The Hillhouse

The Journey of a Mother and Son

Get Crackin’ July 7, 2012

So much yet to do. The biggest item is off the list: make sure the automatic coop door opener really works. Although I bought it last year (paid for a pricey rush delivery in fact) it sat uninstalled all year long in my garage, as I just couldn’t manage to do it myself as I’d planned. Even bought a sawsall to make the cut in the wall – really, how hard could it be? As I set out I discovered, hard enough. Maybe if I’d had more practice with the saw – which was much harder to control than I’d expected – I’d have been able to cut myself a hole into which I could then install the door. But I simply couldn’t manage it. The whole project, for as simple and straight forward as it looked was too much for me to muster on my own, and in the end I hired my brother to watch over my flock as we left town for a couple of days on divorce business. (And I gave the sawsall to a kid who mowed my 5 acre lawn in trade.)

This year, having a much larger flock and hoping to go away for a much longer time, I simply had to get it installed. When I unpacked it, we discovered chimpmunks had not only filled the entire thing with corn (the industrious little fella was dead at the bottom of his own cache) but had cut both the cord that pulled the door up as well as the wiring that told it to do so. God bless this handyman that I found at random from the local Pennysaver. He fixed it. And installed it. Then, as it began to appear a task completed, the timer got knocked to the ground by the birds on the first night, and came apart in pieces. Day two of coop preparations, four days to departure. I was beginning to panic. Lower back pain had me all but immobile, and now this. Swearing like a sailor, I wrestled the pieces back together in the obscene heat of the garage. It worked, but not quite as it should have. It took two more days until we had both a successful raising of the coop door on its own as well as a successful lowering of the door. Hooray! Right? Nope.

First night it was the new guys. The chicks – who are now just about full grown chicken size, but who eat like teenagers and don’t know the routine of the mature flock quite yet – they haven’t figured out where to go at night. At dark, when all the others are high on their roosting bars, safe for the night, the younguns are in a crowded clump on the ground, huddling for safety. How else do young ones learn but to be taught? I’d thought they’d imitate the elders, but no, apparently it’s up to Elihu and me. So, one by one, Elihu puts the little guys through the tiny open door, where I then take them and place them on a roosting bar. We are teaching them. We hope. Day one it’s forced. Day two, the timer still isn’t working right, so we miss an opportunity. Day three – complete success! Out on their own in the morning, up and safe on their roosts by nightfall! And the tidy little door shut all by itself! Houston, we have liftoff!

Except for Maximus, who walks around the empty pen, waiting for us to come and talk to him. He fits through the small door just fine, but for some reason he has chosen not to follow his flock. He’d rather wait for me to come out and make my nightly check; he likes to talk to me. He gurgles and grunts low to me, follows me on my feeding and watering chores, stays ever close. “Oh Max” I cry to him in frustration. “You’re supposed to use the door too!” Maybe he needs some teaching like the little ones did. I can’t open the door or I’ll throw off its timing, so instead I open the large door with the diamond patterned window panes (Elihu called it the ‘Shirley Nelson door’ the moment he saw it cuz he said it looked ‘just like the kind of door a woman named Shirley Nelson would have in her house’.!) I pick up my soft, white goose and I carry him across the threshold, depositing him gently inside. “You must go inside with everybody else, Max” I scold. I’m happy to see the little ones have all now found their own spots on the new roosting bars. All seems well. If only the goose would go in on his own. I’m prompted to do some googling on the subject of geese and raccoons – could a raccoon, of which we have plenty, really take down my gander, attitude and all? I learn that yes, he could. So I have a goose problem still. Earlier I’d had too much testosterone in the pen, so I’d placed Bald Mountain on his own in the brooder pen for the week. Sorry, you’ll be ok big guy. It’s still a lot better than being stuck in a tiny cage for the 4H poultry show at the county fair for a week…But what to do with the goose? I’m trying to make it so that ALL my birds go in, roost and the door closes. Period. So the gal who’ll watch them has only to fill the food and water. That itself if enough of a chore. One more dilemma to solve before we go. Geez. Will we go at all? I wonder.

