Friday, February 6, 2009

The Good and Ugly

So, a bike accident a week ago Friday wasn't fun, but in spite of surgery to remove a haemotoma squishing my poor old brain to one side of my skull, my literal and figurative vision has sharpened.  However, even with a cast protecting two broken bones in my left hand, this blog is way too long.  My affliction of trying to include every thought and image that occurs to me remains intact, so, my second failing of apologizing too frequently is given lots of room for scope here.  Sorry folks, but on this, my 62nd birthday, I feel the need to express appreciation for the good people, animals, birds, plants and other things in my life.  I was going to title this post, "The Good, The Bad and The Ugly", but after some thought, couldn't find anything bad.  There will probably not be much dispute about the ugliness of the final two pics, but I'll leave a little space and give lots of warning for those who prefer to skip that portion of the post.  

First, Bill.  I took this photo of him as we walked in the forest yesterday.  He suggested in August that I start a blog, and I sometimes wonder if he has ever regretted that advice.  I always appreciated him, but man, that has grown to thankfulness almost beyond my power to express, over the past week.  We've been together for only a year and a half or so, and I really thought I was perfectly happy before we met, but now, I can't imagine life without him.  Since this accident, he picked up my bike, took it to the shop, picked it up again, visited every day in the hospital, brought food, corresponded with and thanked people from both my real and virtual worlds, talked with doctors and studied CT scans, gave countless massages, listened, encouraged me to be me, looked after Black Jack, shopped, cooked.....  The list feels endless.
Yesterday, he took me into the woods.  He walked Black Jack with her 4 leashes tied together (even though that isn't his normal way), let me commune with nature, posed for pictures (even though he is not comfortable with his own image), untangled Black Jack every few minutes, and just generally was his sweet, gentle self.
Here, he holds Black Jack while I do the untangling duties.  Bad pic, but look at the little smile on his face.
He continues to cook and shop, as he has done for more than a year.  The first night home, we had fresh pineapple and kiwi for dessert.  Let me count the ways?  Not possible!

