode; or conversely, to run off an episode of depression, running until I “hit the wall” and pushing through it into exhilaration, the “runner’s high,” which lasted an hour or two before the Black Dog curled up at my feet again.

Now bending my elbow to wash down handsful of pills seems to be about as much exercise as I get in a day.  Even gentle yoga, which may feel good while I’m doing it, tends to give me a bad pain day on the following day.  But I am finding some serenity now.  I just determined that I had better accept the fact that my ass has its own postal code, and buy some larger pants.

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  1. I can really identify with this. I’m a former gymnast and martial artist (US Yoshukai Karate and Indonesian kung fu), but now I have to use a cane to get around a lot of the time. I hate the limitations, and I miss the outlet of being able to hit things. Sorry you’re in the same boat.

  2. I can so empathise with this. I used aerobics too get me through my trials and tribulations. I was fabulously fit and didn’t give a thought to not being able to continue doing bwhat made me feel …..and look good.

    That was until I was jnvolved in a minoe auto accident. The passenger and a supposedly mild whiplash. They refused to do X rays and five years and many arguments later the damage was finally found. The worst part, for me at least, was the lose of my physical activity. The only thing providing a tenuous link with the strength to get through each day.

    I’m told I did “too much and over stretched
    the ligaments” this being the rationake for being unable to do the therapy I was assigned. Not shown or helped with!

    “Cut off in my prime” 😂. It would almost be funny if it wasn’t so tragic. It really is awful that we try to stay active – as we are tild we are such an ibese nation and yet vilified when unforeseen injuries take that away.

    Time to get off the soap box. Thanks Laura, whether happy, sad or in between I akways relate to your posts.

    Susan 💖

    • Grrr, I am angered by the incompetence that caused you so much damage and prevented proper healing after your whiplash injury. I am so sorry that this happened to you! I am going to try gentle movements in the pool (which is half an hour away!), which is what I did when my spine first abandoned me, nearly thirty years ago. Water is wonderful, as it takes away gravity. Then I can gradually regain movement, and start to swim again. That is the ultimate low-impact activity. I do it with a mask and snorkel so I don’t have to move my neck (which doesn’t move because of bone fusion and spurs), just breath through the snorkel and propel myself with flippers so I don’t torque my lower spine. I hope it works this time….

      • Now the mask and snorkel sound a great plan. If intry to swim without I’m like a turtle with my head stuck out. Definitely no good for the neck.
        Good luck Laura 😊

  3. savemefrombpd

     /  June 8, 2014

    Your post here inspired me at the fact of how much I take my physical health for granted. I used to do sports (football/soccer, tennis, judo, etc) every single day. I was so fit and healthy. I know that I could get back to it and I really want to. I just lost myself when I had the breakdown. Stopped going to the gym because of the insomnia and weakness.

    Would really like get back to fitness.

    Sounds like you were really active and had some great experiences… white water rafting and craziness! I did it once, skied once, and some other ‘extreme sports’ until I went head over handlebars on my BMX, falling badly on a halfpipe on my skates,,,, So keeping away from those things even though they were fun!


    • Really, I think going to the gym would be good for you on a number of fronts: endorphins from moving, people-watching, happiness and satisfaction at watching the weight come off and your body firm up, maybe even meeting some interesting people (maybe not, but getting out just the same). I’m for it.

      • savemefrombpd

         /  June 8, 2014

        Yea, didn’t really think of those things about the gym that you don’t get if you exercise outside somewhere…
        That’ll be something on my list for when I please G-d get a regular job again and can afford it.

        For now, 3 x 20 fast minute walks a week to start things off. 😉

        Was walking with my sis on Sat nights, MS, but she’s now heavily pregnant so no more for the time being!

        • Sorry you’ve lost your walking partner! I think Maccabi has a gym pass, or they used to, associated with their “Maccabi TivvI” program. I don’t know which kupah you have, but you might look into it. The gym they had was somewhere ridiculous like Givat Shaul, and I never went even though I had the card. BTW I walked the mile to school and the mile back right up until I delivered! Nuts, huh? I practically needed a wheel barrow to carry my watermelon in front 😉

          • savemefrombpd

             /  June 9, 2014

            I’m on Clalit and v happy with them and my doc. Someone said I can get really cheap gym membership from rehabilitation benefits but unfortunately can’t afford it still. Problem with benefits. The two different ones I receive, both have screwed up and not paid me and the other one paid me a tiny amount than I should have received. Ugh. Red tape. Calling them and they put the phone down on me because they are too busy lol.

            Wow you walked all that way whilst pregnant?! Nice one!! That’s great. Sporty gal huh!! 🙂


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