Monday, July 10, 2006

Bonfire for the Crutches

This weekend, unable to contain my curiosity any longer, I hobbled my way up into the garden, to see what damage had been inflicted by the Inexorable Forces of Nature during my medically-enforced hiatus from the world. I had not visited my vegetable children since early June, when the surgeon's hacksaw made an ordinarily routine uphill foray an impossibility.

What I saw horrified me: The IF's of N had wreaked utter havoc on the beds. Weeds three feet high and as thick as a rainforest choked the watermelons, the cucumbers lay under a canopy of festering dandelions and clover, the radishes and spring onions were unrecognizable, and I can't even begin to describe what had happened to the herbs without bursting into tears.

Understand: I had worked like a desperate pig in the days preceding the hip-surgery in hopes of avoiding exactly this discovery. On the day of the procedure, there was not a single plant out of place. Between the rigidly disciplined rows of asparagus, strawberries and rhubarb there lay nothing but black soil and a light dressing of bark mulch. That sucker was shipshape. I had expected to see perhaps a little decay, a little entropy, but this -- this....

Something had to be done. Gingerly, carefully, I laid aside my crutches and sat down in the foot-deep grass and began to pull the worst of the damage out of the cucumbers. No. The position was clumsy, unbalanced, untenable. I had to be on my knees. Very tentatively I raised myself to a kneeling position, favoring the healthy leg. Worked for a bit. Yes, this will do.

After an hour's work or so, I realized I had worked my way several feet from where my crutches lay in the grass. I stood up, my plan to hopscotch over and retrieve them. Then a wild-assed thought occurred to me: Try walking!

So I did. Put the bum leg out in front of me, plunked the foot down in the grass, put some weight on it. The heavens did not open, hellfire did not rain down upon me, and my medico's dire warning of cracking and snapping bone, insufficiently healed, completely failed to materialize. And perhaps most wonderfully surprising of all, it didn't hurt. Took a step. Took another. And another.

I continued to live.

I walked all the way to the house. With each step, I could feel all this Bad Craziness, this accumulated misery, this crust of karma that had congealed around my wounded and incapable body sloughing off and wafting away in the wind. Fuck me, I can walk again!

Now, yes, you'll be telling me, but the Doc said you have two more weeks on those things. Aren't you pushing things too fast?

To which I snap my fingers. I had an appointment with the man this morning, and I ruefully confessed that I had begun walking -- against his express orders. To my mild surprise, he was completely and unreservedly encouraging, and told me that if I was walking I was for all intents healed, two weeks early. Lose the crutches, he told me. Challenge the hip now. Do whatever you like -- gently -- as long as it doesn't hurt. Take a walk. Ride a bike. Work in the garden. Go and sin no more, my son, for you are healed.

It's damned nearly impossible to convey how happy this makes me. While I'm no triathlete or mountaineer, I am a fairly active guy, and a month's imprisonment, during which my leisure hours were spent moldering in front of the television or reading, during which the simple act of carrying a small object from one room to another was an ordeal involving logistical planning and contingency strategies, during which I couldn't so much as go shopping or walk the dogs, wore on my nerves and depressed me. There's nothing so enervating, so emasculating, as forced helplessness.

The first thing I do, I hold a bonfire for those goddamned crutches.

PS: I'm gonna miss the Handicapped spot in the parking lot, though. That was cool. The temporary sticker's good through September, and I may just still keep those crutches around for the hot days in the Costco parking lot. You, me, lamppost.
PPS: In the same spirit, I just shaved off the beard. Miserable, itchy thing.


Employee of the Month said...

Weed out thy Vegetable bed and walk, indeed. Hockaloogia! He's cured!

Anonymous said...

You could use the crutches as a trellis for your favorite climbing vine....

treepeony said...

Poet Maxine Kumin says she owes her vegetable garden to the NYTimes. Her plan works. You pull or cut down the weeds, lay down four sheets or so of newspaper, cover it with your light mulch of bark, and there you are. No weeds in my garden where the papers lie. They hold the moisture, stifle the weeds, and let the blessed flowers and vegetables grow. Tomato plants five feet high today and heavy with fruit. A quart of blueberries from two high-bush plants dug in last year.

Kevin Wolf said...

Ah, yes! More proof of the power of prayer! Hallelujah!

Jeremy said...

You have to be a poet to use newspaper mulch? Sheesh. Seriously though, Ned, welcome back to the land of the hobbling. And, indeed, of the clean-shaven.

Gadho, that's feels good sir.

XTCfan said...

