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Last Fall, I went from being physically fit to feeling 100 years old…

I expected to be much better by now. It’s been eight months since the hiking accident that laid me low. On September 22 of 2017, I lost my footing and fell on my back into the Nambe River. Then, with the help of friends (they were further ahead on the slippery uphill riverbank but quickly responded to my shouts for help) I was able to stand. They fished me out of the Nambe River, where I’d landed on boulders, and walked me a torturous three miles from forest to parking lot. Next stop, the Emergency Room, where it was declared “No broken bones.” I was told to get physical therapy, which I did twice weekly. After two months, I was worse than ever. Finally, my doctor ordered an MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging). Voila! There it was: a compression fracture in my lower spine. I opted against surgery, instead letting the vertebra heal naturally. The neurosurgeon told me the vertebra would take several months to mend on its own. I fully expected that I’d bounce back. After all, I was one who’d endured injuries from nine marathons and years of skiing. Surely I would improve with time and physical therapy.
Instead, the months dragged on and I got worse. My back had a mind of its own. The lumbar region rearranged itself (for lack of a better way to describe the situation) and I developed a pinched nerve. Help!…Was there no end in sight? I’d tried every therapy in the book, and fitness still eluded me.
I’ve had to say goodbye to the old ME and realize that with age comes much, much longer healing time. Gone are the days of hiking to Spirit Lake, Deception Peak and Santa Fe Baldy. Or even Atalaya, Picacho Peak and Sun Mountain. All of these are favorites of Santa Feans, and they used to be mine as well.
Whether I like it or not, now begins a new normal. Maybe not forever, but at least in the near term. I’ve been limited to routes that have little up and down. One such discovery is the trail that goes along the railroad tracks for the Santa Fe Southern. The line used to run from Lamy to Santa Fe. It is now defunct, but the tracks remain. Better known as “Rails to Trails,” it is-conducive to peaceful rambles. It’s also a popular byway for mountain bikers. Last Saturday, my friend Joalie and I walked the Rails to Trails for half an hour before seeing anyone else.
Finally, another traveler. It turned out to be Hope Kiah, a friend from long ago. Hope was my first webmeister. We’d met in the 1980s, a time when I promoted the first edition of Santa Fe on Foot, a guidebook that is still in print. Having a website then, long before everyone had gone online, was a big deal. Hope, who was riding a super-cool electric bicycle, was as amazed to see me as I was to see her. We stopped and chatted. It had been years. A wonderful reunion, out there in the middle of nowhere. The distant Sandia Mountains and high desert all around us, we caught up on our lives before she motored on to her home, some ten miles south and Joalie and I walked the mile back to our car. Life in the slow lane has its gifts.


Join Elaine on alternate Mondays for reflections on the world as seen through adoption-colored glasses. She is currently writing a sequel to her latest novel All the Wrong Places. Your feedback is always welcome.