"It's as if a great bird lives inside the stone of our days and since no sculptor can free it, it has to wait for the elements to wear us down, till it is free to fly." Mark Nepo

Sunday, November 11, 2012


It's been less than a month since I first saw the surgeon who will give me a new hip in the morning. From the moment I limped out of his office into a beautiful fall afternoon I felt changed. It took some time for me to identify what the change was.

At first I felt shocky. I had just willingly decided to have a part of my body removed and replaced with metal and ceramic. After a lifetime characterized by an avoidance of all things medical, my world was suddenly about to be full of doctors and procedures and endless questions about every nook and cranny of my body.

By the next day as I talked to the scheduling nurse to set up the four appointments necessary before the surgery, I found myself more curious than anything. This was a whole new world for me with new people to meet, a new language to learn, new stuff to experience. And it had started to sink in that on the other side of the surgery I would walk fluidly on both legs again with no joint pain.

As I talked to the people who line my life with their soft and grace-filled care and love, I heard gratitude and wonder in my explanations of what was coming for me. "I'm getting a new hip!" "Isn't it amazing to live in a time where joint replacements are so common?" "I feel so blessed to have the resources to be able to do this."

Overwhelmed at times by the long list of school and life chores I felt I needed to get done before surgery, I managed most of the time to stay present and to do calmly what was in front of me to do. As the time grew shorter, however, I found myself doing odd things like writing and rewriting lists, organizing drawers and cleaning out my email address book. Finally on Wednesday last week, although I'd heard her say it many times before, when my best school friend Kelly said, "Let it go," I was finally able to.

Last weekend I was in the kitchen fixing dinner when I heard a thump. The unique thump that told me another bird had flown into the bay window of our dining area. When I went to investigate, there was a round spot of dust and feathers in the middle of the window. I moved closer, scanning the ground, not sure I wanted to see what might be there, hoping against hope I would see nothing.

I saw a fairly large bird, big-sparrow-sized, not the junco I expected. It sat with its back to the window, clearly stunned, but also clearly alive. Something was off though. The head didn't look right and for a minute I thought maybe it had been smashed in the collision. But then it started to rotate — slowly, slowly, slowly in my direction. Owl!

A Northern Pygmy Owl to be precise. Only the second I've ever seen. Certainly not a regular visitor to our feeders. I stood and watched it for the longest time. Walt ended up finishing dinner. While I studied that amazing little bird and watched it slowly regain its equilibrium, I was filled with a sense of joy and well-being. Not a new feeling exactly, but one brightened and enhanced in some way. After a bit, it was clear the owl was going to be okay—his head rotations increased both in number and speed—so I wasn't at all surprised when he flew to the fir tree at the side of our yard.

For the rest of that evening I returned again and again to both the owl and the feeling. Wondering why I was moved far beyond my normal reaction. And I realized somewhere in those meandering thoughts that I had been feeling that joy and sense of well-being, a feeling of everything being exactly right, since the day I walked out of the surgeon's office.

And more, I had been feeling— I still do—like I'd been opened. By making myself vulnerable to this great medical adventure, somehow I let go of defenses I wasn't aware I still held. And in that openness, underneath the skin of protection, I found a tenderness that exceeds anything I've ever known. The tenderness makes everything so much more - like new skin, or sunlight after months of gray skies, or falling in love.

I'm as prepared as I can be for tomorrow.  I believe them when they say the first ten days are hard. I know it's going to hurt. But I've done hard before, and well. And this pain will diminish a bit each day, unlike the pain I've been living with for years now. But more than anything I'll travel into tomorrow, wide open and as tender as innocence, held in love and prayers and support that humble me and make me sing with gratitude.


yaya said...

Good luck tomorrow on this journey. We have 3 hip surgeries scheduled for tomorrow and I sure wish one was yours and I could be there to give you a hug and tell you everything will be just fine. So I'll send my cyber hug now and tomorrow when I see our patients I will think of you and somehow understand how our patients must feeling too! We do live in a glorious time and I'm grateful that I can be a small part of it. Many hip patients say that the pain following surgery is no where near as bad as the pain they were suffering before. I hope that will be you and you'll be on the mend soon.

patricia said...

I'm holding you in my thoughts and in my heart. I know this will be a new start to a more active, pain-free life. A life where you just may "let things go" to do the things that make you feel more alive. Hugs, my friend!!


Remember that all your facebook friends will be encircling you with love and prayers and as yaya said, hugs.
God bless you and keep you in his hands as you go through this.
I look forward to hearing about your joy when you get through the healing and walk without pain on your walks etc.
Love all your beautiful bird stories.
Happy the owl was saved.
Hugs. Barb

DJan said...

I am thinking of us sitting in the beautiful living room on Vashon Island, watching the sun come up. You in your flannel jammies, and thinking of the future. I am thrilled that tomorrow you begin your journey into wholeness and bionic Woman-ness. Sending you lots of virtual hugs and holding my breath until the next time I hear from you... and lots and lots of love.

