This is the design that I was working on five weeks ago, and that I was actually carrying with me in my bag when I had the stroke: a wee sweater in shades of natural Shetland, inspired by Aesop’s fable of the Tortoise and the Hare. I’ve been thinking a lot about this project, and about how appropriate it seems in my present situation. You will recall that the hare, (loud, over-confident, thinking it knows best), rushes ahead, tires, naps, and loses the race, whereas the tortoise, (slow, steadfast, assiduous) takes its time and wins. At the moment, I am trying very hard indeed to be the tortoise but unfortunately my personality is such that the hare often prevails.

Regarding my left arm, the hare in me feels that nothing is happening : I still cannot shrug my shoulders, nudge someone, or do the funky chicken. The tortoise keeps trying to remind me that each day the hair plaiting is just a little easier, and that it is brilliant I can knit and write at all, yet from time to time, the hare dominates in its obsession with these pointless and impossible gestures. And the hare often comes into play where walking is concerned. So impatient was I to get up and motor about by any means, that I’ve actually spent several weeks reinforcing some terrible physical habits, despite my physios’ best efforts. The situation is such that I must now expend my energy undoing the pernicious work of the hare through a more careful, focused and tortoise-like approach to mobility.

Last weekend, you may remember, I was walking with a springy toe-up leg brace and no other support. Yet my gait was, apparently, terrible: I accomplished a step by swinging my left leg out sideways from my hip, launching it forward by hoisting my whole trunk, and planting the leg, plank-like, a yard out in front of my right one. I could certainly move (and at surprising speed) but I was neither using or stimulating the correct muscles. I would clearly have ended up with a terrible limp and an award from the ministry of silly walks if I had carried on like that. This week, I went back to moving about slowly, supported by frames and sticks, and the physios have spent hours trying me out with different splints and braces –devices that do not keep my knee stiff as a board, and which encourage me to use the muscles that I can. Annoyingly, at the moment, there are not many of these to call on: the front of the hip and the quad both work a little, and this is good. However, the gigantic muscle inside my left arse cheek is not playing at all; nor is the hamstring, and there is not a single flicker of activity yet below the knee. I spend a lot of time trying to get my brain to “identify” the muscles that operate in various ways through moving the right leg, and to apply the same identification methods when attempting to move the left. The whole process is really difficult, tiring, and, indeed, often painful. But despite this, I enjoy my physio, look forward to it, and, when I’m on my own or with Tom, run through my exercises several times a day. The tortoise knows that it is important to work its hardest at those exercises that are the hardest, even though the hare only wants to perform those that it can already do well.

From the hare’s perspective, I have spent seven days going backwards. Last weekend, I moved independently and at speed: now I move hesitantly, slowly, while leaning on an elbow crutch. I will be honest and say that I am at times very frustrated with the tortoise’s approach: it is, quite simply, much more difficult trying to inch forward with muscles that cannot move, than it is to heave oneself about through the power of those that can. The deft and nimble hare also finds itself annoyed by the heavy hunk of meat that my left leg has now become. Teaching the left hand to move again was a very different matter. One could work hard at part of a gesture before accomplishing the whole, and every day brought the rewards of a visibly increased dexterity. But while a hand makes small and detailed movements, a leg makes giant, crude ones. I seem to spend an awful lot of time breaking down the components of a step, and working on those components in isolation. Yet, despite this focus on detail, in some ways the only way to take a step is to actually take one. And once a step is taken, those component movements seem to get lost in the continuum of motion itself. I hope I’m explaining this clearly: put simply, I find working on gait really hard because I can neither see nor feel whether the muscles are working or not, and because moving my leg also involves lumbering a whole heavy body about, rather than (as with the hand) developing a detailed and relatively independent action.

So I am working steadily like a tortoise and am, for the most part, maintaining the tortoise’s measured attitude to mobility. I take heart from the small improvements that I see, but, in the background, the impatient hare is becoming a little frustrated and frankly bored with what seems to it to be no progress at all. And, I am sorry to report that the know-it-all hare is also becoming bored with other aspects of its institutional recovery.

