Friday, December 12, 2008

Walking notes

Just the simple act of standing up and walking has assumed a somewhat tentative, dubious nature for me. After the most recent stroke, I notice a deficit of natural balance, standing and walking.

Walking doesn't quite seem so spontaneous. I am noting that the beginning motion basically consists of falling, just slightly forward or back. This shifts the center of gravity, and starts a natural rhythm of alternating the feet in sequence to keep on balance.

Well, I am not performing this little dance quite as spontaneously as I would like it to be, these days. The biggest problem I encounter seems to result from a diminished sense of orientation. I cannot tell when my body is inclined to start falling forward, or back, until I actually start moving. It doesn't feel like anything. But I can see when things start to move. (With my eyes shut, I am helplessly lost, and I fall almost immediately, even trying to stay stationary.)

So, often my first step moves my feet, but my upper body is not leaning the right way in anticipation, and I start to fall. Most often, I tip over backwards.

I have usually been able to recover quickly. I guess I have had enough practice, by now. But it is with an uneasy lack of confidence that I navigate, now, carefully. And with excruciating slow pace.

My associates with the Forest Service were often impatient with me because they thought I hiked too slow. They ought to see me now!


Anonymous said...

Be sure to keep your eyes open, then! ;)

Jim Cobabe said...


One of the problems I have is getting up at night, in the dark, to go to the bathroom. An old man's weakness. It isn't really that dark, but enough to leave me disoriented, making the trip to my own bathroom. Fortunately I have a few night lights around, and the round trip is short. Lots of things to lean on.

pgk said...

Here are my walking notes for today.

When I started out, temperatures were, I thought, in the low 20s. I was glad I zipped my fleece jacket into its shell, converting it to a parka, and my new gloves proved themselves handy (heh—couldn’t resist).

As I said, there was no sitting around today, only constant movement. This is noteworthy because, early last spring, I suffered repeated knee injuries. I haven’t been able to walk more than about a mile for three-fourths of the year and hardly went out at all last summer. I worried I had gotten myself into trouble that only surgery could get me out of.

Toward the end of summer, I discovered I could start going out again if I didn’t walk too long. I was able to reach the cliffs of a nearby canyon where often I found myself still in the middle of the wildlife action but able to protect my knee by resting it as I watched eagles, ravens, hummingbirds, lizards, and insects play with gravity.

One of my household duties is to wheel my special needs child around in a wheelchair prior to feeding her and then again afterward. The knee injury made this task painful, but then I hit on an idea. What would happen if I wheeled her one way for five minutes, then reversed course and wheeled her five minutes in the opposite direction before the knee began hurting? My husband was skeptical, but it seemed to me that if I shifted the strain before my knee started hurting, I might be able to build on any progress I made and heal more quickly.

Sure enough, it worked, and within three weeks I was able to negotiate the rough trail down into the canyon and make it back up the 400-500 ft. climb, something I hadn’t dared attempt for eight months. I didn’t go out for a couple days after that, but I didn’t need to. I could see that if I were wise, I would advance toward my goal of being able to walk longer.

This morning’s walk was a test, a 2-3 miler built of ups and downs, during which I moved along steadily. Only a couple times on uphill climbs did I have to stop and jiggle my knee to relieve pain and snap whatever parts come loose in there back into place. So there’s still a bit of a problem on up-slopes that bend the knee at a particular angle. Eventually, everything stayed where it ought and I completed the walk easily. I have high hopes that by spring, or next fall at the latest, I’ll once again be able to take harder hikes.

This experience reminded me of a lesson I learned over and over as I tried to help my daughter make it out of the destruction she suffered and find something of a life for herself. Sometimes, sometimes, seemingly intractable, inscrutable problems have simple solutions. You put in the time and do the work.

Some problems have more complex solutions, harder to find. The challenge is not to mix one up with the other.

When I came home, I looked up the local temperatures. The KSL "Weather Center" listed Blanding at 18 degrees -- a low (which is also a new high) for me.

Now it's snowing.

Jim Cobabe said...


Appreciative for your comment, as ever.

Lots of snow is falling in this valley tonight. I don't have to get out and plow the roads, though -- one thing to be grateful for. Stay in, keep warm.

pgk said...

Just came in from shoveling our 12-16 inches of snow (a lot of drift in our yard, so exact measurement isn't possible), which was only supposed to amount to an inch of snow. I'm glad it's dry snow. I'll send the kids out later to finish the job.

So I won't be going out this a.m., though the pinyon-juniper forest beyond the field behind my house looks lovely, dark, and deep. Haven't got the right equipment, so too bad for me.

How much snow fell where you are, Jim?