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The Hawk's Nest

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Linda in Assisi, photo by Ernie Hawks Linda in Assisi, photo by Ernie Hawks

The life of a knee

Her knee hurts; not constantly, but often enough she has to consider it as she plans activities. Even with planning there are still times she has to stop  what she’s doing and ice it, and she is sometimes not able to start again.

The surgeon reported a worn out knee that he needs to replace completely, so my wife has a date with an orthopedist in early January.

In January, that time of new beginnings just after the winter Solstice and the holiday many people call the beginning of a religion, she will have a beginning with her new knee.

The knee that hurts is not a bad joint; in fact, it has served Linda very well. It played softball on the neighborhood diamonds of Cleveland, Ohio many years ago with friends and siblings. There were days of walks and swims on the beaches of Lake Erie and shopping, downtown, on Euclid Avenue or going to the top of the Terminal Tower.

It danced at hops and proms and, as a young lady knee, it walked the halls of hospitals caring for others—some who were having knee surgery. That knee walked campuses at Kent State and later at Metropolitan State in Colorado until she let it carry her to a profession as a nurse practitioner over 30 years ago.

Trekking through the Rocky Mountains of Colorado it explored vistas and waterfalls, ridges and valleys, developing a love for the mountains. That love was rivaled only by a love of walking on ocean beaches, letting the surf roll in around her, sometimes as high as the knee.

This wonderful knee supported pregnancy and parenting as it carried the additional weight and walked the floors rocking and soothing a crying child. Playing, crawling on the floor, helping build theatre sets in high school and dancing at Ana’s wedding were some of the many adventures of motherhood.

Linda knew to take care of herself as she teaches others to do the same, so there were many hours spent in maintenance, doing yoga for flexibility and strength, as well as massages. Maybe this is how she was able to get by longer than many professionals thought would be possible.

She knew that “taking care of it” with rest only would not allow her to live her life fully, so she probably pushed its limits a bit. And perhaps, it also helped keep her leg strong.

That is why as the knee wore; it still worked in exam rooms caring for others. It still hiked in the Canadian Rockies climbing steep trails that traversed below glaciers until the winding path reached the top and crossed the ice fields. The knee walked along lakes beneath a canopy of sub-alpine fir and stood for hours watching moose, elk and bears as they browsed. Fields of wild flowers were irresistible as she put light, gentle tracks among them.

One summer she made sure that knee got wet in the Atlantic Ocean at the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay, and later by wading in the Pacific Ocean.

The following winter it walked in the steps of St. Francis and St. Clare on the steep, winding cobblestone streets of Assisi, Italy. Standing in a crowd of thousands the knee celebrated the beginning of a new year on the San Marco Piazza in Venice, discovering new friends in spite of the language barrier.  

With her knee she helps the thinning of our forest and brings in several cords of firewood. But the care for the knee wasn’t always strenuous. It also experienced the love of a good book or enjoying fellowship with friends on our deck watching the flickers and nuthatches vie for space at our feeders and patiently waiting until she can watch the wild animals getting drinks in the back yard. Holidays have been spent relaxing with family and friends sharing meals, gifts and love. Plus there was the support of sitting, often cross-legged, in meditation and contemplation.

Now that the decision has been made, it is time to get even more strength into those muscles around the knee to help the healing process. Exercises directed by a physical therapist are magnetically held to the refrigerator door, and each morning Linda leans against the kitchen island lifting, bending and swinging her legs. While she looks forward to the new knee, she expresses her gratitude for how her body and the “old knee” have supported her thus far in her journey.

This may get us in trouble with some neighbors, but we would like a good snowfall for shoe shoeing before she goes in for surgery; her physical therapist said it isn’t likely she will get any in afterwards unless spring doesn’t come until May or June. Even we don’t want to deal with that.

Around the house we are preparing a bedroom downstairs since she can’t stress the new knee on the stairs for a few weeks. Folks send emails every day asking if they can get us some meals to have in the freezer. There seems to be some concern about my cooking and Linda’s healing at the same time—we have pretty bright friends.

Mostly we are looking forward to the spring. With brisk steps, due to the new knee, she will be out hiking trails looking for wild flowers and trying to spot babies in their natural habitat. There are plans for strolling beaches in Hawaii as well, climbing to the rim of volcanoes, and for hikes closer to home in the Cabinets, Selkirks and Coeur d’Alenes.

We hope for future trips in Peru and maybe a trek in Tibet as well as in the Utah wilderness areas.

Moreover, we will enjoy her new mobility right here taking care of our forest, swimming in the local lakes, picking huckleberries, and dancing—to the music of many talented musicians, we know.

My hope is that I can keep up with her.

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Author info

Ernie Hawks Ernie Hawks is a former theater director who has branched into the creative fields of writing and photography. He lives in a cabin in Athol with his lovely wife Linda, and feeds the birds in his spare time.

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