Next, Mali.  She was behind me when I ran into the blackberry bushes on the causeway after the LIons Gate Bridge, heading into Vancouver.  In many ways, she has taken the brunt of the trauma for me.  She was a good friend and greatly respected colleague before.  I'm challenged to describe how that bond has deepened over the past week.  This photo was taken some months ago, when the weather was warm, and I think it shows both her inner and outer beauty.  She really wants me to stop snapping pics, but she knows how much I enjoy it, and she wouldn't for a minute, detract from my pleasure.  Hence, the big grin, but with a "please stop" look in her eyes that I easily resist, because Mali is nothing, if not forgiving.  Let me try to count a few of the ways!  Mali saw me get snagged by the brambles, watched as I lost my, if I do say so myself, calm struggle to gain control of the bike, saw the bike leave the sidewalk, saw my head and body bouncing rather horribly around, and followed my temper-tantrum walk for at least a kilometer, while I marched on, feeling little if any pain, refusing to acknowledge her existence, except to mutter indicipherable complaints and orders over my shoulder,  and boiling because I could feel my lip's instant expansion, and assuming my worth-a-fortune dental work was all lost.  I had dragged Mali, dead tired on a Friday night, out of our teachers' workroom sometime after six o'clock, where she spends more hours than possibly anyone else on staff.  We were heading to The Blenz coffee shop for a latte, and then planned to meet Bill at an Indian restaurant, where I hoped to treat her to a long overdue birthday meal and the three of us would go to a 10 o'clock showing of "The Class".  I had been excited about our plans, and was not the slightest bit impressed with the bushes nor with my cycling skills.  I apparently marched on at an excellent pace, while she called Bill to suggest he meet us somewhere near Chilco Street, the first logical spot, I thought, for a motor vehicle to make a stop.  By the end of the walk, I fully understood that getting back on the bike was not an option (it travelled straightish, at some insistence from my injured left hand but really wanted to head left).  I also was reluctantly entertaining the idea of a hospital visit for my hand and mouth.  As we reached Gilford Street at Alberni, a taxi was just dropping someone off, so Mali made a decision to lock the bikes, call Bill (who was stuck in Friday night traffic trying to reach us), ask him to pick up the bikes before meeting us at the hospital, and grab the cab to get me to the hospital.  I was somewhat impressed with the quick attention I received at St. Paul's Hospital, and Bill arrived shortly afterwards.  He and Mali watched as the emergency doc arranged for hand and leg x-rays, and then casted the two problem fingers.  The three of us left the hospital, Mali elated that my injuries weren't worse, and my mood still quite foul at the thought of six weeks in a cast, and not assured that my teeth would be okay.  Mali tried to give me her scarf, which I refused.  I found it yesterday in my pannier.  Just as we got in Bill's truck, planning to drive Mali to her home in East Van, the headache hit.  I remember moaning and saying I felt I might die (I don't think I really believed that, though), and promising to return to hospital, if only we could get Mali home first.  I really felt horrible that she had had neither birthday dinner nor movie, and wanted her to get a start on a better weekend as soon as possible.  My memory fades at this point, but Bill has filled in some details.  I passed out, getting out of the truck, and Mali remembers the doctor  who admitted me, and sent me on to VGH, being quite unkind to her, suggesting that she didn't recognize the seriousness of my head injury.  Bill stayed on to talk with the doctor and has a more favorable impression of him.  They studied the CT scan while Mali accompanied me in the ambulance.  I remember none of that trip.  Bill headed home to take care of Black Jack, while Mali stayed all night at VGH.  Her supper was a sandwich delivered by her brother, and she had no bed and little or no sleep.  She was traumatized, exhausted, and still thinking of me.  She informed people at my school, arranged for a sub for Monday, and visited me every day, bringing my favorite meals, sitting and gazing at my right eye, which remained swollen shut for a couple of days after the surgery.  I, in the meantime, slept in a morphine-induced fog for several days.  No comfort there.  While the owner of my school and another very kind colleague visited, Mali was called upon to keep conversations going while I slept about 88 of every 90 minutes.  I saw her there, appreciated her love and care, but so wanted her sad eyes, and poor tired face to find some rest.  Monday, she had posted to my blog, stayed in touch constantly, visited Capers, discussed brain-healing supplements with staff, purchased the most highly recommended one, and still put in a full day's and subsequent week's work.  Tuesday, I woke to see her sitting by my bed, sometime after 8:00 pm.  She had biked the same causeway route, wanting to check out the offending bushes.  Mali is a friend of the highest order.  I love her.                

The rest of my appreciations are in no particular order, and will have to be more brief, if I'm ever to appear at my birthday dinner this evening.  One is work/music and colleagues.  The picture below was used for a card with messages from the staff.  I had planned to keep work out of this personal blog, but have to make an exception, realizing how much I miss it! That picture is of yours truly with some students and a Victoria Symphony trombonist     who was one of several musicians to do three-day clinics with my band students last summer.  The kids and I have incredible memories of that trip. The owners of my school are very. very supportive, as is my principal.  I will keep it to that, but my gratitude knows no bounds, and I am eager, beyond measure, to return next Tuesday.

