Monday, October 03, 2011

The Ups to the Blue Hole

Today is supposed to be the day I write about Seven Wants with my online writing group--Write, Eat, Post, Bathe, named for our priorities as writers.  I had a lot of time this past weekend at Laity Lodge for the High Calling Writer's Retreat to think about desires and to reconsider what I want.  I always have had a kind of running bucket list  in my head. Get a degree.  I add them, check them off, and add more. Get two degrees.  Some have stayed on the list a long time.  Hike the Grand Canyon.  I thought I might do that when I was older but still fit enough.  It seemed like a good activity for my fifties.  I'm 51.  Strength and the ability to push through to a goal have always defined how I saw myself.  

2010 knocked me for a loop.  I was cut down with an acute onset of Rheumatoid Autoimmune Disease.  My joints were badly affected.  From February, where I had a few unexplained pains in my legs, to March, where I was in constant pain all over my body, unable to walk without a cane, howling into my pillow at night on the couch so I wouldn't wake Adrian. It wasn't pretty.  My normally strong body had become this bag of glass shards, gouging holes in itself, tearing out my strength, sapping my will, leaving me vulnerable. I had to have help to the toilet.  I had to turn to classmates to tie my shoes.  

Classmates.  I was in college trying to finish that degree on my bucket list.  It was the last semester of my senior year. I was looking so forward to walking that stage with all my young classmates for my diploma.  All of a sudden, it appeared that I wouldn't walk, and I might not even be able to finish the required classes.  Suddenly, keeping a 4.0 didn't seem so important.

There were low points.  I had to borrow a wheelchair one weekend in order to get around the house to finish a paper.

I spent our 28th anniversary in the hospital bed writing more papers.  

But I did graduate--summa cum laude with that 4.0-- from Texas Lutheran University and went on to grad school at U. Texas at San Antonio. 

And I got my diagnosis, which led to medications that make me able to walk without the cane.  With intense physical therapy this summer, I got my range of motion back and started rebuilding my strength. I have been walking for exercise, trying to shed the prednisone pounds and get myself back to some kind of new normal.

I haven't hiked the Grand Canyon yet.  But I did make it to the Blue Hole this weekend.

Laity Lodge is a wonderful retreat center provided by the Foundation for Laity Renewal of the H. E. Butt Foundation.  It's in the Frio Canyon on some gorgeous acreage.  It's a magical place where each ringing of a bell means something wonderful is about to happen.  You can hear great speakers like Madeleine L'Engle, Eugene Peterson, and Frederick Dale Bruner talk in a great hall overlooking the river. Food, delicious food like you dream of, just appears without any work or thought on your  part.  A concert might be held down in the Cody Center.  Talk with the newest members of your extended family. You invariably adopt other retreatants. Or it might be time to relax in one of the hammocks and dream of your best years ahead. 
I have long been a retreatant at Laity Lodge and have held many poetry workshops for the participants.  During the dark times of my illness, I didn't get up there, but I did hold a workshop in April of 2011, on our 29th wedding anniversary.  It was a strange year since that hospital anniversary.  I still used my cane some in April, so I didn't hike any. In past years, I didn't often get to go out for a hike since leisure time is when I teach workshops.  I had always intended to go to the Blue Hole, a pristine clear deep swimming hole.  It's only 20 minutes away.  In April 2011, I looked out from the Great Hall balcony over the river toward blue hole and wondered if I would every be strong enough to get there. 

I hiked to the Blue Hole this weekend.

It wasn't a pretty thing to behold, my walking.  Only my wonderful husband Adrian was there to see the worst of it.  After crossing under the dam and a short flat walk by the river, you round the bend  near where the road goes up around a new Family Camp that is under construction. 

And it goes up.

And up.

And up.

And even more ups that don't show up in a picture.  I had to concentrate on walking, not snapping pictures.

But I got there--we got there--and climbed down the stone steps into the river area of Blue Hole.

We got back the same way we came.  Only it was mostly downhill, which sounds like a better deal.  It isn't.  The pressure on my legs is even greater going downhill than up.  New goal.  Not to have to ask Adrian to go get the car and come back for me. 

We made it back and crossed under the dam and climbed more steps and enjoyed more of our weekend.  I did some homework.  We all ate a great deal.  There was a concert.  I didn't write much at the Writer's Retreat.  But I rested and considered my life.

Here are seven things I want:

1.  Keep walking.

2.  Keep walking with Adrian.

3.  Finish graduate school.

4.  Help more people to walk the stage to graduate from college.

5.  Finish the book of short stories I am writing.

6.  Return often to Laity Lodge.

7.  Write a story about how I hiked the Grand Canyon.



  1. You look GOOD. I think the cane ads a certain panache. hee hee! (Adrian don't look too bad neither. But don't tell him I said so. haha!)

    Can't wait to read #7.

  2. I'm reading this at work and my eyes are welling up with tears! I am so glad and proud and happy for you! And do I ever admire your strength and determination! Beautiful writing, beautiful scenery, beautiful people!

  3. Isn't it gorgeous there. Rain had come several times over the past few weeks. It rained at 4am on our first night there. It is just about heaven at that place.

  4. Rach. The cane came back out for that hike and went back right afterwards.

  5. You go girl.... I can so relate to that..... same thing when I was recovering from being unable to walk at all..... I went on a retreat.... with my walker and had to do stairs!! OMG! But dang me, I was as determined as ever..... and people would eye me carefully yet careful not to try to "Do" for me, they were there when they could tell I needed it. They were a special bunch.
    We count our blessings, big and small, no matter how they look, taste or feel. I love your cane.... I love mine... mine is one old wood things... I love it.....
    It's a long haul Cyn, but it's worth every single minute.... your list was great! I gotta do mine.

  6. You are so beautiful. I love this list like I love you.

  7. Up and up and up and up! Well done on making (what looks like a very tough) climb!

  8. Happy graduation ;) I reckon there were quite a few "climbs" you had to go through there - both physical, mental, and emotional!


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