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  • Writer's pictureJohn R

Breaking Better

I broke my leg. Yeah, I know. Boo-hoo. Last year you broke your thumb just one week before the annual Fourth of July accordion competition at the county fair, so you too had trauma but yours was worse. Everybody’s got a story, and when you crutch around with a leg cast you get an earful of everybody else’s tales of historic woes.

This is mine.

It happened during the summer, just as the plants were getting all sparky and muscular, with broad, sun-soaked leaves, hardy stems, and happy early-season blooms. The weather was sublime. I was out daily doinking around in the beds and shrubs, getting after weeds, spreading mulch, cleaning out debris, whispering endearments to tender shoots. For Schiddygarden, things were looking spiffy.

Then one day I went walking on a riverbank on the pretext of being a fly fisherman and I slipped on slick grass and my fibula went snap! In a heartbeat I was flat on my back staring up at the sky thinking, Hey God, WTF? as a nauseating pain started to take hold. What a way to ruin a decent morning.

Morning schmorning. It took a big chunk out of my entire summer. Couldn’t bike, hike, play pickleball, or drive a car, and gardening was restricted to holding a hose and watering the one little area I could manage to reach while standing on one leg. On the bright side, I wasn’t able to dig in the dirt and as a result my fingernails had never been cleaner.

Sure, I know. Buck up. Do the PT. Stop asking Deb to Please pull the horseweed out by the front fence and stake the pepper plants and remember to mow the lawn before noon. And maybe while you’re at it water the hostas and oh yeah hand me the pretzels. Please.

But after a generous helping of self-pity (and not wanting to exhaust Deb’s supply of patience), I began to look for some fresh perspectives. Nothing earth-shattering—not that I’m capable—but what became apparent as I sat outside (with my leg propped up to facilitate edema-draining) were ordinary, everyday vignettes that were curiously satisfying.

Perhaps it’s not what we see, but how we look.

First, apologies. No doubt these images would have been more compelling if taken by a photographer of talent and skill. Sadly, that was not the case.

It doesn't get more mundane than this, does it? In the moment, though, as I sat on the patio searching for a silver lining, there was this slice of sky with its wispy clouds and happy branches framed by a roofline and the edge of a patio umbrella. This view pulled me way out of the doldrums.

I looked over and this squirrel was hanging out on a branch sound asleep. By the time I took the lens cap off and turned on the camera and attempted to get everything in focus he (she?) popped awake and gave me the stink eye as if to say, Wadda you lookin’ at? Then she (he?) took off. It wasn’t exactly viewing lions on the Serengeti, but that afternoon, it was close enough.

This is definitely an Eye of the Beholder perspective, but amidst the tangle at the back of our property, our violet crepe myrtle, usually obscured from view (bad planning there) made a noble attempt to make itself known. It's such a feel-good plant that I hobbled over via crutches to say Howdy! and grab a one-handed shot.

From the low angle of sunlight on these coleus you can probably tell this photo was taken during happy hour, can't you? Cheers!

Now four months after The Break and with autumn settling in, the smoke tree is showing off and I'm getting ready for pruning, planting garlic, and being upright and crutchless. Sometimes the way forward just takes time, physical therapy, and keeping an eye out for the bright side. It's often right over there.

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