walking experiments


After the Finlaggan walk turned out successfully, I decided to attempt some further walking experiments on Islay. While I potter about indoors without a stick or other support, all of my outside walking so far has been with an elbow crutch. Because my balance is now appalling, I am not great at moving about on uneven outdoor surfaces, and am rather hesitant and uncertain when doing so. The crutch corrects my balance; it is helpful when my leg stiffens or becomes tired, and I have to admit that it also acts as a useful visual cue. Fellow humans can really be unbelievably ignorant when it comes to giving me a wide berth, or allowing me more time to get through a doorway. In the street, I am terrified of being knocked to the ground by a youth innocently checking their text messages, and confess that I also harbour some (shallow) concerns about how my strangely lolloping gait is interpreted by passers-by who do not immediately notice the signs of my disability, such as the crutch or leg brace. It is difficult to abandon a walking aid, and I suppose what I am saying is that one has to feel several different kinds of strength to do so.

Anyway, I stepped forth on the shores of Loch Indaal on Sunday morning, and was pleasantly surprised to find that a) my ankle wasn’t giving way b) my foot wasn’t playing up and c) I wasn’t falling over. This was very exciting. Tom then suggested that I try out my new crutchless legs on some different terrain, and we took a lovely walk, following the coast round from Portnahaven. Out at sea, the seals were singing, and the rocks were pink with thrift. With relatively steep inclines, loose stones, uneven surfaces, and narrow pathways, this was the trickiest walk I’d attempted since February, and it was completely thrilling. The picture at the top of this post was taken when I’d climbed to the top of the outcrop, and could take in a wonderful sea view from a high place that I’d actually got to under my own steam. Amazing!

I’m sure you have some idea how important it is to me to be able to walk freely in Scotland’s wild places, and suddenly it seemed as if that was a real possibility – I could actually see myself on a hill again. It really felt as if I’d crossed an enormous hurdle in physical, psychological and emotional terms. The walking was incredibly tiring, and it was by no means easy, but it was possible.

Loving Islay as I do, I find myself strangely emotional when I think that it is now also now somewhere that will forever be associated with this important stage in my recovery: the moment that I first saw myself as a walker again. So to anyone who is toiling away at the lonely work of improving their mobility, I would say this: when you are feeling strong, take heart, go to the places that are special to you, and challenge yourself there. You may be surprised at what you can do. And it can only add to the store of happy memories with which your beloved places are associated by making them spaces of healing and recovery.

And of course, it also helps to have a gorgeous sunny day, and someone to enjoy some coastal tomfoolery with. . . .

. . .someone who will encourage you to walk a little further and suggest that you might take your leg brace and shoes off. Someone who will tell you that yes, you can walk on the beach in your bare feet, you can do it, you should just try it. . .

. . . someone who will carry your abandoned crutch and leg brace for you, while you walk freely, for the first time, in the sea.

112 responses

  1. Lovely, lovely for you!! You look fabulous and what a day!!! I understand totally about fear of falling and balance – often wish walking sticks were not considered uncool.

  2. How wonderful! And oh, wet sand under bare feet is delightful.

    I have never been to Islay but my favourite Scotch comes from there, and one day I’d love to visit. Your pictures only make me want to visit more!

  3. The last bits of this post actually brought some tears to my eyes… beautifully written, beautifully photographed, and beautifully done.

  4. Congratulations! I adore that you removed all your artificial aids and let the sea heal (heel) your soul (sole) a bit!! Well done – so very happy for you both!

  5. This post made me cry! I am so happy that you are reclaiming mobility, that you have your loved ones to encourage you and support you, and that the places you love can be part of your healing process.

  6. I truly believe that one secret to happiness is taking pleasure in small things…the wind in your hair, the sand beneath your feet…thanks for the uplifting post.

  7. this is amazing. I am so happy for you. The image of someone walking on the beach always gets me because I live so far from the sea and miss it but knowing what it means for you to be walking there makes these images even more awesome. I hope you do more experiments and they’re even more successful :)

  8. Lovely, lovely. Nothing like sand between the toes, and watching the water squish out of the sand under your weight. I’m so happy for you and so glad you have such a wonderful partner.

