Saturday, September 29, 2012

Cold Iron

I spent the better part of the daylight hours of the past Thursday and Friday doing soil exploration using hand tools; hand auger drills of various sizes as well as a pipe and slide hammer contraption known as a "drive probe".

Both of these gadgets required human muscle to work, and since as it happened the soils that the human muscle - my muscle - were required to work on were either composed of fucking great lumps of rock, or end-of-summer-dry silt soil that had the fixed opinion that it was just like rock said muscles were sternly reminded that it was nearly fifty-five years ago that they formed from their primordial protoplasm.

In plain terms, I am no longer young, and for the past two days required my body to do something that was too demanding for its remaining strength and endurance.

I am tired, and sore. The big muscles in my shoulders, arms, and thighs ache and cramp, and the now-familiar deep burn of pain in my right hip has flickered up like a fire fed fresh coals. I have taken several painkillers to tamp down this fire, but the result has been to deny me sleep, an oddly common side-effect of this particular medication. So when the second big lag-cramp twisted me up from our bed I limped out here to sit and stretch and think and write a little, since I am outside the room of sleep, my nose pressed against the warm night-glass but my eyes still wide open, my mind still spinning, unable to open that casement and enter into the silent room to lie down and sleep.

Surely I cannot be the only one who, aging, begins to feel the body's fraying, the steady, sullen failing of the parts that once worked so well, the weakness of once-strong muscles and the grinding of once-smooth joints that remind me that I am a long way down the road towards my body's inevitable failure?

And I am surely luckier than many. My body was stronger, for a longer time, at a higher level than many of the sorts of people I see daily; young people whose obesity makes them look and move like old men or old women. People who seem to sit rather than walk, walk rather than run. People who decades younger than I whose bodies, or minds, bear the obvious marks of serious illness, or violent injury.

And I am lucky in having been gifted with the endurance of pain. Pain and I are old...well, not friends but, perhaps, two old enemies who have crafted a sort of familiarity with one another. He is not a stranger to me, this daily thief who robs me of the back that was strong and straight, the stride that was long - as long as the stride of a man with legs less than three feet from sole to crotch could be - and fierce.

Every morning we rise within moments of each other, my companion and I; often he pokes me in the shoulder or in the hip before I have straightened up from my night's rest to remind me that he has never left me, that I will never be alone so long as my joints continue to deteriorate and my bones continue their hobby of collecting stray bits of calcite like gingerbread on the eaves of an old house.


So I sit in the quiet room, the only light the phosphors of the white screen before me, trying to let my body settle into a quiet hum that will give me time to think, and write.

From the rental house at the corner to the west comes the noise of the University students enjoying a Friday night's socializing. I am suddenly seized by the strong desire to dress and walk down the dark street to show them my herky step like a marionette with a tangled string, and tell them to dance, and run, to leap and skylark, to arch and bend and enjoy the young strength and suppleness of their bodies now, whilst they may, while they enjoy the fullness of youth, and power, and grace so that they may have those memories to pull about them when the ache and stiffness of age and hard use lays its cold iron on their limbs and bends their backs like the brittle stalks of the autumn grass.


Syrbal/Labrys said...

I'm trying to keep my mind from my late Oct/early Nov task of moving about 20-35 rosebushes. Digging them out of the groundcover that looks like the tangled interior of Karl Rove's ugly maggot filled mind is not going to be fun at all.

I just hope some real rain falls to soften the soil before then!

So, I well understand your owwied frame of mind and body!

Leon said...

Chief, I don't think those kids need any encouragement to do crazy stuff if youtube is anything to go by.

I've returned to school now and being surrounded by students more than half my age makes me feel ooooooooold.

I have to go now and tell some people to get off of my (non-existent) lawn.

Lisa said...

I am am sorry you are in pain, but I enjoy your dialog with your body; there is wisdom and sentience throughout, I am certain. You are correct that many others have it even worse, whether through sloth or infirmity.

Your sister on the East coast is now reading Dr. Marcus's "End Back Pain Forever". It sounds too good to be true, but the NYT was favorable, and Dr. Marcus's progenitor was JFK's back doctor. The author contends that 75% of pain is muscular, vs. bone or joint. I know you have described in the past your particular condition so I fear you may be in the 25%.

He (and others) recommend massage as far more than palliate treatment, but lacking an on-call masseuse, I stand like a bear at wall's edge, pressing my paraspinal's against the hard line, urging them to soften. I lie on tennis balls and foam rolls; for me, it is definitely muscular.

I hope some chamomile tea or imagine something a bit stiffer -- some brandy in tea -- might allow you some rest.

Podunk Paul said...

Exercise, if it works at all, seems to have two benefits – it gives one a sense of being in temporarily in control, of being the master of the pain, what Schweitzer called the Great Lord. The second benefit is dopamine-fueled high that dissipates a lot of the mental fog that comes from living with chronic pain. It’s nice to be able to laugh again.

basilbeast said...

Farewell youth and quick healing!

Hello, Pains and Aches


Pluto said...

True basil, but still vastly better than the alternative.