While I try to get every last piece of laundry folded and put away, and while I refresh my bed with a seldom-washed sheet still hot from the dryer, Elihu takes up a corner to help me make my bed as we begin to discuss the Max situation. It is clear that we cannot simply leave him outside in the pen. He will likely be gotten. The only option is our garage. Full of crap, some garbage, much of it not – in fact there are many nice things still left from my mid century life that I need to find good homes for.  But I do not want to come home in a week to find the furniture chewed on, green sloppy goose shit all over the cement floor… but what choice do we have? “Look”, Elihu begins, “it’s not a tiny garage, he’s got enough room. You just have to cover up the nice stuff and make Max his own little area. Wood shavings in that corner by the brooder pen. That’s all he needs. He’ll be fine”. Good lil man. Yes, if we doctor up that one last open bit of garage and make it his, he’ll be comfortable. Leave a fan on. He’ll be ok. And I can put up the baby gate by the door so that when our chicken sitter comes to set out food she won’t get goosed by our goose. (Sweet creature to me, to everyone else he is his master’s protector. )

All the while, my back continues to morph and shift, to become something foreign and new. I’ve had lower back episodes – one or two a year – for the past decade. I always bounced back within a week, nothing was ever any different afterward, and in fact it was all but forgotten by a month out. But this time I blew it, I guess. I went to a chiropractor. Initially , my experience was insightful and educational to a certain degree, but holy shit! That man actually did something to me! I was glad to leave my first appointment standing straight – when I’d walked in hunched over and to one side. But today it is a vastly different situation. I think I’d gladly take back my initial posture if I could get rid of this: I am now asymmetrical, my spine is twisted – as in no longer a straight line up and down – and my back sounds like jiffy pop being made on a stove… almost any movement at all and there’s a crackling sound. No pain, but the sound is new and disconcerting. And that I feel I’m a walking S is weird too. I can do stretches, breathe in deep, visualize my stretch and so forth… but nope. Nothing doin. I cannot straighten myself out. I seem to now have a new problem on top of the original one I’d come in for. !!!! I was so ready to receive this as the wholistic means of treatment and health from here forward…A practice that took into consideration the whole body, stress level,  diet, movement…but in reality it seems much more focused on simply vertabrae related ‘subluxations.’, one of which I believe the good doctor may himself have created. I know I sound a little paranoid here, but I’ve gone from a situation which though uncomfortable, was at the least, familiar, and at best, something I knew how to manage. But this popcorn popping, s – curving back is altogether new to me. What do I do with this? It’s annoying as hell! I can’t carry my bag on my left shoulder because I’m so newly outta whack. Huh? No one told men that new problems would likely pop up…. did they? Did I miss the handout?

Bed made. Kid asleep. Post slogged through, perhaps less intelligible than most, but well, it’s done. Soon I’ll update you on our itinerary. Our plans have changed so many times that to have posted updates as they occured would only confuse. This we know: I will drive us, with my new little popcorn-popping back, to the historic Mayflower II. (We’re smack in the middle of a historic kid’s book about a young boy on a whaling ship – and he speaks of my own mother’s home town, New Bedford, as if it were modern day New York City. It will be fun to see the town so described in the novel.) Yup, we’ll see the ship, then promptly ship out to visit my Uncle Paul and Aunt Sandy. Cousin Rusty seems a lot like my brother Andrew; he’s 50 and still lives at home. He slinks in and out, says very little and what he does remains mostly mystery to his family. Then there’s Janice, his younger sister and my other cousin. While younger than me, she is a grandmother. Yeeks. My paternal grandma had my dad at 45. Janice musta had hers in her late teens. Crazy. But for us, the craziest thing will be hearing ‘that accent’. We don’t often hear people who sound much different from ourselves, so it’ll be fun to be in the area and hear this local accent. Elihu will get a big kick out of it.