  9. Oh Kate,
    I am so delighted for you. I am weeping tears of joy. Tom is so supportive and encouraging …I’m happy for both of you to have reached this milestone in your recovery. Gail in Florida

  10. Aww that is so wonderful that it brought a tear to my eyes. I couldn’t imagine how much you would have struggled over the past months as i’ve never had something happen that has left me dependent on crutches, but i can imagine how delighted you are to be able to walk freely again and those proud moments and feelings that you have done well and that you’ve pushed you’re self a little each time and that it’s paying off. well done Katie Keep strong you are making you great recovery.
    nessa xx

  11. Your photographs are stunning! I’m so happy for you and I love reading about your recovery! Keep going!

  12. This is wonderful!
    Thank you for sharing your recovery and showing the world that everything is possible, with an open mind and partner by your side, who owns a big heart and a set of strong arms to carry that brace and crutch while you explore that cold water (or so I imagine the scottish water to be at the beginning of June).
    Oh, and by the way, that scarf is lovely.

  13. I have happy tears for you walking unaided in the sea. Congratulations!

    (I carry a folding walking stick, so I can walk when I’m well enough and unfold it when I need a bit of help.)

  14. I am so happy for you, I have tears in my eyes – your photograph absolutely radiates joy! I wish you could bottle it for the future.

  15. So very happy to read this post. I am in awe of your bravery and as a fellow ocean lover so happy that you got to put your feet into the sea as reward for triumphing during your walk!

  16. I have done nothing to assist you on your journey I know, but I feel the most enormous and emotional sense of victory! Intense emotions really confirm how amazingly insightful and meaningful your words have been, how deeply you have made your impression upon us. I am so so happy for you, so so impressed by you, I can’t wait to see what feat you tell us about next. Happy trails Kate!

  17. I can only imagine how thrilling it was to be able to feel the sand and the water under and around your feet. (When I got my cast off after breaking my ankle a couple years ago, the most amazing thing was the feel of the sheets on my skin when I went to bed that night.)

  18. Thank you Kate for an amazing post. Today’s entry is so beautifully layered, like other earlier repliers, it too left a tear in my eye. I appreciate your comments about the different types of strength it takes to accomplish things and I love your focus on the possible. Thank you for sharing your very personal moments. Congratulations.

  19. Amazing!
    And I share the love for Islay and the isles with you. And I’ll make it there this summer again in hope to gain balance! Thinking of you a lot… Your posts bring uplifting moments to me. Thank you!

  20. Oh wonderful, Kate, I’m tearing up here reading this post. What a fantastic step in this difficult and challenging journey.

    I understand totally about the crutch thing, I recently had a couple of occasions where I had to use a stick for the first time ever. I felt very peculiar about it and didn’t like being quite that visibly disabled but it was helpful too. Firstly, I didn’t fall over, which was obviously a big plus but also it reminded both me and the people I was with that I needed to take it slowly.

  21. How wonderful Kate…so happy to see you enjoying that walk..it’s a rough track.
    I find Islay has amazing powers to heal the soul, it has lots of special places. Thanks for sharing your journey and fab pictures with that amazing blue sky.
    Getting excited about sand squishing on my visit next week…
    Hooray for You and Tom ! ! !

  22. You really are an inspiration to those who may struggle in recovery…..Fantastic effort, and what a wonderful place to do it.

  23. Ah, not small baby steps of progress anymore, but great big adult steps of wonder and triumph. So happy for you. So impressed.

  24. That must be a sweet feeling! I’ve always had the feeling, reading your posts, that you were a brave woman… now I salute not only your courage but your strength, tenacity and ability to find joy. Wonderful!

  25. That is really lovely!!! Sometimes we need that extra push, so to speak from someone who loves us and who we can trust. Isn’t it lovely to get your feet in the wet sand again :-)
    Mary
    Mid-Coast Maine (Camden), USA

  26. Glorious!
    Thank you for this. Your continuing recovery and thoughtful, positive attitude are inspirational. x

  27. HEY —-LOOK AT YOU — – wow, wonderful to see you out walking free – how that must so inspire you—- nothing like walking on the beach — heard too that walking inside with bare feet is also good for balance

    – have been remiss is saying hi lately – am in process of selling my house , so pretty tied up—- do though, always think about you

    – summer is re vitalizing in itself — do wish I was in scotland now

    – my friend is coming over to visit family—except for my house selling I would be so tempted——————the best —-pat

  28. This is so lovely and must also be so encouraging for others looking for inspiration. Thank you for this blog. It is always beautiful to read but today’s was special. It is wonderful, as a faithful reader, to see your smile.

  29. Your happiness made it’s way all the way to Canada where I teared up, so excited to see you looking so completely natural. Yay for Tom for that little push!

  30. “May joy and nothing less find you on the way.
    May you be blessed and a blessing.
    And may light guide you, and countless others, all the way home.”

    Kate, you are such a blessing to so many!

