Sunday Opinion: Rehab

 You would think agreeing to a knee replacement would be enough for anyone to sign up for, wade through and get up and out of bed in spite of- not so.  A brand new knee joint does not in and of itself constitute a rehabilitated knee.  That titanium gizmo may be a miracle of modern medicine, but it has to settle in, get situated, make friends with the cut and mightily insulted quadriceps muscle-and be persuaded to work. It has to extend the leg in question out straight-all the way out straight.  It has to flex. 90 degrees to climb the stairs-93 degrees to stand up.  106 degrees to tie your shoelaces, 117 to lift things-and 135 degrees to properly take a bath.  As I am fond of taking a tubby, I know what I have to do.  135 degrees of flexion means you can just about do anything you have a mind to.  At this writing, almost four weeks after surgery, I am at 112 degrees. I have a ways to go before I am climbing up into the Sprinter to go to market, and hauling 1 gallon pots around.  Can you hear me sighing?

I have never been all that good at self improvement.  No matter how many times I tell myself I do not need one more book on any garden related topic, new books appear. I buy my books on line now-it is criminally easy to do.  William Stout Books in California is a treasure trove of great books on design and the arts. Just reading about their books on line is great winter entertainment.  Amazon-I should just turn over a paycheck to them at Christmas time.  I buy books-to me, from me.  Powells Books, Timber Press, Hennessey and Ingalls, Potterton Books-my list of places to get in to trouble is long. I am an incorrigible offender.

I cannot walk past a plant that needs water, and direct someone else to take care of it.  Should I go to photograph a client’s summer pots, and they need water, I put the camera down.  If there are plants at my shop flopped over from having gotten too dry, I will drop whatever else I am doing, and water.  If I am really hard pressed for time, I will carry the plant to someone for immediate relief.  Early in our relationship, Buck would watch me come home to dessicated pots.  He would try to reason with me.  With complete and kindly confidence he would assure me that the pots were in no imminent danger: I should put down my things and relax a little before the evening chores.  When I brushed him off,  briefcase in one hand and the hose streaming water in the other, he would roll his eyes, and mutter under his breath.  None of this from him ever rehabilitated me-he gets started on the watering now before I get home.  Peace in our time.

For at least twenty years straight I planted columbines. Who wouldn’t love to have Nora Barlow in their garden?  Aquilegia flabellata alba-gorgeous.  The chartreuse foliaged version whose name I cannot remember-I am sure I have bought at least 50 of them. No matter how many times I told myself to just say no, I kept buying them.  It is very tough to just admit that some living thing just doesn’t like you.  Enroll me in rehab all you want, but I will probably keep buying columbines. 

I am a designer who speaks my mind-sometimes before I know it’s happened. There is no rehabbing this characteristic; I think I have the gene.  I furthermore think I have little interest in being reformed.  But my age is in my favor, whether I like it or not.  Luckily it is much harder to sustain righteous indignation for too long the older one gets. I like to think I am much less rough around the edges. Eleanor Roosevelt once said that that beautiful young people are accidents of nature, but beautiful old people are works of art. I find this is a good goal, practicing the art of the two way street. My interest in landscapes-designing them, building them, looking after them, is a trump card I will play against my own propensity to get out of hand, should I need to.  Clients are very much a party to what I do; I treat them like company.

I might be willing to consider the notion that one could become rehabilitated via repeated exposure.  How many times have I stretched out, and closed up that leg to the best of my ability since coming home with this new knee? I am sure the number has to be in the zillions.  My efforts today are a little bit better than yesterday, and lots better than four weeks ago. 

 This experience has reminded me of an exchange I had with my Mom forty years ago.  I woke her up in the middle of the night to tell her I could not go back to college and finish.  Who knows what reason I gave her, or why I found it necessary to initiate conversation at 2am.  She simply said that whether I finished what I had started or not, that decision was not going to make any difference in how she lived her life. This included the fact that she was going back to sleep; if I wanted to stay up all night and mull the thing over-fine.  I recollect an instant attitude rehab.  And I did graduate, by the way.

Gardeners are not just gardeners.  They are motivated, driven-impelled by an instinct to make things grow. I like this about them.  Not being able to negotiate the leap up into the Sprinter come spring will affect no one’s life but mine.  Given this, I have taken ownership of this rehab as if it were the best thing I had ever been given.  As for the columbines, I think I will give them another whirl this spring.


  1. I have so enjoyed finding your blog. Your writing is thoughtful and great reading.
    I hope your return to full mobility comes soon.

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