Sometimes when I wake up in the morning, my back hurts, right here, see? Where my hand is. I get up anyway, go downstairs and let Lilly the dog out, waiting inside the door for her and absent-mindedly pressing where it hurts. After she comes back in, I take my hand away from the pain long enough to pour my coffee and take a sip. Then, I notice my hand is back again pressing where it hurts.
My hands are now in dishwater, and I’m concentrating carefully on the comfort of warm water and the beautiful luster of my red glass dishes. My hands are now smoothing bed covers, and I’m careful to concentrate on brushing off all the dog hair and getting my pillows just right: red, pink, green and cream. I’m ready for my day, as they say, or at least I would be if it weren’t for this …
I realize I’m still clutching at myself, so I deliberately extend my right hand to draw back the curtains at my bedroom window. I make an effort to notice what’s going on outside. It’s a sunny day, so I say aloud, as my mother used to do, “It would be stupid to let this day go to waste.”
Oh dear! My mother was a wonderful woman, but do I think words like “stupid” and “waste” are going to help me now? I’ve got to stop this pain thing. It’s depressing.
Salvation comes in the warmth of early afternoon. I’m on the walking path next to the river. An impromptu band has coalesced in the open area next to the playground equipment, where kids are swinging and sliding and calling to each other.
A guitar goes plink plunk. A recorder ripples. I discover I’m moving along in time with the music, almost as fast as the breeze, legs pumping, arms free. Lilly on her lengthy leash is keeping an eye out for stupid squirrels. Great squirrel hunter, is my Silly Lilly–though she’s not once ever caught one. The children’s laughter now sounds like lace. The drum is becoming part of me.
I look up from under the broad brim of my sun hat and there’s a green tree against a blue sky with white clouds. And the river,… the river is like a liquid soul.
And the pain is gone.
Katharine Valentino is from Eugene, Oregon