We have two decadent nights in Wareham, and nothing but beach and family to fill our time. Oh, and maybe a visit to the Plimouth Town Living Museum where the actors in costume speak as they did some 400 years ago, and where they don’t break character, where they serve food of the time sans utensils. That, we just might go see. Whale watching will have to wait. Money and time don’t allow it this run.

Next, our question is to return home? Or to continue west, via New Haven to New York City. My back pain will likely play a large role in this decision. We have yet to contact our NYC friends with the latest timetable, so friends, if you’re reading, please know things have been tricky. I hope that I may leave it at that and not cause hurt feelings or piss people off.  I’m also aware some may have altered plans on our account. Hope not too much. We’ll ask if you might receive us Tuesday, maybe also Wednesday night?? And Jersey friends, maybe the following two nights with you?

Little time. Lot and lots to do. I think I may even have forgotten how to pack. Hoooo – I’m woozy tired now. I’m gonna go and rest my crackin’ back so tomorrow I can start crackin’ the whip….

 

House Guest June 30, 2012

Elihu’s father is here. He arrived on Thursday, and he leaves early tomorrow. More accurately, we drive him to the airport bright and early tomorrow. Which will be a bit of a feat in that we’ve just had two Fareed-style nights ending way past midnight. I don’t try much to change it; Elihu is so happy to have both his parents in the same place that I let the evening grow later and later, knowing that soon enough it will be a tiny, quiet house again with just we two.

My back is not much better. Fareed says I look like a pregnant woman from the back when I walk. I can either hunch over forward supported by a cane, or lean way back, waddling side to side. Not much room for comfort. I’m almost out of the muscle relaxers my local doc kindly prescribed for me a couple months ago during the last back episode, but thankfully have only to wait one more day for the chiropractor. I admit, I’m putting all my hopes in him. I don’t know how I’ll manage to make our proposed trip if I don’t get better. But honestly, I don’t know how we’ll make it anyway. A few kind people have been more than generous in our travel campaign, but in spite of sending out an additional hundred emails to friends and students, we haven’t received any donations besides those first few, so I’m really wondering how this can work.

And besides, I’m beginning to feel a little sick about my open solicitation for money. Was I too honest? I am poor, but do I need to be so blatant about it? I thought if I likened the gift to the purchase of an ice cream cone it might lighten things up a bit. Now I just don’t know. Without the benefit of a live audience I have no idea how my show is going over. I see the stats and discover that people in Pakistan are reading my posts. Relatives? I think first. Might they help us out? But no – it couldn’t be. The Haques fairly swept me under the family rug when Fareed changed families. (Jill and the boys are welcomed at family gatherings, while my absence has neither been explained nor asked about.) Besides, Riaz has always been the one to send money back home – not the other way ’round. I need to just relax about this. But I can’t! Between my back and students’ summer vacation plans I’ve already lost so much income these past two months. It’s crazy. I made less than half my usual take. So now what?

I’ll ask Fareed before he leaves.  Maybe there’s a soft spot in him somewhere. And I know there’s a cushion of some sort; after all, no matter how broke he tells us that he is, he always manages to take us out to dinner, he seems to have enough for impromtu purchases, admission tickets and such, and he has enough to take a bus and a taxi if need be. Maybe he can set aside his feelings that I’m asking too much – maybe he can for a moment picture his son visiting the Mayflower, seeing a whale, visiting with kids with Achromatopsia, seeing New York City for himself. Maybe. Sometimes I feel a little pang inside when I hear that Elihu has just had another ‘first’ visit to some place significant – and that he was there without me. But I set it aside, knowing that’s not really what’s important, that such thinking is more about me than Elihu’s own benefit. But still. I realize as the parent who’s not a part of much of his son’s life, it’s gotta sting. And to help fund that kind of event – to help make it possible in the first place – that might even hurt a little. I don’t know. But just like I did with you, I gotta ask.

