This Post serves as my retrospection on two recent serious health issues affecting my life and elevating my relationship with and reliance upon Nature: November 8, 2021 left shoulder replacement surgery and March 24, 2022 stroke. This Post represents the evolution of what I call Nature-Inspired Aging and Healing!
Shoulder Replacement Surgery
I began writing this Post November 20, 2021, just 12 days after my left shoulder replacement surgery. I saw this emerging Post as a reflection on Nature…and the nature of my life, veering from my standard photo essay format. Springing from those original thoughts, I will now attempt bringing the Post to closure, reflecting on my recovery from the surgery and including my March 24, 2022 stroke.
Sometimes the world spins on a wobbly axis, not at the literal global scale, but for each of us as individuals. The reality often hits us like a bolt of lightning. My personal realization storm reached a crescendo of sorts (November 19, 2022)…and a surprising dawn encounter the next morning began to clear the debris and brighten the sky. The thunderclap came in form of a middle-of-the-night revelation that my life is speeding into a new stage, when I am ever more vulnerable to the vagaries and decline of age. I admit to a spell of feeling sorry for myself. Woe is me, an old man attempting to regain footing after a complicated major joint replacement. Sleep eventually returned, the alarm sounded, and Judy and I performed our daily 1.5 mile early morning neighborhood walk. I still sensed the echoes of the middle-of-the-night awakening thunderclap. Dawn elbowed its way past darkness as we strolled. We live on a small lake (a big pond?), so it is not unusual to enjoy visits by one or two great blue herons. Twice that morning a heron flew directly over us in the still more dark than light sky. Both times, the bird alerted us with his distinctive croak, within fifty feet of the ground.
Allow me a brief step back. By mid-October, in counsel with Judy and my orthopedic surgeon, we scheduled full left shoulder replacement surgery for November 8. The original left shoulder had weathered and degraded beyond repair. October 30, without the aid of a left arm capable of assisting with trekking pole or grasping trailside saplings on steep, rocky, and slippery surfaces, I hiked a tough 11-mile circuit to the Big Tree (state champion yellow poplar) in the Bankhead National Forest’s Sipsey Wilderness. Thirty years ago, I would have completed the loop with confidence and near-ease. On this loop I felt genuine concern about whether I could make it back to the trailhead. This was a first for me. Sadly, I thought, maybe it was the final such trek, period. Here is my Post on that venture: http://stevejonesgbh.com/2021/12/08/an-eleven-mile-bucket-list-hike-to-the-sipsey-big-tree/
The day of surgery came and went. Except for some issues related to pain medication, I weathered the storm, beginning physical therapy with the same relish I had brought to any athletic endeavor across the previous seven decades. I loved playing intramural basketball in college, and in community leagues as a young adult. Although an average player, I had great stamina, a competitive spirit, and enough height and athleticism to touch the rim mid-fingers. November 19, eleven days after surgery, Judy and I took 7-year-old grandson Sam to basketball practice. I rebounded (with one arm) while Sam shot at the ten-foot baskets before staff lowered them to eight-feet for official practice. I stood near the higher basket looking up solemnly at a rim impossibly out of my current reach. In fact, I felt a bit queasy thinking what it must be like to float high enough to slap my fingers against the iron ring. Basketball relativism, I suppose, served as the trigger event for that night’s thunderclap.
I recall with fondness my long distance recreational running, recording my first log entry the day we brought our newborn s0n (January 1977) home from the hospital. On his 21st birthday I recorded my 31-thousandth mile. I loved running, mostly pre-dawn, in the states where we lived (Virginia; Georgia; Alabama; New York; Pennsylvania; and Alabama) and while on business travel in scores of other locations during that period. Running served as my mental, physical, emotional, and spiritual salve, lifting me to manage work, family, and life. Colleagues would say, “I don’t have time to workout.” I would respond, “I don’t have time not to workout.” An hour of running returned far more than 60 minutes of sharpness, energy, and mindset. People remind me that running may not increase your life at all. My stock response was, “I don’t run to add years to my life. I run to add life to my years.”
When we lived in Ohio, after rheumatoid arthritis ended my high-impact running, I trained for and biked 200 miles during a 24-hour fundraising event. I wrote in detail about that ride in my second book, expounding on the thrill of extreme exertion, rough weather, and a long night doing repeated ten-mile loops on a rural rails to trail. I suppose I have long been addicted to physical endurance exertion, particularly in the outdoors.
Perhaps that is a big reason I heard the November 19 thunderclap, a culmination of the gradual decline that led eventually to that night. Yet, the two heron overflights the next morning served as a clarion call that much good lay ahead. We ventured to the nearby Bradford Creek Greenway that mid-morning, bringing greater clarity to the recovery process and beyond.
I had a backlog on Post raw material when I entered shoulder surgery, and little need during recovery to gather new photos and observations. So, I concentrated on three-day-per-week intensive PT, publishing Posts from the backlog.