  31. Hi Kate,

    Your face says it all on these photos. Brilliant! Whilst I don’t know what it is to have had a stroke, I too have had a neuro episode which challenges my balance. Falling over going up and down mountains is my forte, but then I’ve always been intimately acquainted with mud so no change in appearance there! Scotland gave me back my courage too.

    It’s great to see you liberated again. It’s hard to find the words to convey my admiration for your spirit and courage. Keep trogging, and keep making life in your own way, however you choose to do it!

  32. How absolutely wonderful! I love the photos in this post. The sheer joy apparant in both yours and Tom’s faces tell of the triumph and victory!
    I especially love that you walked in the water again. But then I have very fond memories of playing on the beach walking and running in water ;)

  33. Barefoot beach walks are the ultimate in healing experiences. Soothing to both body and mind. So wonderful that this one came at a real breakthrough point in your journey back to mobility. Stride forth in joy and confidence. Rejoicing with you.

  34. Hurrah! Nothing quite like feeling sand between your toes. Well done on taking those first steps towards unsupported outdoor walking and hurray for Tom being so encouraging and supportive.

  35. Oh, how lovely! Yay for you and for Tom. It’s so wonderful to have a supportive partner. My own doesn’t share my desire to paddle in the sea, but he will always hold my things and hold me up while I dry my feet, and I’m sure he’d hold a leg brace for me if I needed him to. Aren’t we lucky?!

    And I love that scenery!

  36. Oooh, another teary one here, but in a good way!
    This post is amazing – yay for you walking barefoot and free, and yay for Tom and his steadfast support. Yay for freeing the mind and believing that it is all possible.

  37. It’s so lovely to read about you getting out and about again! I know what a huge step (no pun intended!) this must be for you. The final picture of you walking in the sea is amazing.

  38. Tears for you, for your joy, for having a partner who will push you and help you to be brave, and for it being so beautifully documented. Many, many smiles and gasps of admiration going your way :)

  39. Kate – you look great in these photos – they are super pictures – you look so well!!
    When my son was recovering from heart surgery he said he was really scared to go into cafes or pubs – anywhere crowded in case he was bumped or jostled – he didn’t give any visual clue to his condition and he said it was one of the worst parts of his recovery -but, like you, he just got on with things and I am really proud of you both!!

  40. Good news all around! Hurray, for your heart and it’s coming umbrella! You are positively glowing on your beautiful beach walk. You are such an inspiration Kate! I also love the new blog banner art work from your get well card and the hand knitted and patched heart! There is so much healing energy coming your way!

  41. So heartening ! This goes to show how I admire the precision with which you write, so your posts have exactly the effect you describe, though that was the title to the previous post. I’ve heard all kind of new-agey things about the energy you absorb when walking barefoot, and though I do not agree with the magical thought that it entails, I do find it true that it is healing to be able to be in direct contact with nature –even more so when it is made possible by a loved loving one. Many thanks for sharing that wonderful moment with us.

  42. Just catching up on a few days’ reading – fantastic to see your bare tootsies on the sand! Great news re “the right kind of hole”, parasol and all! And thinking a camper van might allow us to take to the hills this summer too. Thanks for the link to Andy!

  43. Hoorah! It must have been a great pleasure and encouragement to take new steps on beloved familiar ground. Keep challenging yourself.

  44. Wonderful. Just brilliant. Thank you for your writing and photos. And HURRAY for positive progress. Your determination is awe inspiring. xx

  45. I love this post – it’s so good to see you walking, and smiling, and looking so…..refreshed?

    I also love that you’re wearing an Ardbeg jumper. If there was ever a place to make you strong and whole again, Islay would be it, I think.

    Leah xx

  46. I am speechless with joy and awe and — well, just, hip hip hurray! Thank you so much for sharing your journey with all of us. I feel very fortunate to be a witness. Inspiring on so many levels.

  47. oh christ, that is just beautiful! congratulations on your sucessful steps!

    islay is a special place for me as well. living in the US i don’t hear anyone mention it hardly ever, so thank you for sharing your time there.

    good luck with your continued healing!

  48. I know I’m a bit late to comment. These days all my blog reading happens in long sessions once every couple of months. But I just wanted to say:

    Kate, your blog has long been my favorite. Through the last months I have kept up with all the posts since your illness. I refrained from commenting early on because there was such an outpouring of support and well wishes, I couldn’t think of anything to say that hadn’t already be said. So I sent silent thoughts for your recovery from the either side of the ocean, that you might someday soon enjoy the parts of life you clearly took so much pleasure in in the past. This post brought a deep kind of happiness to me one doesn’t usually experience from reading a blog. I am so completely joyful from hearing of your accomplishment. It brought tears to my eyes, but also just let me say HUZZAH!

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