You know how when it rains, it pours? Been a good summer storm over here recently. Thursday night, with back out, Fareed here (oh, did I mention I got pulled over en route to the airport for speeding – then got an additional seat belt violation cuz lil man was out of his seat, having a post-dentist appointment tantrum about not wanting to get braces? Sheesh.) and heat now soaring, I discover that the pipes that evacuate my kitchen skins both ruptured at the same time, and greasy, soapy water came cascading all over my kitchen floor as I stood doing the dishes after supper. Really? Ok. I can take it. Clean it up. Call the plumber. Friday morning the plumbers came. Did a nice job. Didn’t even take long, plus they had positive anecdotal stories about chiropractors. But last night, with a profound sinking of heart, I noticed that my beautiful (remember, it’s all relative, but for me, it is beautiful) laminate ‘wood’ floor began to buckle. And not only that, but small bubbles have formed just under the laminate. Crap crap crap. I allowed myself some bitter complaints last night, but today I will try my damned best to pretend that it’s all ok, and that in fact nothing has changed. And next week I’ll figure out what to do about the $500 plumber’s bill. For now, it’s moment by moment.

I did manage to get out of bed last night to shut all the windows after the house had cooled off. That’s key. By early afternoon the heat will have caught up with the tiny house, and we may have to find a distraction someplace else, but for now it is very pleasant inside. By the time the midday heat gets a hold of the place, we’ll probably be on the way to visit the local aviation museum – which will be especially meaningful for the boys as they have been making a wooden model of a WWII plane (for the past half dozen visits!) and to see the real things will no doubt be inspiring. The air conditioning will be inspiring too, I imagine.

The roosters are crowing, and I am reminded of how hot it must be getting in the coop. I’m going to go and let them out for the day – and this time, rather than keeping them behind their newly installed fence (the original culprit behind this wave of back trouble), I will in fact let them have the run of the place. Much cooler shade to be had in the trees, more cool grass and tasty bugs as well. So off I go, hopefully finding distraction in this and other domestic tasks so that the bubbling kitchen floor doesn’t grab a hold of me as it did last night. I’ll put the rug back. That should help.

Just wish my other concerns were as easy to remedy as throwing down a rug or seeing a house guest off on the plane.

 

Travel Campaign link:

http://www.gofundme.com/q1ke4

 

Back, Soon Forth June 27, 2012

Filed under: An Ongoing Journal...,Mommy Mind — wingmother @ 4:17 am
Tags: , ,

This current episode with my back going out hasn’t wrapped itself up as tidily as it always had in the past. Normally after about a week I’d be back to my old self. Not so this time; I am left with a constant, low grade pain which still makes getting in and out of chairs something of an event. Having been given so very many recommendations by folks to visit a chiropractor, I finally made an appointment to see one this week. Chiropractors have always been sort of a mystery to me – I see their signs all over; quaint little offices in small, once residential houses, practices tucked away in obscure strip malls, nestled in between insurance agencies and tax preparers’ offices in dingy, outdated buildings… seeming, in my eyes at any rate, to be perched on the perimeter of the ‘real’ medical community, doing who-knows-what in those out-of-the-way little offices, a laying on of hands, grotesque crackling sounds emanating from the patient at the final torturous alignment…

In this moment I still see a chiropractor’s office as a strange, mysterious nether world floating somewhere between Western and Eastern medicine and having something of a cult-ish quality to it. This interpretation is all of my own doing, I know, and I’m not even sure why I feel this way. It might stem from my mom. She is the queen of back problems. I asked her if she’d ever been to one. She told me that she hadn’t, and it was precisely because she was concerned it might be a painful and unpleasant experience. I seem to remember her nay-saying the profession a time or two in my growing up, so maybe that’s it… So I admit it, I don’t get it yet – but obviously many, many people do get it; they do know how important a good chiropractor is. In two days’ time I’ll have a new perspective on it. I’m hoping it will be the start of something good. At least I’m being proactive. Yeah, and I’ll also do some crunches once I’m able. This whole thing has me a little more concerned about keeping myself in shape, healthy and pain free. From here forward I’m going to have to be much more mindful of how I use my body.