Another of my appreciations is family.  Below is my sister, Sherrill, and her husband Don.  They live in Ottawa, and may kill me for these photos, taken two Christmases ago.  Sherrill would have been here in a minute, but like Mali, is overworked and overstressed with all the demands of work, family and home life.  Fortunately, Bill was able to convince her that things were well in hand here, but I must say, I did love our phone conversation, the first day I returned home.  In this photo, Don is showing her his new glasses, and in her humorous and impish way (qualities I love in her), has just modeled them for him, giving them both a great laugh.
My sister and I share a love for all animals.  Zoe, adopted from the spca, is at the left.  Tova, her daughter's dog, also a rescue, is inspecting Zoe's ears, a habit Zoe seems to appreciate.  Zoe came home with more than a few "issues", and my sister returned her a few days after adopting her.  She then cried for several days, and her son finally insisted she go back, pay the adoption fee all over again, and bring her home for good.  It is a credit to my sister that Zoe, still with a couple of small issues, is a happy, well-adjusted dog, who will never want for a home again.
Again, I may be killed for this, but it's one of my favorite shots of Sherrill, because it brings back the impish laughter that is part of her soul.  We were playing Tiddely Winks on Christmas night, when I captured and came to treasure this expression, one I remember well from her wildish childhood escapades.
Black Jack fits under family.  This isn't a new picture, but it's pretty much an exact representation of her attitude when she met me as I arrived home after a few days away.  She loves Bill, and was just fine without me, and I have come to wonder, sometimes, if they make the most perfect of pairs, but she let me know that she was delighted to welcome me back into our clan of three.
And, The Wicked!  I love their lattes.  We've already been twice, since I arrived home Thursday!  No more to say there.
And: new family and cycling rolled into one.  Glenys (Bill's niece) took time to bring me this post card, which has sat on her mantle for some time, and which she and Paul love.  It represents Paul's racing bike, painted bright orange, and named "Orangey".  It reminded me that this accident is just a small hitch in my love of cycling.  Glenys and Paul are musicians, dear people, new parents to Oscar, and they accepted and warmly welcomed me into their lives.                                                       

And, more new family.  This card came from Phyllis, Bill's sister in Winnipeg.  She and Barrie (parents of Glenys) also welcomed me warmly into their lives, and I love them for it.  They love music and literature and good food, and travel and I guess you could say, life.  Their son, Behan, married to Cheryl-Ann, living in Gananokue, Ontario, also sent me kind wishes, and I really must get Chery-Ann's web site linked to this blog, because she does incredible work with teenage girls and self-image.  The post card (taken in Imo, Nigeria), links my thoughts to Mali and her work in Kenya, and reminds me of how much we take for granted.

Last night, these flowers, arranged and photographed by Bill, came from Jen and Neville, parents to Cooper, and creative, sensitive, fascinating souls.  Their blogs are linked at the side of mine, and really merit investigation by anyone interested in parenting, uprooting to a new province, photography, as well as any lovers of all things connected to Hallowe'en and to Alice Cooper.  I so enjoy having these three as a part of my new family.

And, neighbors.  I've mentioned my dearly loved ones just East of our house.  These Primulas were delivered by the dear lady of the house and her six-year-old (i think) granddaughter.  Again, these people have welcomed me and made me feel comfortable in the neighborhood.
They also invite me to admire their garden and birds, and take pics any time I desire.  I don't know if the pink flowers below are new buds, but no matter.  They add color and beauty to my surroundings.  I should mention my neighbors on the west side.  I haven't come to know them as well, but again, have been invited to photograph their beautiful garden, and birds.  Yesterday, in the bike shop, I met their daughter, a cyclist, but also doing her Masters in   Occupational Therapy at UBC.  There was such warmth and empathy in her eyes, as she asked about the accident, and I felt comforted to know there are supportive and caring people all about me.
Here is a less than inspiring picture of buds (again, in my East-side neighbors' garden), but as Spring arrives, I am reminded of new growth all around me, and have to add that to my Good list.
Kids.  There are quite a few of them in my life, and I sure do appreciate them.  This art arrived with the Primulas and I really enjoy it.  

Check this one out.  (Same artist)  Birds singing, sun, trees, even a flower petal taped to the page.  I'm thinking a couple of parent birds are delivering food to the little ones, but not sure of their conversation.  Guess the artist has spent a fair bit of time in her grandparents' garden:) 

Birds!  I love them, but you know that.  On Friday morning, before the accident, I stopped by the heronry at Stanley Park.  For the first time, I could see the nests clearly (no foliage).  Below is an example of one of the better-built nests (non-expert opinion).
This is the nest I watched, containing Stanley and Sue.  it looks less sound.
There were at least eleven other trees containing as many or more nests than seen in this one.  Stanley and Sue's nest is all the way to the right, at the top.
Geese (more birds) flying near my school in North Vancouver, taken the afternoon of my accident.
The next seven photos are of pigeons and seagulls, taken Wednesday morning, on the steps of the hospital.  Any regular readers will know that I also love crows, but I didn't manage any crow pics that day.  This part of my post requires that I tell you about two other good friends, Kitty and Jock.  I will not put a picture here, but will see them tonight at my birthday dinner, and ask if i might post some one day.  Kitty visited me several times in hospital, each time bringing healthy and delicious food.  Here, she sat, throwing bits of her pasta, so that I could snap photos.  She is another of those friends that I barely know how to thank.  She spends so much time thinking about her friends, I might estimate about 5% of her focus actually makes it to herself.  Jock is a cycling enthusiast, chose my bike, repaired it more times than I can count, makes me laugh, and is just a gem.  I count myself very lucky with friendships