Retired English Teacher said...

I just read DJan's comment and was overcome with gratitude for the special bond that I feel for both of you and for the memories that we made during our time together.

As I read your post, I remember first meeting you and noticing how you walked with a bit of a limp and that I first learned of your hip problem at that time. I saw you courageously walk and never complain. I watched as you went quietly about the kitchen so gracefully fixing our food. I was blessed at that time to note your lack of complaint about pain. I made note of it in my mind as a reminder that I needed to deal with my own pain equally gracefully.

Now, I learn from you again. I so fear having medical procedures. I am in awe of your approach to this new step you are taking. A great amount of acceptance had to go with this step of "letting it go" and moving on with a surgery such as you are having. Thanks for showing me this. I know this new hip will give you your life back in many ways.

I've nursed my husband through this same procedure and wish I could be there for you. I will hold you in my prayers and in my heart. Know that I am praying. Know that I look forward to your report after this is all over.

Stacy Crawford said...

Good luck on your surgery. I hope you relish the time of your recovery and know that all will be well. Enjoy the time to get somethings you would like to do done.

Linda Myers said...


I remember, also, how you limped on Vashon Island, and how quiet you were about your discomfort. I'm so glad you'll be getting some relief.

Thoughts of healing headed your way, friend.

#1Nana said...

I'll be thinking of you tomorrow and wishing you well. You have such a great attitude about this journey. Next year at Vashon we'll have to run to keep up with you.

Linda Reeder said...

I know that I face surgery in my future, probably first on my back. Your quiet confidence and grace on this eve of your surgery amaze me, and give me hope.

Jessica Nelson said...

What a beautiful pic!!! Your post is lovely and I'll be thinking of you as you do this.
I hope you're still writing a memoir because you tie the ordinary life things in so beautifully to spiritual things.

kario said...

It makes such a difference when we feel like the pain is for a reason! And we can see a light at the end of the tunnel. I wish you a speedy recovery and many more beautiful observations in your yard as you rehab.


Barb said...

An uplifting post on the eve of your surgery. I will think of you as I fall asleep tonight and in the instant before I open my eyes in the morning. I wonder if it isn't the letting go that actuall brings more onto life than we could ever imagine?Here's to a pain- free hip, Deb.

Ryder Ziebarth said...

I just happened to open your blog tonight Deb, to see your beautiful posts. I just had arm surgery--rotator cuff-- and although not as big a deal as a hip, I was also pretty amazed at what can be done today to the human body. And how well it heals! Week five and I am seeing some movement I haven't had in years. Only now can I say, "Why didn't I do this sooner?" Best of luck to you, Deb. love, Ryder

Laura said...

oh sweet Deb... I wish you wellness on this next healing journey... how amazing to find this little owl, and that is was ok and that it's wisdom "magic" opened you to see your vulnerability as a gift. This is something I understand well in my own life. If you have the energy after the surgery I would love it if you would send a little something to incorporate into the gratitude quilt this year. Instructions are at the top of my blog.

may your healing be swift, and complete.

gentle, gentle steps,

Anonymous said...

I hope the surgery went well and the recovery is not too painful. Sometimes we need time to reassess and appreciate life - your owl was beautiful though I cannot see him. :-)

Sandi said...

Such an uplifting post, Deb! And I was so grateful to see you so bright eyed and cheerful yesterday afternoon! I hadn't read your post, but now I can feel the positive energy you brought to the hospital with you. You will be climbing high in no time at all!

See you soon! Love and hugs

Amber said...

Hey! Kory's dad also had his hip replaced today! Hope yours went well. His did, but unlike you, he's a big baby about the whole deal. Men... ;)


Blissed-Out Grandma said...

I wish you the very best during your recovery. I, too, hear those thumps and find smudges on the window, but so far nothing like your owl or the meditation it brought you. Peace and healing.

Terra said...

By today you are on the road to recovery, and I pray you heal quickly and fully. I am glad the owl recovered and flew away; he is a good example to us.

Dee said...

Dear Deb, it's Thursday day and your operation must have been this past Monday. I trust that all went well and that you are still surrounded by the simple joy of knowing that you have cherished yourself in this decision.

Be gracious to yourself as you recuperate. Peace.

BECKY said...

Oh Deb, I'm sorry I didn't read this before your surgery. I truly hope you are feeling better each day. I'm sending my hugs, and thoughts, and well wishes to you!

Pam said...

Thinking of you Deb, and wishing you a speedy recovery.

Dee said...

Dear Deb, just stopping by again to wish you well. Hoping also that the operation went smoothly and that your recuperation is going "swimmingly"!!! Peace.

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Midlife Jobhunter said...

Oh, Catbird. I'm so behind -- and you are past the first ten days! Hope things are going well. Tough surgery. My husband received a new hip 1 1/2 years ago. As I recall, at your point in time, he was still taking a great deal of meds. Each day he got stronger, steadier, and his pain ease more and more. I wish the same for you, brave woman.

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