We had a snow, a respectable snow even by non-Floridian standards, and it was magical. Snow is beautiful, beyond its stunning visual display, it sounds divine. The noise it makes is almost imperceptible. The gentle patter of microscopic crystals stacking one on top of the other forces you to stop and take notice, begs you to embrace the cold.
Following our snow was a succession of sunny days and freezing nights that ensured we would have at least an entire week covered in ice. By the end of that week I’d counted a half dozen times where I’d put my foot in the wrong spot and come perilously close to landing on my ass.
I had a hike planned at the end of that icy week, what was supposed to be a fun march through the woods with some fellow homeschool moms. No kids. No distractions. No worries. Nearly a dozen of us, free and unencumbered and set loose in the forest.
Our hike was an hour north of where I live. With this tricky leg of mine I worry about hills. I worry about snow. I worry about ice. So, you could imagine how I was feeling about the possibility of all three. But I felt safe in the knowledge that almost all of the ice around our area had thawed and the temperature that day would be nearly 60 degrees.
As I drove into the state park I noticed banks of snow along the roadside along with occasional patches of ice. Driving further in, I saw that part of the lake was still frozen. Slowly winding up the hills, my car rolled past trailhead after trailhead marked in bold red letters, CLOSED.
I made it to the end of the line, the last trailhead, and found my group happily waiting in a circle for the last of us stragglers to appear. I could hear their fits of laughter as I opened the car door. Letting my leg drop, I also heard the crunch of snow underneath my foot. This hike was going to be more challenging than I had anticipated.
As it was the only trail open, the Lake Shore had many visitors. Some had two feet and many had four. This was a five mile loop with a shortcut clearly marked at the halfway point. If my leg and I needed to quit we could. That wasn’t my intent, of course, but with a leg like mine it’s always nice to know I have the option.
It was clear from the first steps that we would be dealing with melting ice and snow and their inevitable aftermath, mud. If my bum leg wasn’t bad enough, I also lacked some of the hiking experience that a few members of our group had. Couple that with periodic steep icy inclines and descents and I was kept consistently at the end of the line.
It’s always a blow to my ego when my body can’t produce what my heart and mind envision. It can be argued that blow is a blessing, but that epiphany usually never surfaces until after I’ve had a tantrum in my head. Move faster! Work harder! Why can’t you be more like them, more like you used to be? Why can’t it be like it was?
Then, if fate and common sense collide, it will finally dawn on me. It will never be like it was because it can only be what it is. This leg doesn’t work anymore like it did. It hurts. It aches. It is ever off kilter. My back is pained and wrenched. My knees creak and pop. And that’s just how it is.
Once I swallowed that pill, and what was left of my pride, I forged ahead. It took a commitment to honoring my body the way it works now, remembering those lessons taught to me by the physical therapist just a day after my surgery. Take it slow. Be methodical. Inch along if you have to. Lead with your good leg on the way up, bad leg on the way down.
I made it up, around, down, and through. I slogged through snow and mud, took care to be steady on ice and wet leaves. While I came close a few times, I didn’t fall once. With a newfound respect for all my body does for me, even in its broken state, I was able to speed up the pace. By the halfway point I was able to stay with the lead pack and declined the forest’s generous offer of a shortcut.
This leg doesn’t work anymore like it did. It is a never ending source of pain and limitation, but it does function in an almost magical way. Despite my missing flesh, it has come together cohesively to allow me the grace of steps. They are sometimes clumsy ones, slow and awkward, but in a sense that’s a gift. I am never able to be haughty. I am forever reminded of what was once taken away.
I am broken. Busted up. Never to be the same. But it’s an honor to be in this body. I’m impressed by the steps it’s able to take. It’s not pretty, not easy. It’s sometimes unforgiving and unkind. This body is slow, often cumbersome. And it’s magic. And it’s mine.