My immediate goal is to recover my strength enough to make a 1000 mile car trip in July with Elihu. He’s yet to meet some relatives – and he and I have yet to ever take a vacation in fact. Vacations weren’t something my family ever did when I was growing up, nor did I ever do so with my husband (we traveled along with the concerts and festivals. Lovely as it was, it was never a true vacation. Early sound checks and late night jam sessions do not a vacation make). This summer, Elihu is nine and I believe a fine age in which to meet his relatives, take his first dip in the Atlantic, meet some other folks with Achromatopsia – and finally see that big city downstate that he’s heard so much about. ! (As a musician I played NYC fairly frequently – and that was when I was living in Chicago. Now I actually live in New York – but I still haven’t been there. In fact, I haven’t been to the city since Elihu was born. Having kids sure does change all that.)

I need to get myself well and strong, because, as you see, I have an important trip to make. One I do not intend to back out of. Lead on, to the chiropractor’s…

 

Quandary June 22, 2012

Filed under: An Ongoing Journal... — wingmother @ 11:57 am
Tags: , , ,

So, let’s say you’ve thrown out your back. And this time it’s really bad. You can hardly get out of bed, you can’t walk but instead must crawl across the room on all fours. You certainly can’t get in your car and drive. What do you do? Your kid can only eat nutella and toast so many times. At some point you’re going to have to feed him some real food. But you can’t. What do you do? I know – you call your doctor. Right?

Ok, you could do that. But see, your doc only sees you once a year for your annual pap, and what with her hundreds of other patients, she hardly even knows let alone remembers you. You think to yourself that you maybe should have left her your CD as a calling card last time. Might have helped you stand out. But you didn’t, and she doesn’t know who you are. Besides she’s completely booked up. And anyway, she can’t prescribe anything for you unless you come in. Plus it’s a half hour drive to her office. Aah! I can’t possibly do that! I can’t even imagine getting into the friggin car! But oh well. Can’t help ya, the nurse says in so many words. Then she tells me to take ibuprofen and try an ice pack. Ok. Thanks.

It occurs to me that if I could get into the car and make my way down the twisting hill road, I could visit the local emergency room. I don’t know the financial ramifications of that, and it makes me nervous. Don’t want to risk it (however, I’ve yet to file for bankruptcy and might be able to throw that bill in with the rest…?) so I think I’ll just see what the ice does. We’re not an ice-loving household, so I have none. I might have a pound of frozen raspberries…

This sucks. I’m trying to find the lesson here. Learn to delegate? Ask for help? Take on less? Argh. I don’t know. I give myself a couple of affirmations – I am supported, I have all I need – and while yes, I do trust in those things, it kinda seems irrelevant to me right now. I need to get Elihu’s tuition assistance form turned in for Waldorf. I need to get a hose down to the garden asap. I need to go food shopping. I need to pay a stupid parking ticket in person downtown – by today or else it goes up. But I can’t do any of it! I can’t even keep my kid company. Even creating this post and sending a couple of emails has become too much.

Maybe that’s it. I’m just doing too much. I don’t know. But hey – can’t we pretty much agree that if ‘Mama don’t do it it don’t get done’? Not much this mama can do for the moment. Guess I’ll throw in the towel and try and get myself back in bed with a pound of frozen fruit. What else can I do? Not much for now…

 

Back at It Again June 21, 2012

Filed under: An Ongoing Journal...,Farm Life — wingmother @ 9:37 am
Tags: , , ,

Can’t say I’ve actually thrown my back out again; there was no one event which landed me on the ground in a lightening flash of pain, but rather this time it’s been gradual. Each day my back has been springing up in pain at a certain twisting or bending point culminating in a situation today which has me unable to sit in any one position for long or pick anything of substance off the ground.

I know, I know. Core muscles. Yes, got it. I spend so much time fixing things and doing chores and taking care of chickens and kids that it just hasn’t made it into the daily routine. But I know, I know. I should floss, meditate and do sit ups. Yeah. Not quite there. But with this being event number three in the back department in as many months, I’m seriously thinking about a couple of reps in the morning. Doesn’t sound so intimidating. Not when the alternative is walking around bent over like a humpback octogenarian.

