About a year ago, six months after my amputation, I began walking to work again, just like I always did before I hurt myself. As I may have mentioned elsewhere, I live 1.3 miles from work, door to door, and much of the way is sidewalk-free while many other parts have only poorly maintained walkways, so even in good, warm weather, walking to work means walking over uneven terrain, sand and rocks, broken pavement and funky berms, up and down slopes, over and around broken glass and other road and trash day detritus, etc..
The first time I tried it, with a cane, it took me an hour and forty minutes. I live two houses from a street corner, and it took me fifteen minutes just to get to that corner.
I got rid of the cane last summer. Now when I walk to work it takes me half an hour, forty minutes if I dawdle -- and I usually dawdle because half the pleasure of walking is examining details you can't even see if you go too fast. I linger at the woods, at the creek, to listen to unusual bird songs, to write the occasional haiku as I pass an astonishingly lovely flower...you know. This is why I had my leg cut off, so I could live to walk again and enjoy it.
We are moving about eight miles next week, so though I will still work at the same place, from today forward I will only walk to work this way about three more times. Though I have often found beauty on it, this is not really a nice walk. I won't miss choking on other people's gas and diesel fumes, the dust, the anger that raises my blood pressure every time I pass the house of a powerful man in this town who won't allow a sidewalk to be built in front of his house or any further down the street we share and has done odd things with his front yard and parking strip to make it look like there's no room (a carefully sculpted optical illusion). I won't miss having to walk into traffic to skirt the giant puddles which form every time it rains and which people would blithely drive through, splashing and soaking me, if I didn't risk my life walking out in front of their speeding cars instead.
Now, because we are moving somewhere much more fun and much more beautiful, I will be able to walk strictly for pleasure. I think I'll always feel nostalgia for this walk, though, this nasty, dirty, kind of scary walk, because this is a walk I own. This is the walk where I re-learned how to walk, how to hike, how to calculate and take risks with my footing, how to catch my own balance (because falling in traffic was simply not an option), where I grew to understand how strong my prosthetic is and gained a clear picture of its limits, and where I first discovered just how much my PT, Tricia, had taught me. It's because of this walk that I am as strong as I am, as able, and as free.
Mmmm...bittersweet. The taste of this road -- dirt, fumes, and my own rage, but also the sugar in every spring's wild roses, lilacs, and cladrastis -- will be in my blood a long time.