Walking with Jade

A day of the most perfect weather yesterday. My favorite mix of warm sun with continuous episodes of cloudy coolness stirred in with the gentle heat. These are the kinds of days I most enjoy being outside. The temperature is changing quickly up and down the scale all day long as the larger, heavier cloud masses blot the sun, and then suddenly flee from view. About the time my skin is signalling for me to put on a sweater, the glow of a generous spread of light convinces me to leave the sweater off. This all-day play delights me to be out and in it and be a part of it. I believe another similar day lies just ahead today.

I have hired a helper to come and give me a hand with a few outdoor chores that I can’t get done very efficiently on my own. I would rather do them myself than stand about and direct someone else, but my peripheral neuropathy gives me fits when I start moving too quickly, and so I have had to learn to either delegate, or if nobody is around who is willing to be delegated to, then I must just let the activity go undone, which has become my habit. In my own mind and my own estimate, I feel as though I am being lazy by not indulging in greater physical activity. A fall this past winter, however, when chasing the dogs I babysit from time to time, has given me an ache in the gut that continues to nag me two months later. I twisted some deep tissue area in my lower back.

Neuropathy is an odd condition to have to learn to live with. My feet always feel numb and heavy, so when I am walking they are dragging and scuffling the ground, and I don’t receive enough sensory input to realize I am doing this. The only way I can walk with assurance that I will not soon be falling flat on my face is to walk slowly, intentionally lifting my feet off the ground, and watching to be careful that when I step down that my feet land flat and even. When I walk on uneven ground or encounter such things as cracks in the sidewalk, my ankles may buckle, or my shoes may twist without my awareness, and bring me quickly to the ground.

The property I’ve been keeping up for 40 years is beginning to show this serious neglect because of my inoperabilities, so the helper comes and I pay him to help me to reduce what has most obviously been neglected. Yesterday we re-potted old planter boxes and wine barrels with new potting soil and a truck-bed full of thriving young plants from the local wholesale nursery down the road. Today we will continue operations, at least through most of the morning.

Before the neuropathy paid me this long-term visit I was such an active person. Settling into a life of inactivity or a seriously slowed-down style of living has been more of a challenge to me than surfing in big waves or sailing in strong wind. Having to find a different outlet for all the energy that pulses inside of me has been an experiential adventure. I’ve had to learn how to replace physical with more placid activities.

I carry a piece of Big Sur jade in my pocket. It is about the size of a pocket knife. It is just heavy enough and cumbersome enough that I can sense its presence in my pants pocket. In only the month or two that I have been carrying it, the calcium deposits on it have worn smooth, so that now I can see the beautiful green and black marble-like texture of the rock itself. I carry it because someone suggested that it might help me remember to be careful when walking around, a hint at remaining mindful of my condition, especially when there is a chance I might fall.

From what I have read from others, unless one has the painful variety of neuropathy, which I do not, it is easy to forget about one’s limitations, which is what can cause the problems. The impulse to get up quickly from a chair and take a few steps, for example, when the feet are not in synch with the brain, can bring me down flat on my face. So I learn to stand from a sitting position and step slowly at first, until I find a rhythm in movement that I know will allow me to stay upright.

Making something that is annoying into a part of my daily awareness and practice has been an on-going challenge for perhaps six or seven years. The first year the neuropathy was not severe enough to cause me to stumble. It just felt weird to not be able to feel my feet very well. About the third or fourth year is when the numbness began to spread and cause me to walk awkwardly. The sensations can vary widely from one day to the next. Some days I hardly notice I have it, but it is still there regardless. Carrying the piece of jade with me reminds me to go slow anyhow.

The house was rather quiet this past week while the wife left town for a visit with her sister. I knew it would be an opportune time for me to synchronize

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