Now, I am not usually someone who bores easily: I can generally find something diverting in most activities or objects. Like many knitters, for example, I generally think of a long journey not as a hideous stretch of empty time but as a happy opportunity for more knitting. I have also found that, in many non-knitting-related contexts, knitting has nonetheless proved useful in its simple lessons of patience and forbearance. But despite these knitterly, or, perhaps, tortoise-like aspects of my personality, I am now really very bored indeed of medical professionals introducing themselves by asking me where I am, what the month and date is, and the time of day. Happily, folks, I am not confused. I am also exceedingly bored of the puzzles. To explain: two weeks after I had the stroke, I was introduced to the puzzles by a pleasant neuropsychologist who, in his dusty office, assessed my ability to draw a clock and geometric shapes of two and three dimensions. I had to name as many animals as I could in a minute, remember long lists of unconnected objects, count in multiples of seven, and identify the men I had “seen before” from a surreally brylcreemed line-up of 1950s faces. I rather enjoyed my time with this neuropsychologist, and was very happy to receive a clean bill of cognitive and communicative health. Despite this, since moving to my new institution, I spend disproportionate amounts of time puzzling it up to the max. Now, I understand that a key element of the rehabilitation programme is to assess each patient fully to ascertain which parts of the brain have or have not been injured. Believe me, myself and my brain are extremely grateful for the thorough nature of this system. The approach is, however, rather one-size-fits-all and, at its worst, also tends to heighten the sensation of being alienated and patronised that one already feels as a patient in an institution. I fear that my perhaps hare-like and certainly rather snippy academic nature means that I have limited tolerance for the puzzles: their quality, their sheer quantity, and their seemingly endless repetition. It has taken me five days of puzzling to complete the (to me) inane tasks that comprise the Chessington Neurological Assessment Battery — a Kafkaesque series of “tests” that build to the tortuous and pointless activity of constructing an unuseable coat hanger. I am dubious of the efficacy of any system that uses averages based on age range as a test of the patient’s ability, whether or not said test is forty years old and much of its equipment and activities arcane. Surely a more appropriate and accurate test of function would be to assess the patient against their abilities before they had a stroke? But perhaps (unlike, say, making a cup of tea), this is difficult to do with things cognitively associated. In any case, as I spend the precious free parts of my day reading, writing, and following Estonian knitting charts, I feel reasonably confident that my cognitive skills are pretty much at the level they were before all of this happened, and that this would be quite obvious to anyone who might happen to be passing.

All of this is, as I say, symptomatic of a perhaps unpleasantly hare-like attitude to certain aspects of rehabilitation, and I do not want to appear ungrateful. I am, indeed, extremely grateful for the combined professional efforts that are being put into making me well, and more beholden than I can really express to the good old NHS. Comments from Wendy and others about the comparative theraputic situation in the US has reinforced for me just how lucky I am to be where I am. But I wouldn’t be me if I didn’t gripe just a little about having to move more coloured blocks about or being asked to name yet another asparagus spear or pyramid; about the stool chart that is pinned to the bottom of my bed, or the part of my “care plan” that reads “Continent. Goal: to remain at this level.”

© Eleanor Grosch

In my opinion, some of these hare-like qualities are indispensable in helping one to maintain a sense of control, identity and basic reality in what is a very unreal situation. The impatience characteristic of the hare can also be useful if it can be channeled and transformed into determination. But I think that frustration and boredom are generally pretty useless. In this context, they simply heighten the sense of being disempowered, which is never a good thing. One can really achieve a pleasant, zen-like calmness when one is working like the tortoise. With the slow, steady, and measured approach, one can take one’s time, one step at a time, thinking about stages in the process rather than the impossible hurdle, the bigger end in view. Yet while all of us, I imagine, find the tortoise a much more appealing figure, we may also admire the hare’s unrestrained energy and vim. I know that I do, and I would like to bring just a little of that vim to the long, tortoise-like labours that are still ahead of me. And I certainly have to retain the hare’s propensity to snooze.

73 thoughts on “hares and tortoises

  1. I have been reading your blog for quite some time now because you are so bright and deep and extremely articulate. I cried when I read that you had a stroke…. Not because you won’t recover….you will….but because of the sometimes diffficult process of acceptence that there is something that has altered your life and that you have to recreate yourself. I had a mild traumatic brain injury and I can understand how difficult it can be at first. I have friends who have had stokes and the process of recovery thorugh time can be amazing. If no one has recommended to you to go to the Website please do…. It is… Find Jill Taylor Bolte’s Stroke of Insite and listen to her. She will inspire you. You can read her book but it is not the same. Please treat yourself to this experience. Be well expect the best and you will get it in time, Carol


  2. Hello,

    I’ve been following your blog and Ravelry page for about a year now and have only just heard your awful news.

    I’m so shocked and saddened by what’s happened but feel certain that your determination will get your through this. I hope you make a swift and full recovery.

    Lots of love.



  3. Your hare and tortoise design is beautiful. As others have said, I think your writing will prove valuable to medical professionals.

    Full of admiration for you; keep directing the hare’s energy in the best way.

    Best wishes.


  4. Oh Kate — I’ve admired your writing, your design, your scholarship, and your spunkiness for quite some time.

    Oddly, I found your blog just as you were writing about the injury to your partner’s hand, so I’ve always read your story as one of recovery.

    Well, that’s probably because I’m inclined to find stories about recovery, because my partner broke his back and injured his spinal cord a few years ago. I read your Tortoise and Hare essay aloud, and Robb was nodding his head, again and again.