I recovered flawlessly from shoulder replacement, then the unthinkable reminded me that life can be fleeting and fragile. Not a middle-of-the-night mental thunderclap, but a mid-morning sure-enough stroke! The blow hit both physically and emotionally. I am now almost fully recovered physically, the only remaining effects being a little yet-to-be-overcome fine motor dexterity impairment in my right hand, yet even that is showing progress. Emotionally, I have learned to accept that both my neurologist and cardiologist tell me my current medications should (I would prefer “will”) prevent another stroke. My mental breakthrough came April 3, when our daughter and her two boys stopped by, lifting my spirits to new heights: http://stevejonesgbh.com/2022/05/18/an-early-april-day-of-spiritual-renewal/
I published three other Posts about my recovery from that slap in the face:
A video from that five-weeks post-stroke Monte Sano trek:
All Clear Ahead
I’ve learned a powerful lesson from both periods of dedicated convalescence: Nature is for me, along with the presence of Judy, an unparalleled elixir for Aging and Healing. I’ve created a Facebook group — Nature-Inspired Aging and Healing. I write often about Nature as a force for fueling body, mind, heart, soul, and spirit. I published two Posts on the soul-lifting 50th anniversary journey Judy and I made mid-July to the Biltmore Estate and the North Carolina Arboretum, both in the magnificent southern Appalachians near Asheville, NC:
- Arboretum post: http://stevejonesgbh.com/2022/07/13/nc-arboretum-people-plants-place-and-passion/
- Biltmore post: http://stevejonesgbh.com/2022/08/03/a-grand-intersection-of-human-and-natural-history-at-the-biltmore-estate/
Thanks to my sacred connection to Nature (and to Judy) I am far beyond my low point. Life is good; I am buoyed. Nature’s healing power for mind, body, heart, soul, and spirit (in a non-sectarian sense, a God Force) is beyond compare. I think of the Force in the words of John Muir:
Everybody needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in, where Nature may heal and give strength to body and soul.
In every walk with Nature one receives far more than he seeks.
Earth has no sorrow that earth cannot heal.
My own sorrow, aka self-pity, disappeared in the revelations, inspirations, and shear joy of life that became apparent to me as the mental debris of surgery and stroke cleared. I may be the most fortunate man on God’s Green Earth! Sometimes it takes a stretch of darkness (real or perceived) to open the window of light.
Michael Michalko, one of the most highly acclaimed creativity experts in the world, observed, Paying attention to the world around you will help you to develop the extraordinary capacity to look at mundane things and see the miraculous. I paid attention to the world around me…realizing that I reside in the realm of the miraculous!
Thoughts and Reflections
I offer these thoughts:
- Nature can be a powerful force in Aging and Healing.
- May Nature Inspire, Inform, and Reward you!
- Inhale and absorb Nature’s elixir!
Note: All blog post images created & photographed by Stephen B. Jones unless otherwise noted. Please circulate images with photo credit: “©2022 Steve Jones, Great Blue Heron LLC. All Rights Reserved.”
Another Note: If you came to this post via a Facebook posting or by an another route, please sign up now (no cost… no obligation) to receive my Blog Post email alerts: http://eepurl.com/cKLJdL
And a Third: I am available for Nature-Inspired Speaking, Writing, and Consulting — contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Reminder of my Personal and Professional Purpose, Passion, and Cause
If only more of us viewed our precious environment through the filters I employ. If only my mission and vision could be multiplied untold orders of magnitude:
Mission: Employ writing and speaking to educate, inspire, and enable readers and listeners to understand, appreciate, and enjoy Nature… and accept and practice Earth Stewardship.
- People of all ages will pay greater attention to and engage more regularly with Nature… and will accept and practice informed and responsible Earth Stewardship.
- They will see their relationship to our natural world with new eyes… and will understand more clearly their Earth home.
Tagline/Motto: Steve (Great Blue Heron) encourages and seeks a better tomorrow through Nature-Inspired Living!
Steve’s Three Books
I wrote my books Nature Based Leadership (2016), Nature-Inspired Learning and Leading (2017), and Weaned Seals and Snowy Summits: Stories of Passion for Place and Everyday Nature (2019; co-authored with Dr. Jennifer Wilhoit) to encourage all citizens to recognize and appreciate that every lesson for living, learning, serving, and leading is either written indelibly in or is powerfully inspired by Nature.
I began writing books and Posts for several reasons:
- I love hiking and exploring in Nature
- I see images I want to (and do) capture with my trusty iPhone camera
- I enjoy explaining those images — an educator at heart
- I don’t play golf!
- I actually do love writing — it’s the hobby I never needed when my career consumed me
- Judy suggested my writing is in large measure my legacy to our two kids, our five grand kids, and all the unborn generations beyond
- And finally, perhaps my books and Blogs could reach beyond family and touch a few other lives… sow some seeds for the future
All three of my books (Nature Based Leadership; Nature-Inspired Learning and Leading; Weaned Seals and Snowy Summits) present compilations of personal experiences expressing my (and co-author Dr. Wilhoit for Weaned Seals and Snowy Summits) deep passion for Nature. All three books offer observations and reflections on my relationship to the natural world… and the broader implications for society. Order any and all from your local indie bookstore, or find them on IndieBound or other online sources such as Amazon and LifeRich.