Rebirth

First published in Modern Haiku 51:1, Winter-Spring 2020, page 41, as an envoy to my “Haiku and the Art of Forest Bathing” essay. Originally written in November of 2016, nine months after my injury, and revised in August of 2017. The photo shows a lake at the end of the short walk referred to in this haibun. See also “Notepad Walking.” +

On February 17, 2016, I ruptured my Achilles tendon while playing racquetball. I had surgery in early March and then an emergency hospital stay in mid April with complications from the surgery. I nearly died. On April 12 I wrote on Facebook that I was being released from hospital that evening, but said I still wasn’t “out of the woods yet.” I didn’t realize it at the time, but what I really wanted was to be back in the woods. I was unable to walk without crutches. In late April I started intensive physical therapy to rehab my tendon. And then on May 17, three months after the rupture, I posted this on Facebook: “I took a walk in the woods today. An actual walk in the woods. This morning my surgeon gave me permission to drive, and I’m mostly not wearing my boot anymore. I don’t need crutches except for prolonged walking. But today I ditched the crutches, drove to a nearby park, and went for a short walk in the woods. Not far, and I’m still limping, but this is progress.” That walk was at the Redmond Watershed Preserve, whose woods in the Cascade foothills near Seattle are part of what novelist Margaret Craven called “the greatest forest in the word.” I hobbled about a quarter mile on a paved trail to a lake view where most of the trees were leafed out to spring.

clearing sky . . .

a beaver kit’s

spreading ripples

I knew then that the fall leaves would fly before I could walk more properly. And now it’s November. My range of motion and muscle strength still hasn’t fully returned, but today I went for my last physical therapy visit. Then I treated myself to another walk at the preserve—I’ve had several in between. I’m still not playing racquetball but I can walk fairly normally for as many miles as needed. The leaves have turned and most of the yellow ones have fallen to the ground. A few other trees are fiery red, and still haven’t dropped their leaves. Pine needles colour the paths. I no longer take for granted something as simple as being able to walk. This week a dear poet friend passed away suddenly from a heart attack. We never know when it will be time to go. The ski season will start in a month or so. Maybe I’ll be able to make some turns before Christmas, and play racquetball by then too. But for now, even if it’s with a diminishing limp, I can enjoy walking in the woods, bathing in the forest and taking pleasure in the vibrant autumn leaves that I anticipated, oh, almost nine months before. Nine months before.

autumn chill . . .

my dance in the woods

with no one watching