As for pigeons, their colors, intent eyes, patterns, soft coos and lack of shyness are just a few of the things I love about them.   

This fellow was quite approving of Kitty's pasta.

I photographed these two through my hospital window on the 5th floor.
This one watched me check out the heron nests at Stanley Park, that Friday morning.  He finally stomped off, maybe in a bit of a huff.  He made me laugh.

Sunsets.  I took this by the school, before leaving, that same Friday.
Beautiful views.  This one from my 6th floor window, after leaving the IC ward.

These next three taken from the same window.  I never did get to see a helicopter landing on that landing pad probably a good thing. 

***THE UGLY***


Bill took this.  He asked me to smile, and I tried my best.  The swelling is still pretty bad, although my right eye has finally opened.
The stitches.  I hope to get them out on Monday.  They are ugly, no question, but I've come to find them rather beautifully done.  Thank you, Dr. Akagami.  You did well, and I appreciate you for coming on a Friday night to give my brain space to breathe.  I owe you big!!
Lastly, but not leastly, I need to mention my new virtual friends.  Special mention to my two most regular readers, I think, dp and Jean.  They've commented, suggested, encouraged, and just generally given me the feeling I'm writing for and to someone.  They have noticed and read with a critical (in the good sense) mind and empathetic view, and I am so very appreciative of their input.  There are several other blogs that have given me inspiration and bloggers who have been kind.  I am out of time and energy, but please check them out in the links at the right side of my home page.  This blogging world is fun, and I hope to be a part of it over the long term.

So, it comes down to thanks and appreciation on my 62nd birthday, with no bad, and only a smidgen of ugly.  I guess it doesn't get much better than that.


  1. Lord have mercy! I fall behind on my blog reading and this is what I catch up on? Holy hell woman! I am really glad you are okay. That must have been oh so scary! I will send you good, warm, healing thoughts.

    Or I can send you Tweed. Your choice!

    :) Get well soon!!

    The Food Lady

  2. Happy birthday, Carol. I can't tell you how glad I am that you are up and around to enjoy it. Yes, the stitches are ugly, but so much better than the alternative.

    My favourite of today's images is the snail. I think someone is telling you to ride a little slower when you get back on your bike. I had three (THREE!) mochas today and thought of you each time.

  3. Happy Birthday Carol. I'm so gkad that you are up and at it again. I've been thinking a lot of you.

    If you are not at back at work for a while yet and need something to read, I'd love to pass along a book to you that I think you might enjoy. It's called "The Book of Edgar Sawtelle" by David Wroblewski. I picked it up on a whim and ended up being entranced by it. It's a story of a mute boy growing up breeding and training dogs with his family. It was a goooood read!

    Rest and recover. And by the way, I think your stiches are pretty great! (really!)

  4. Happy, happy birthday, Carol. I am so glad to see you are back to blogging and getting out and about. Regardless of the bruises and the stitches, your smiling face is a very welcome sight.

    And if Food Lady is willing to send Tweed to women who fall off their bikes and get bashed up a bit, then I'm buying me a bike!!!! Oh Tweeeeeeed.........

  5. Oh My!! Those stitches make me cringe and shiver, but they are quite beautifully done. They were about what I was expecting so I wasn't shocked. Only you would be up, around and blogging so soon after such a serious injury. Remarkable!
    Loved most of the pictures. A couple made me howl. (with amusement, not delight or pride) I do think I won the Tiddly Winks game, if I recall correctly.
    I see some swelling on your temple still. What did the doc say about that?
    Happy Birthday. I love and admire you.