I did get a fair amount of work done this week as I slowly worked my back into submission. After having driven eight fence posts into rocky soil (Greenfield is notorious for being very hard to dig in) and having put up some 120 linear feet of chicken wire – complete with working gate – my body was feeling it, but not so much my back specifically. So with no red flags, I continued my work. My new fence was not the success I’d thought it to be when I made my up-beat post about DIY pride. Yes, it was up, no it did not keep the hens in. Oh, initially it did. For about an hour or two. When they first realized their confinement they lined up at the perimeter, staring out at my with big ‘love me’ eyes, pleading to be released. As I would not help them, they helped themselves. Within a couple of hours everyone save Max (too big to squeeze under) was out and about, underfoot and leaving fresh poop all over my front steps once again. This required the big guns. Our neighbor and his dad have a homemade mill, and they were kind enough to not only cut some scraps for me, but to deliver them. Zac even placed the big ones neatly along the bottom of the fence where they were intended. I simply placed down the rest. Not much labor, but again enough to begin to tip the scales.

My hens were now contained – a huge advance for us and one step closer to getting out of here this summer – yet I had more before me. I’d made nesting boxes last fall but petered out of DIY steam and left them on the floor of the coop for the winter. Tired of waiting for some handyman to come to the rescue (this is a busy time and none will take my piddly little jobs. Very frustrating.) I decided I’d just do it myself. So I screwed on some L brackets, then hoisted the shelf up and above my waist – oh oh, it’s getting dicey, I can feel it…  Out-of-shape muscles shuddered to hold it in place while I leaned in with my drill and tried to get them secured to the wall. I did it, and it was something that had to be done. But I do think that was the moment when my back had had enough. I noticed I was unable to stand up straight after that project.

A few more chores later – several trips carrying two five-gallon buckets of water down the hill to the garden, beginning to shovel the year’s poop and litter out of the coop (heavy stuff), washing the grimy walls of my house that face the driveway, moving all the unused tools back to the garage – after these tasks and more, my back has finally had it. Slept last night on a heating pad despite the fact that it was 85 degrees in my bedroom. Felt better this morning, so I know I’m on the right track. And I’ve just about accomplished all that I can do myself. So in the end, it was worth it. I’m used to muscling through things, but what I’m not used to is a body that doesn’t follow my lead. I never thought aging would get in my way. Getting older is for other people, right? Reading glasses? Those are for wimpy mamby pambies… and me. Who can’t open a jar? Can you imagine arthritis so bad that you can’t even do that? Well, yes. I can.

Ah, mortality. I still don’t get it; that I too am being swept down the river. I too am aging. My body is simply not able to plow through life’s tasks without a bit more TLC. Damn. Really? Me too? There must be some mistake. Right? As I make the merest shift in my seat while sitting here, writing, a searing mass of pain stabs at me from out of nowhere, reminding me that it’s all true. Crap. Still so much to do, but alas, I just don’t think I can do it today. I have students coming later; I need to make sure I’m doing ok by the time they arrive. Elihu can amuse himself with his rc helicopters and books, so I suppose the best thing I can do right now is accept my mortality…

…and go back to bed.

 

Back Out March 11, 2012

It has taken me a full forty minutes to get to my computer. And by this I don’t mean that I had to do the dishes or put my son to bed first – I mean it’s taken me nearly three quarters of an hour to move the six feet or so from my bed to this chair. Why? I have done what I am genetically prone to do every couple of years of my adulthood it seems: I have thrown out my back.

While there’s never really a good time to throw out one’s back, this space and time seems almost a better window than most. I’ve just stocked my larder, washed most of the laundry and picked up more antibiotics for my house-bound hen (yes, Molly is back on house rest as it seems I am too). My son is finally old enough to follow somewhat detailed instructions and in so doing help me with things he himself hasn’t had to deal with as yet. Nothing’s that difficult really – but two years ago, maybe even one year ago, I couldn’t have sent him out to the coop after dark to water the hens and shut them in. He would have been too afraid. Tonite he not only did that, but he got us our supper and then helped clean up too. He’s proved himself to be a wonderful partner here on our tiny homestead. Honestly, if he were not here, I might be in trouble. I’m relieved not to be alone.

