Adventures on the Garden Island

Posted by Jeanne Barrett on February 6, 2010 in Uncategorized

Marty and I travelled to our beloved Kauai for much needed tropical restoration.  Star gazing, papaya breakfasts, birdsong listening, naps on the lanai, and ocean access inform our time there quite delightfully.  Needless to say, I was curious as to my mobility, use and function in a warm and slow-paced environment, as well as to a new experience of Kauai given my current condition of self.

The long flight to Kauai did my knee no favors.  A pressurized cabin combined with long hours of sitting added up to inflammation and rather acute knee pain.  I could feel all the hardware in my knee with nauseating clarity.  Nonetheless, I hobbled off the plane happily into the warm floral air of Kauai.

Previous to my injury, my typical Kauai morning delight was to walk several miles before dawn on the hard and wet sand of our Waimea beach.  The stars are so astonishingly visible in Kauai that they are reflected in the black volcanic sand.  Then, I would turn  around and sprint barefoot through the surf with stars reflected under my feet.  As dawn arrived, the sea would turn blue, and the ocean froth became rose-tinged.  I would splash through stars and the dawn’s pink hues until the day glowed.  This was all kinds of fun, and an experience I have every intention of enjoying again.

Obviously, I couldn’t run during this visit, but I could walk. I got quite overenthusiastic on my first morning beach walk, and did a weird sort of prance-run through the surf, foolishly attending to my prance rather than to the huge and powerful ocean.  A wave knocked me down suddenly and thoroughly.  This made me laugh with joy!  I have been so very afraid of falling ever since The Fall a year ago.  Being knocked by a wave onto sand was safe and awakening (pay attention to the ocean).  My fear of falling was washed away.  I was unhurt, chastened, wet and very happy.

Despite my conscientious PT’s kindly warning that soft sand might not be the friendliest footing for my knee, I threw caution to the trade winds and walked on soft sand into the water on another beach.  After diving into the warm, delicious sea,  I found I couldn’t swim with any ease, as the injured knee protested any kicking.  No problem, I was happy to float, with blue skies above, tropical fish below, palm trees rimming my view.  Bliss!   After much floating happiness, I decided to emerge from the water.  I stood, knee deep, and found that the soft footing gave less than no support for my wobbly knee.  I was stuck, unable to move, it seemed.  Hopping, crawling or walking out of the water were not available possibilities.  A rescue request from the lifeguard seemed hugely absurd.  With every ounce of attention to my use I could muster (refusing to narrow, allowing a new coordination, remaining amused rather than panic-stricken), I finally succeeded in walking the 3 feet to shore.  Henceforth, I not only chose water access with firmer sand, but took a driftwood walking stick with me for assistance.

Another of my Kauai joys is taking riding lessons with Eileen Donahue, a superbly gifted and deeply experienced equestrian who trains horses and teaches riders.  Despite my status as a mere beginner, Eileen is patient, encouraging, compassionate, wise and very observant, as well as an incredible guide to horse-human interactions. She teaches from a perspective of dynamic non-interference, and has an innate sense of the quiet timing and allowance that can best inform horse-human communication.

Well, I may be able to mount a horse (with help) just now, but I can’t think I would be able to dismount with any ease. (Perhaps I need a construction crane available for beach and equestrian rescue possibilities.)  So, Eileen taught me the nuances of grooming, leading, and directing a horse without mounting, as well as very intriguing ground work techniques.  Her instruction included being attentive to my own presence, eye contact with the horse, my gestures, internal quiet, timing, and primarily, my intention.  My knee pain distracted me, and Paddy the horse always noticed  when my attention narrowed.  During the few moments when my fear of failure quieted, and my intention and attention widened and clarified, Paddy was interested and very cooperative.  Use of the self clearly determines quality of horse-human interaction.

So, I couldn’t swim, but I could float.  I couldn’t run, but I could walk.  And, I couldn’t ride, but I could learn to communicate otherwise, and most likely with better use and clarity.  And, by the time I came home, my knee was pain-quiet, my walking had increased in speed and ease, and my sense of further recovery had deepened in confidence.

Thus, a hugely instructive and deeply restorative adventure in Kauai!