Fall Photo Walk, October 14

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This week we’ve endured one of those Ohio hairpin turns of weather. The temperatures ranged from 87 to 36 degrees. The leaves aren’t quite ready for a massive change, but sugar maples well exposed to sun on curb lawns are well into their color changes. Some tree canopies on forest margins have already shed their leaves.

I did a fall photo walk last weekend, too, but I wasn’t pleased with a single picture. Such displeasure is an occasional hazard of photography. It’s like a bad hair day, a phrase I seldom hear nowadays, as if we as culture had conquered that problem, despite evidence to the contrary.

As for other flora, some wildflowers still linger. There are purple fall asters who didn’t yield to my lens in their disorder. Some wild sunflowers persist as well.

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Almost Fall Photo Walk, September 16

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Signs of early fall defy the persistent heat. Our neighborhood ice cream stand has closed for the year, and the canopies of trees are starting to change color.

The morning dew made the flowers of tall grasses just as beautiful as any garden specimen.

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Summer Photo Walk, July 28

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This morning I traveled to Kendrick Woods to see how the wildflowers are faring. We’ve had unreliable rainfall and higher than average temperatures throughout most of the summer this year, so I expected the wildflower prairie to look a bit different this year. As expected, the prairie was not quite as abundant as I’ve seen it in the past. However, there were plenty enough blooms to justify the trip.

Now is the time the wild sunflowers reign. Different varieties will take their turn blooming until the first frost. I also spotted some dame’s rocket and wild indigo, whose pods will age into purple-black before summer’s end. I looked up the red wildflower and found that is called Silene virginica, or fire pink.

Summer Photo Walk, July 8: Color

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While I lingered along with the trail to get some B&W images, I also took some of my usual color photos. The light is beautiful, but I am tired of the heat. We’ve had a frigid winter and a hot summer. I’m longing for the milder heat of late summer and early fall.

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Summer Photo Walk, June 30

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This morning I went to one of my favorite places, McLean Teddy Bear Park. I hadn’t been there since the middle of spring. While I don’t visit there as often as I’d wish, it’s good to know that this beautiful, serene place is waiting for me should I find the time to get there.

This morning I spotted the hind quarter of a fairly large buck as he slipped away from the parking lot. The sight of him made me wonder how such large creatures can hide so well in a county where more than a 100,000 people live. A few of them are bold enough to open the curtain of their lives to us for just a few moments at a time. Just last week a doe walked along my sidewalk as if she were a woman pleased to be the first one up for a morning walk. When she saw me, she sprinted away noiselessly, as no human can do.

I think I hit a lull in the local wildflower season this morning. There were a few bergamot left, along with a stubborn spiderwort in belated bloom. The prairie isn’t quite ready to explode in variants of wild sunflowers whose blooming will endure until the first frost.

There was also a vigorous orange milkweed, the same one that eludes a good capture year after year.41297142690_36ac588785_k (1)42390129084_845f79dc72_k (1)42203750645_ea118e5445_k (1)42203610115_58c231e20d_k (1)28239474647_1addd1e37d_k (1)

Nothing Ever Changes Unless There’s Some Pain

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Spring is well into its eruption of green and blooms. Once again, it’s been entirely too long since I last posted. I actually took these photos a fortnight ago, but I haven’t gathered the will or candor to post them until now. The previous sentence begs the question of why should honesty enter the equation of creating a blog post with nature photos? This oddity arises because this blog is also an open diary of sorts, and I feel that failing to disclose parts of my ongoing problems would be a lie of omission.

I continue to struggle with chronic pain, and I suspect that I have partly alienated key people in my life with my complaints about it. I can take enough of their perspective to understand why some people just look at me with stone-still faces as I talk about my nerve pain or migraines. They can’t solve this problem for me. Nerve damage is not something that can be fixed like a flat tire.

There’s also something to be said about the notion that thinking about pain is not helpful. I don’t think it’s possible to talk about pain without thinking about it. Reflecting on pain can intensify the sensation of it. Perhaps my conversations about pain tend to become monologues because people might think being supportive of my talking about pain will lead to me thinking more about it and hurting more. There’s an innocence beneath such a perspective. You are lucky if you’ve never felt pain so omnipresent that it could not be ignored. Since I think of lyrics entirely too often, this sort of aforementioned innocence reminds of some lines from “These Days” by the Foo Fighters: “Easy for you to say . . . your pride has never been stolen.”