Glad to hear you're up and at 'em again, good sir. That said, don't push it, okay?

I raise my glass and say tozdfl!

Anonymous said...

I have two words for you:

Landscaping cloth

Great for keeping those nasty weed creatures at bay. Saw this recently on the Victory Garden. Plus I use it in my flower beds, only with mulch over top.

Congrats on being able to walk crutchless again. My significant other recently had his ACL reconstructed (left knee)... so is also in the clutches of crutches. Observing him as inspired a few amusing ideas: a series of paintings: "Nudes on Crutches." And a new bedside how-to manual: "Hobbling while Hobbling."

Anonymous said...

Let's hope Floyd Landis does as well as you! Congrats!

Will Divide said...

No yams in the patch pointing out your horticultural shortcomings? Maybe next year.

(It's been bothering me for days: What did the candid yam say to the fried potato?)

And, sorry, Maxine Kumin is not a poet. It is a very strong spice.

Neddie said...

Oy, that Floyd Landis article. Oy, oy oy. His femoral ball is halfway collapsed, and he's living with the pain. Christ. Mine hadn't even *begun* to collapse and it felt like roofing nails being driven in there with a power hammer.

Will investigate the newspaper/landscaping cloth angle. Question: How do the *good* plants grow through the cloth when the *bad* plants can't? Do you rip holes in the cloth when you plant the seeds?

treepeony said...

How do the *good* plants grow through the cloth when the *bad* plants can't?

If you planting seeds,put the papers between the rows of seeds. Later you can move it between the plants if they're far enough apart. If you use seedling plants that are already growing, cut X-shaped openings in the paper that are big enough to accomodate the plants. Don't use polished paper or colored advertising supplements. I prefer newspaper to landscaping cloth because the latter is an expense, while the papers would otherwise clog my house and refuse bins, when they could be improving the soil. Also the idea pleases me that words are nourishing the food that nourishes me. Both bark and paper leach some nitrogen during decomposition, but when that process is over the nitrogen is restored.

You don't have to be a poet to use newspaper mulch, but being a poet makes the telling a lot more interesting. I think I read Maxine Kumin's essay that mentioned the method in one of the Houghton Mifflin anthologies of Best American Essays for the year.

Anonymous said...

"Question: How do the *good* plants grow through the cloth when the *bad* plants can't? Do you rip holes in the cloth when you plant the seeds?"

You prep the soil, then lay down the cloth. Then cut holes through the cloth where you want to place the plants... or clusters of plants. This works for a lot of types of veggies... although things like lettuce or others that tend to spread... you may have to improvise how you use the cloth.
If you are starting with seeds... you may need to sow the seeds, then as the plants grow, then apply the cloth around them.

Anonymous said...

I have to second employee of the month and also say -- Hockaloogia!!

Can't help it. I like that word!!

Glad you're getting better, Jeddie.

Anonymous said...

What's this, now? Neddie was healed, magically, by a garden of weed? Let the "crutches" burn all night long!

Jeremy said...

My final word on the paper vs cloth thing: For veggies, landscape cloth is a waste of money, because the spacing will be all different next season, most likely. So I used paper in the veggie garden and proper cloth in the perennial beds.

Anonymous said...

I find the cloth to be a pain in the ass and not always effective after a short while. Thick mulch, newspaper or shredded woody stuff, at least makes weeds easy to pull. Your post still has me smiling. I love the Candid Yams post. And I'm thrilled for you that you're up and on your feet. I'm a runner with a chronic illness so I'm up and down a lot. When I'm up I'm an Amazon, baby. When I'm down . . . I watch movies. Keep at it. And thanks for the great blog.

Tom said...

Huzzah! He strides the earth like a giant among regular guys!

As satisfying as the thought of holding a marshmallow roast over the pyre of your crutches might be, please consider checking to see if a local charity can make use of them.

Neddie said...

Tom: Actually, they're aluminum and won't burn, and considering the backsliding my leg's been doing the last few days I may hang on to them for a bit longer.

But your point is taken, and when I do get rid of them, I'll give 'em to somebody who needs 'em.

Can you believe dogaduoo?

eRobin said...

Two weeks early! You are a modern miracle and no less! And gardening already? Amazing.

Amid all the hallelujahs, which are well deserved, I will put a word in for your doc. I know people who have lived in constant pain after their hip surgeries. I am related to a man who had to have surgery a second time with another, better, doctor after the first one did such a bad job that he was worse off than before the replacement.

So kudos and a few hallelujahs to your doctor, who must have known what he was doing in there. Bring him a bushel of whatever you can salvage from your garden.