I was slightly disappointed that my rescuers weren’t familiar with the reference to the bathroom scene in Peter Seller’s film ‘The Party’ when I tried to describe the sadly comic events that transpired in the porta potty where I collapsed. My mother, on the other hand, was in fits of tearful laughter as I retold the story. Now that’s more like it. Cuz really, it was hilarious. And pathetic. I suppose if you’re going to throw your back out, it may as well be entertaining.

Elihu and I had gone to the winter raptor show, held on a farm that sits on the wide expanse of rolling pastureland just to the east of the Hudson River. We’d just seen the release of a snowy owl and had visited many injured and rehabbed birds throughout the morning. Elihu was in his own pure heaven. I had just gotten us our tickets for the afternoon raptor show when I finally managed a moment away to get in line for the bathroom. I had a hunch I’d find a clean porta potty. Birders, naturey and outdoorsy folks strike me as considerate humans. I was happy to find my hunch correct. Peeing was uneventful, and there was ample paper too. No problem so far, but then – in a split second the cotter pin that held the toilet paper suddenly popped off, sending the heavy rolls of paper thudding onto the floor. Eeeks. I gotta get those off the floor – quick. I mean, considering how tidy this stall is, it’s the least I can do, right? So I bend down to pick up the paper and BOING!!! I collapse. Ok. I know how this works. I’m done for, so I may as well try getting the rolls up and on dry land. Oh. Close the seat first. Ugg. Ok. Gloves, yes, use your gloves to set the paper on. Where? Not a lot of real estate here. The corner. Ok, paper saved. Now what? Pants. Not quite all the way on yet. Crap. How can I do this in a squatting position? Oh man. Ok. Pull, twist, shimmy. Ok. Button done, that’s off the list. Now what? At least I can make a grab for the cotter pin while I’m down here on the floor. I see it, I reach…. TWANG!!! Shit. Oh man, really?

I considered briefly trying to keep my dignity intact, telling myself to muscle through this. But the strange thing about having one’s lower back ‘go out’ is that often other muscles seem unable to step in and take over. In fact – I find that I’m weaker than ever before in these post-trauma windows. It feels as if I haven’t used my body in months. Literally, it is impossible to stand. Really. And so I make up my mind – as I honestly haven’t any choice about it – and reach up for the latch. The door opens, and I literally spill out onto the muddy ground on all fours. As all modesty goes out the window when you’re in labor, it also heads for the hills when you’re in this kind of discomfort. Thankfully, the same considerate folks who’ve left me a clean porta potty are the same considerate folks who come rushing to my aid as I crouched there, helpless.

The kind people I met helped me up and into a folding chair. And so for a time I sat there, only a few feet from the door of the porta potty from which I’d recently emerged. I heard a few folks within earshot referring to the ‘lady who threw out her back’ as they pointed in my direction. Later a few of us joked that I might set up a card table in front of my chair and make myself into a proper booth. Maybe folks could even have their photos taken with me. Might help to pass the time waiting in line.

I sat for a while til an earthy sort of man eating sunflower seeds from the large pockets of his woolen coat came up and asked if I needed anything. That was kind of him. Course there’d already been a good amount of kindness expressed towards me in the time I’d been sitting there. A pair of older ladies and I had had a good chuckle about it all, and as they turned to leave, one had asked if she might pray for me. I’d thought she meant later – perhaps at day’s end she might remember me in her petition of nightly prayers. But no, she meant right then and there. So I humbly accepted. She leaned in, laid her hand on my shoulder and offered up a vigorous prayer in a surprising sotto voce. Now this man came asking if I had a hat, or if I was too cold, or if I needed him to get my car. Did I need anything at all? You know, sometimes you just gotta call it as it is. No point pretending you’ve got it all under control when you don’t. I told him that actually, yes, I might like having my car. It was not too far, and would be easy to find as it had a green flower on the antenna. And so I gave him my keys. I turned in my seat to watch him go, but turned too far. I winced in pain and allowed myself another tear. As I cried, I realized that my tear might as well have been for gratitude as it was for pain. How grateful I was. How lucky, how blessed, how grateful. I concentrated on breathing and relaxing. Not too long after the man had gone, he had returned and was now skillfully backing up within inches of where I sat. He and two of his friends helped share my weight as I got into the driver’s seat ever so carefully.