Speaking of lyrics, the borrowed the title of this post hails from “Goodnight Song” by Tears for Fears. There are bits of treasure to be gleaned from pop culture.

Another gem I remembered this week hails from “I Wish You Well” by Tom Cochrane (who, btw, also wrote “Life is a Highway”): “She wants her space to feel love and be angry.” I’m still angry that pain erupts in me every single day, like a toddler who tantrums again and again for toys that might have been bought if not for the fit thrown. There are few certainties in life aside from birth, death, and change. I’m mad because I don’t want my life to change.

I loved the character and substance of my days in the decade before this mess happened. I loved that I had become a morning person, that I had conquered my fatness (a problem which has returned btw, but not entirely). I loved binge-watching British mystery shows while riding an exercise bike or elliptical machine for the entirety of a series (I’d watch the show for 30 to 45 minutes at a time). I loved my small feats of strength, such as carrying the better part of a trunkload of groceries in one trip.

I’m beginning to consider that the sort of life I was leading was both a denial and intuitive treatment of spinal issues that had been brewing for years before their diagnosis. Weight loss is a good conservative treatment for spinal degeneration. Losing 130 pounds did make me feel better, but all the while I ignored important signs. It is not normal to awaken five nights a week due to leg cramps. It is not ordinary at all for weight loss to restore sensation to a knee that was apt to go numb when doing any significant standing or walking. This era of my life now seems to be an extended remix of the sort of denial that can lead a woman to fail to realize she is pregnant until she is in labor. Wasn’t there a show about this phenomenon called I Didn’t Know I Was Pregnant? I remember seeing an episode of this series wherein one of the women said she was mystified by pains that were “growing stronger and longer and closer together,” until her baby crowned.

I recall laughing heartily over that woman’s surprise childbirth story. I thought, holy shit, how can you be of childbearing age and not equate pain that gets stronger, longer, and closer together with labor? I now know that life is full of such willful ignorance. We bury all sorts of deception and pain until we’re ready to deal with it. There are times when we’d rather not add up signs of betrayal or know what that pain means. We don’t want to stop just yet and open the door to that which must be reckoned with eventually.

I’m lost in charting a course in how I must change to cope with my chronic pain. Should I pursue a cure when some of my previous attempts seemed to be worse than the disease? I belong to a Facebook group for people who’ve had spinal fusion surgery. I’ve noticed that many members have written that spinal fusion surgery was the most painful experience of their lives. In all honesty, I didn’t think it was exceptionally painful compared to other surgeries I’ve had. Actually, there have been times every day this week that I have felt worse than I did in the days after that surgery.

I suppose it doesn’t help that my affect is rather flat through all this. My Midwestern stoicism is very deeply ingrained in me; I seldom look stricken when I’m in pain. I suppose that it is hard to believe me when I mention that today I felt worse than when I was in labor with my daughter, even if that is a true statement (and I had back labor for 44 hours, half of which I endured with no pain medicine).

Here are the diagnoses on my chart at my family’s doctor’s office:

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There are several chronically painful conditions on that list.

My chart at the local orthopedic center has a bit more detail:

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I don’t know how I could keep this mess to myself, to spare people the details and reality of such pain, without being a fundamentally dishonest person. I am the sort of person who has almost no mental real estate for keeping secrets, and all of that space is reserved for secrets that belong to other people.

Lately, I’ve heard that I must be blowing this struggle out of proportion, for I’ve been through worse in the past. For example, people will mention that it must have been harder to leave everything behind but a couple suitcases when my daughter and I relocated 2,000 miles away during her infancy. I assure you, dear reader, that my past struggles were very easy indeed compared to what I face now. Nothing is easier than quitting, no matter what the consequences of doing so. Through quitting, you take the power of choosing the outcome, even if the result is awful. Quitting is not an option now. I must bend without breaking to keep everything in place, no matter how bad I’m feeling.

I will close this post with images of this season’s enfolding growth, and I hope that my mind, body, and spirit begin to reflect this renewal.