|The moon, getting ready to set shortly after the sun has gone down, around 5 p.m. on Nov. 15, 2012, seen from a parking lot of Rockwell Collins on my route between Mount Mercy University and home.|
On Tuesday, an ancient back injury flared up unexpectedly.
It was painful to walk around campus that day. I had an afternoon committee meeting that involved phone interviews with candidates for an important post at MMU, and I’m not exactly sure how focused I was. Lecturing that afternoon was a bit iffy.
My instinct was to want to go somewhere and either lie down or sit still with a hot pack in my lower back, where an old knot of muscle on the lower left side sometimes painfully seizes up, the tissue gathering itself in a painful hard little ball that won’t, just won’t, relax. The muscle in question, which I injured about 1987 or so (1987! Come on back, get over it!) has never completely healed, and when it gets tense, it can squeeze the huge nerve that serves my left leg, spending hot pokers of pain down that limb.
I felt a few of those, Tuesday. Luckily, not has many as I have had at other times. Anyway, I had bicycled to work that morning, as usual. Early in the day, I bent over to pick up something in my office—nothing big or consequential, I think it was just a random piece of paper, when my trick back muscle suddenly shouted “HELLO! Remember that time in 1987 when your oldest daughter was a toddler and she wanted to be picked up and you forgot what your dad always said about picking things up—bend your knees, not your back—and you bent over and she and you grabbed hold and you started to straighten up when—damn—something knotted up and shooting pain started and you were practically disabled and bent over until Audrey came home and gave you drugs and a hot pack? Just in case you forgot—HELLO! This is a nasty-gram from your back which has neither forgotten nor forgiven you!”
Well. Ouch. When it strikes, the pain makes several life activities more challenging—walking among them. Walking up or down stairs in particular. I painfully toddled around campus that day, even going to bell practice that night. I was a little worried about bells—besides walking, the other hard thing is reaching for anything, especially with my right arm. I don't have a theory about why reaching with my off-arm (I'm left handed) should so hurt in my lower left back, I just know it is so. Trust me, I know. I didn’t know how I would react to picking up bells.
The good news is that I hold the bells with arms folded, close to the body. It’s not the kind of reaching, arm out motion that becomes especially painful. So bells were OK, although I could not bend over to help put the bells away at the end of practice.
So, how was I to get home? I contemplated calling Audrey for a rescue, but decided I would try biking it.
It was a stiff, painful ride home, but honestly, not that painful. Riding the bike felt 10 times better than walking—the trek across campus to get to my bike, a distance of ¼ mile or so, was far more painful than the 4 ½ mile ride home.
Despite the great weather Wednesday, it was a back bike holiday, and I drove. I’m back on two wheels now, and I rode Thursday.
The picture is of an in-between time Thursday evening. I left work at 4:40 or so, so this is just about what 5 p.m. looks like about ¾ of the way from MMU to my house. I took this picture in a Rockwell-Collins parking lot, looking west across the flat Iowa urban prairie to where the sun has already gone down and a newish moon is also headed to the horizon.
Naturally, everybody in Cedar Rapids experienced the sunset, but I got to see the sky turning slowly dark, going from colors of yellow to peach to blue to purple, because I was biking just after sunset. Sometimes, the in-between times are the best, a good time to feel a little relaxed, to process the day, to simply use your body in a way car drivers miss out on.
And to be grateful for a day in which ancient injuries lie at least temporarily dormant.