The next hour I was treated quite regally. And Elihu, too. We befriended a family who owns raptors and does shows throughout the area. They were so kind as to take him and sit him right up front in the tent with the bird shows. He wouldn’t have seen anything had he been just a few rows back. He ended up spending a good long time there in the tent as I sat in my car, enjoying warm air and the company of new friends. The gal whose birds were in the tent show offered to do some Reiki on me, and another woman who also does healing came to join in. Again, I was humbled by the generosity and help of people I hardly knew. Yet in that we were all joined by a love of birds and nature, it wasn’t entirely surprising. I continued to meet people in the next few hours and enjoyed several conversations in which I ended up taking notes, so that I might later seek out certain books, homeopathic remedies and other bits of useful information that might help me with my back issues. (I googled mind/body reasons for lower back issues as soon as I got home and the first thing that appeared was ‘worries about money’. I suppose I didn’t need to search for that one, huh.)

On the ride home Elihu had to learn how to pump gas. At first the gasoline sprayed out all over him and he cried – so I tried to come to his aid, but couldn’t make it. There I crouched, at the pump, getting a bit meaner and bitchier than I should have, when a man in an ancient car with a ladder on top drove up and asked if I needed help. I guess he kinda thought I might need him to call someone for me, because he looked a bit taken aback when I asked if he could help me into my car. I introduced myself and thanked him. Truly, I couldn’t have gotten back in – not at least in the next thirty minutes – without his help. We drove the scenic and hilly roads back to Saratoga, which felt a bit like arriving in Manhattan after all that countryside.

Soon we were back in Greenfield. It’s quite true that I don’t get out much, and so our day away from home gave me new eyes of appreciation as we approached our tiny corner of the big world. I longed for comfort, but dreaded how I would ever get out of the car and actually into my house. I remembered that my mom had some sort of prescription pain reliever, so before we went home I stopped in at mom and dad’s, where Elihu ran in to get me a pill. It was my hope to take it now so as to mask the pain I’d face trying to get up the stairs to my house. Finally, pain pills now on board, I drove us home and pulled the car in to the very bottom step. It was not easy, but I made it.

Only a week ago I’d bought a walker at a thrift shop, thinking how it might help dad get to the mailbox this spring. He had been inside all winter, and walking was becoming insanely tedious for him. I knew he had to get up and out, and so I snagged the collapsible walker for five dollars. Little did I know that it would come to my own rescue. As dear Elihu couldn’t find where I’d stashed it in the garage, I called a neighbor to help. Within minutes she was popping the cold metal frame into shape. Even with the aid of a walker it was tough getting around. After a while I was able to lean against the sink in order to finish the dishes there. We ate, cleaned up again, then began to get ready for bed.

I’m almost done. Almost. I might have been able to call it a day at that – but for one final event. In spite of my having added a dozen or so gallons of kerosene to our tank over the past week, we have tonite finally run out of heating oil for the season. Thankfully, it’s not super cold. Just medium kinda cold. So with the dawning awareness that the heat had not come on in the the hour since we’d come home and had turned it back on – we realized we’d need the portable electric heater. And we’d need to share a room. So we are tonite pretty much as we were one year ago – huddled together in my bedroom, waiting out a cold, March night. I myself can find no position which gives relief, and moving even an inch is a huge affair, so here I sit, typing, postponing the inevitable. But I’m done, my story is told, so I need to go and figure out how this sleep thing is gonna work.

Back out indeed!