I wondered while I walked, "What will it be like when I can no longer do this? When I can no longer feel the wind blowing my hair about my face and my legs working, when I can no longer count on the exercise to stimulate my thoughts? How will I manage then?" It's a sobering thing to think about and not an unlikely possibility, unless I find some way to get health insurance soon.
What's interesting is that I thought of these things not entirely with despair. If that be my fate, so be it. Enjoy what I have now and use it for memories later. It may not be so bad. Maybe I am starting to resolve some of those questions constantly churning in the back of my mind.
I saw Deborah today. She noted the orthopedist's report and asked how I am doing. I said fine. And I said, "considering how bad my knees are, it's remarkable how well I do." She agreed. I asked her about preventing further damage. She put the cards on the table clearly: my knees will get worse. Knee surgery is not just a possibility; it is inevitable, if I am to maintain mobility. The only question is how long I can hold it off. She said to pay attention to my body, and keep doing what I like doing as long as I can. When the stiffness takes over for too long, back off on the length or frequency of hikes, for example. She told me she has another patient who said, "But I climb Madonna Mtn five days a week! I have to do that!". Deborah said she doesn't have that kind of obsession herself so she can't completely understand it. She suggested, "How about twice a week?". Compromise, compromise. Feel your way. This is what I needed to know. I pay very close attention to how my body responds not just during a hike but after, how quickly I recover. It is a challenge to me to be looking at decreasing my activities rather than stepping them up, but if that's what I am looking at I can choose to see it in a more positive light.
There are options. I can look into getting health insurance from where I work. I can purchase an individual high-deductible plan. I have options that many do not. Many who have absolutely no money to put toward insurance. There's no question that I am luckier than a great many Americans.
As I walked in the park, loving the stiff wind, enjoying the ducks and geese and hawks flying overhead, the little finches tearing across the sky, I thought of the Environment Show, which I heard today on Public Radio. There was a segment on pesticides. There was an outbreak of some kind of virus that was killing birds in New York a few years ago. Health authorities gathered up tons of dead birds and tested them. They found that most of the birds had not died from the virus but instead from pesticide poisoning.
I thought of those birds singing and chirping all around me and I saw them lying dead on bright green, newly-mown grass. I think of all animals I love birds the most. Just seeing them lifts my spirit, makes me smile. They are hard workers and yet seem also capable of taking pleasure in their lives (maybe I'm imagining but I don't think so). They are beautiful and spirited and aggressive and shy and wonderful. Yet we are killing them.
The guy from the EPA spoke on the radio show. He said the EPA goes through tons of material on these chemicals and determines what "safe use" is, what will not harm people or animals or other parts of the environment, and then places the right directions on the label. The EPA guy said that if people use the pesticides in accordance with the directions they are safe.
A few days ago I heard of a discovery - not a surprise to anyone, probably - that Americans are loath to read directions for their new electronic equipment. They just want to plug it in and have it work. Would it be too much of a stretch to assume that most of us are also not inclined to read pesticide container labels?
So now I am thinking, god, another cause. How many do I have?? I thought of something I read a while back about a disorder indicated by obsessive concern about world issues. Do I have this disorder? Am I going off the deep end, worrying about the plight of people in Afghanistan, about the working poor in America, about pesticides, about war? I don't think so but it's worth a look. By doing this kind of worrying am I shutting down my own little issues, which seem so small in comparison? If so, is that really a bad thing?
This is what happens when I walk. I think too much.