  6. First off Happy belated birthday Carol!!
    And Im so glad you are better and it looks like your back in good spirits which makes us happy! Wish we could be there to give ya a big hug!

  7. Happy Birthday Carol! I didn't realize it was your Birthday on Friday! I'm so glad to see you back online and feeling a bit better. Your post (of course) brought a few tears to my eyes :) It is quite beautiful. I love the honesty of your blog and how your beautiful spirit shines through in every post. Good luck tomorrow getting your stitches out... it looks and sounds like you went through quite an ordeal... it says a lot about your character that you are able to always remain so positive and see the beauty in everything, even your stitches :) We sincerely hope you are feeling better and hope one day soon we will be able to come back for a visit!!
    Lots of Love, Jen

  8. Happy birthday, and a speedy recovery to you, Carol!

    That was a nasty fall, but it seems to me that it's your indomitable spirit and loving, caring family and friends that got you through. And that IS turly "Good".

  9. Thank god you are OK! What an ordeal you have been through. You seem to have taken it so calmly. No doubt this spirit has helped your recovery. You have an amazing joie de vivre!
    Happy Birthday!!!!!!!!!!!

  10. Carol, check your email. I sent you some pearls of wisdom. Well,perhaps more like pebbles but words nonetheless.
    Note for Phyllis: I write my comment, however inane, I check Anonymous and then hit Publish. You've most likely tried that but there's my "techy" tip for today.

  11. Yay, you're back!
    Happy Birthday!

  12. You are the most amazing and remarkable women I have ever encountered ...what more can be are missed around here! Love you xoxox B
    Happy belated bday!

  13. Who except Carol would spend 5-6 hours the week after surgery on the brain writing a blog - to say 'thank you' for things in her life? Wisdom must be linked quite strongly to gratefulness I think, and Carol you've got plenty of both!

    There are many things I could say about Carol's resiliance and positive spirit... seeing her go through such a terrible ordeal & come through it with dignity and gumption - wow. I hope I can learn from her positive spirit.

    I love you Carol! And STAY HOME FROM WORK, that's what sick days are for!!!

    (and a note about the (second) St Paul's doctor - he did a great job, just scared Bill & I with the sudden news that this was a life-threatening injury - for a brief time, about 30 very scary minutes, they actually thought they had detected a broken vertebrae in the spine as well!))

  14. BC, thanks for the good wishes and kind offer of Tweed. Maybe just a temporary loan? Black Jack plays really well with 99.9% of the dogs she meets. A play date combined with photo shoot, maybe?

    Thanks, dp. I told the artist you liked her pic best, and why. That made her smile.

    Cristina, thanks for good wishes and book recommendation. I am back at work, and reading two books sort of simultaneously, but will look that one up (it sounds right up my alley, as my mother used to say:), as I get closer to needing material to keep me out of trouble. Stitches are out now, but they appreciate your approval:)

    Jean, I'll do what I can to put in a good Tweed word for you, but don't rush into the bike thing. My sister highly recommends trikes and football helmets:)

    Thanks, Sherrill! Stop worrying now. With the amount of sleep I'm getting, no time to find trouble:)

    Yeah, Nev, a hug would be nice; I can just about feel it from here. Some coaching/suggestions and camera recommendations would be great too, but I'm not so stupid as to the think the camera will make all the difference. I"m still in awe of your talent.

    And Jen, I am feeling better and loved your comment. Will look forward to a visit! Loved pic of you and Coop reading, and video of ball game too!

    Thanks to those who admire my spirit, but if you had to live with me, you might send those comments to Bill instead! And then, there's Mali - talk about spirit!

    HB, thanks. Like your blog. Will check it out more often as time and stay-awake power increases.

  15. Now I understand Carol why you are an incredible wildlife photographer! You have so much practice doing it! Plus you have that wonderful 'eye' that enables you to 'see' what is important.
    Oh your poor head/brain! Amazing how we head-injured folk appreciate and value what we see around us. Well, maybe not amazing at all.