RECUPERANT’S POEM — P.T. yet again…

Foot(e)bridge to Bull’s Island from Lumberville, Pennsylvania, in another season:

Table View Black Bass Autumn 2010

NJWILDBEAUTY readers must be wondering at my long silence in this blog.  Normally one of my most gratifying creative outlets, ==and a major part of my mission to urge people to pay attention to Nature, enjoy her, and save her–, doing a blog has been the farthest thing from my mind since February 18.

That day, a meniscus (right knee; we have four – what is the plural – menisci?) tore for no obvious reason.  Pain sharp as the venomous bite of a striking snake zoomed up and down my right leg, which then refused to work.  My chiropractor and my co-writer friend, Pat Tanner, had to meet me at my car at his office and my home, near Pat’s, to pry me out.  Or I’d be there still!

A meniscus has very little blood flow — therefore, it is prone to tearing, and not prone to healing.


cfe kayaking I B b and wh IMG

Barnegat Bay – Birding by Kayak – Heaven on Earth

In 2011, I set foot(e) into physical therapy with Princeton Orthopaedics, to return to the world and especially to kayaking, after my brilliant hip replacement with Doctor Thomas Gutowski.  My physical therapist – which process I have since insisted is as important as the surgery — was the perfectly named John Walker.  He’s the miracle worker, who took me kayaking upon Lake Carnegie four months after the surgery.

John knew that Dr. Gutowski had asked my surgical goal – (did you know there was such a thing?–) at our first meeting.  Dr. G did not laugh when I immediately announced, “To return to the kayak.”  In fact, he discussed my paddling preferences, later inserting a kayaker’s hip.

John Walker then strengthened all those long-underutilized muscles around the new joint — through three lengthy weekly sessions for a very long time.   One spring day, I confessed, most shamefacedly, that I’d planned to kayak that weekend, but had been afraid to do it alone.

[I, who do everything alone, like move to Manhattan straight from my convent school; like managing a Test Kitchen at 21 years old at the corner of forty-second and third; liuke move to Provence so I could spend my fiftieth birthday on my balcony overlooking the Mediterranean.]  But I couldn’t face LEAVING the kayak alone, no matter how blissful my paddle may have been.

Confession led to John’s saying, “That’s because we’re to do it together.”  And we did.

There wasn’t a soul on that lake, that still April evening.  We paddled through a Tiffany landscape complete with mountains (Watchungs?) I had never seen from the towpath.

As sunset approached, a great blue heron marched toward us at the forest edge.  That normally vigilant bird was not the least disturbed by our presence, since kayakers are part of the water.

Brenda Jones — Disturbed Great Blue Heron — Trenton Marsh


Never, however, did I consider entering those physical therapy doors again.

Guess what — we have to heal this meniscus tear and prevent any in the other three.  I have been returned to John to work on hamstrings and glutes.  I protested this week, “Those strange names are not part of my upbringing.  I don’t want glutes!”

“Carolyn,” John explained, in his traditional avuncular manner, “You HAVE to have glutes.  Especially for hiking…”

OK.  So now I don’t even have time for yoga.  Just glutes, hamstrings and core.

I’m sharing my newly relevant protest poem from five years ago.

Yes, it’s a blessing to be back in John’s capable hands.  He and my wondrous Hopewell chiropractor, Brandon Osborne, chronicle and celebrate improvements I am too dense to perceive.  Progress is being made.  But those rooms and those contortions used to seem like being kidnapped to go on the road with a circus!

With their vigilant approval, I was back on the alluring foot(e)bridge over the Delaware to Bull’s Island twice last weekend. Pileateds and phoebes announced spring.

Next foot(e)prints – The Sourlands Trail off Greenwood Avenue.

But I do not take back my discomfiture over all those months, following those strange directions:




in this

room full of premature blossoms

I perform exercises

on the heels of ‘total hip replacement’


March sun suffuses whiteness

that one day should be pears

as I am handed stretching bands,

assorted weights, one bolster

and a ball


here, serious playthings promise

flexibility, stamina, gait

— and possibly– kayaking


relentlessness conspires

with absolute lack of privacy

throughout my fitness attempts


outside, blossoms yearn

for pollinators’ essential arrivals


inside, –completing yet another

“two sets of thirty”–

I perceive flowery profusion

through a tall bright curve

of ivory spinal column


vertebrae and blossoms

my new reality





Dappled Sourlands Trail, off Greenwood Avenue, Hopewell

Dappled Sourlands




Hawaiian Lei of Double Orchids

Hawaiian Lei of Double Orchids

In the 1990’s, I was asked to read my poems on Hawaii to a friend’s class at Chaminade University.  Little did I know that her classroom was on Pearl Harbor.  I had been a child when that horrific bombing took place.  It was December.  I had a newborn little sister, soon to be part of our family Christmas that year.  It was the Christmas that never came, –our beloved America having been attacked, the world at war, so many wars.

U.S.S. Arizona Burning, Pearl Harbor, 1941

U.S.S. Arizona Burning, Pearl Harbor, 1941

We were all taught, as the South Pacific song insists, to hate.  Especially to hate Hitler, Mussolini (“was a meanie”) and all the “Japs.”

When you’re that little yourself, those teachings go deep.

No way could I have imagined taking steps onto Pearl Harbor, let alone to read poems (some of which were anti-military, as in “when are we going stop bombing Kahoolawe?”), to soldiers, –to men and women in uniform, at that sacred site.

Hawaiian soldiers taught me, in that room, in that class, “We don’t bomb Kahoolawe any more.  Each weekend, I lead a detail, removing materiel from the island….  When we are finished, we will have a healing ceremony.”

So my poem, with its longing to wrap the stafed, yes wounded, exposed red flesh/soil of that beleaguered island in white gauze, to comfort her, brought a happy ending.

The next morning, my friend (Bernadette Thibodeau, a year older, with whom I’d grown up in Michigan) and I returned to Pearl to make our own ritual visit to the Arizona, still beneath the waves, still holding its dead since 1941.

The black and white films of the bombing did not work that day.

We filed out of the theatre into searing sunlight, joining a long and silent line of mostly Japanese men.

They were all wearing leis.

Hawaiian Lei of Green Leaves

Hawaiian Lei of Green Leaves

No one spoke.

We walked onto the memorial above the doomed ship.

U.S.S. Arizona Memorial at Pearl Harbor

U.S.S. Arizona Memorial at Pearl Harbor

The Japanese moved, one-by-one, to various parts of that structure.

Each one, alone, observed a time of silence.

Then each one removed his lei and softly tossed it onto the waters.

Hawaiian Plumeria Lei

Hawaiian Plumeria Lei

The leis mixed with rainbows from still-leaking oil.

My healing with regard to that country, whom we so wounded, commenced as those leis began to fall.

Diver Touches Drowned U.S.S. Arizona

Diver Touches Drowned U.S.S. Arizona