    Do tell both the Tortoise and the Hare that some of the neurological recovery may happen over YEARS. You have a long journey ahead of you, but that also means that there’s a lot of time for change. What we found was that the neurologists don’t stay in touch with their patients for more than 18 months in the US, and — coincidentally — they say that recovery ceases after 18 months. This is simply untrue.

    I’m sure you’ve heard this over and over again, but I’ll say this anyway: you are uniquely situated to make a good recovery. You’re young, you were very physically active before your stroke, and you are clearly not a “quitter.”

    I wonder, if swimming and aquatic therapy might help? Your body weighs less in water, so you don’t need as much muscular strength to move your body. Perhaps your motor neurons aren’t quite strong enough to do their work in normal gravity.

    Best wishes to you, Kate and Tom. Keep your senses of humor and wonder intact, and don’t be afraid to be angry, rally angry, from time to time.


  5. Anne Herbert’s back tonight, thank goodness – and I love this post… “Stripes, dots, zig-zags, plaids…” look at the last sentence… thought of you.


  6. I’ve come back to this post many times in the last week, Kate. The comments are fantastic as well. You have an authentic voice, the kind that’s straight from the heart. Thank you for being so generous with your thoughts and for connecting us all on line.


  7. I work in a physio clinic and for the past 5 years I have seen people stagger through our doors in various states/stages of disrepair.

    Over the months/weeks/days, they slowly but surely recover. First the appointments go from several times a week, to a few a week, to once a week, to once a fortnight….and then…they are gone out of our lives.

    One of the worse cases I saw was a young basketballer that came in on crutches, green with pain. Tonight a year or more on, that same guy (Matt Campbell) leads our local (underdog) team to the Grand Finals of the National Basketball League (Australia)….(Go Illawarra Hawks)….

    You will get there. Little by little. Because you want to. And that is the greatest motivation of all.


  8. Sorry to hear about the stroke but your faculties are intact, that is for certain!
    I know about the tortoise and the hare – I’m on chemo and some days the hare wants to bound ahead but the chemo tortoise can at best lumber. Other days the hare has its way.
    I hope the physio helps you literally get back on your feet – it sounds like you are working hard at it and you are getting there.


  9. Hi,

    I really like how you explain your situation. I’m a nurse and I used to work with people that suffered from stroke. Never under my school time did someone explain this good.

    Maybe you should consider making a book of your blog, it would be perfect for hospital staf or students or maybe relatives. A chance for them to understand this situation better.

    Stay positive and keep that fight glow!

    Thanks for sharing your story with us.



  10. I would like to join in sending best wishes for a continuing smooth recovery.
    Thanks for sharing your progress with your readers.


  11. Dear Kate,

    I love your feistiness (is that a word? if not then it should be!)!! I fully understand your frustrations and can only imagine how annoying it is when your body misbehaves in such a way.

    Please will you design me a sweater with the tortoise and the hare around the yoke as that is just what I’m like – in my head I’m the hare, racing around my marathons beating my pb time and time again but in the real world I am the plodding tortoise who always gets there in the end. I think we all have a little of both of them within us.

    Your frustration will drive you to get better much quicker than simply accepting your fate. You are so eloquent and I’m sure your account of what is happening will help others in a similar situation.

    Stay angry and get well soon. Love and hugs, Susie xxx


  12. hello
    just to say hello. I found your blog the entry before you were hospitalised. I enjoy reading your feisty accounts of your recovery.
    Keep going strong.


  13. I’ve been thinking of you now and then as I have made the decision to do more walking in my own city. Being stateside, it’s unfortunately not one of the most walkable cities around, but I do my best and have already found shortcuts and pleasant routes that I would not have known about had I been trapped (as most of us are) in my car.

    Good luck with the funky chicken,


  14. Kate, I’m sure with a bit of cooperation, you, your personal hare and tortoise will turn out to be a pretty formidable team.

    Reading about your efforts in learning to walk puts me in mind of the efforts of my youngest son in learning to talk. He is almost 4, but thanks to autism and some dyspraxia, has a severe speech delay and is pretty much non-verbal. The other week, though, he made a “mmm” noise, then an “ah” noise and then put his hands to his face. It was a while before we realised that he was actually blowing a kiss like one of his favourite TV characters. He had learnt to perform the individual sounds and make the associated gesture, but his brain had yet to work out how to put them together in one smooth motion.

    We’re confident that, pretty soon, he’ll be blowing his kisses all in one go, since he’s practising making lots more new sounds, now and I’m sure that you will have that stubborn leg cooperating through the same sort of will and determination!


  15. Speed is so often rewarded. Given that it is not what your body needs, it is apparently true that at times, we, the collective, should be awarding slow, measured, millimeter-by-millimeter efforts. Anyone can dash off, grit their teeth and get through a quick run. “keep your eyes on the prize.” You are doing great and your body will thank you for the slow, measured and intelligent work you are doing.

    I was going to agree with those who said to show the NHS your Estonian charts. On further reflection, maybe they would decide that anyone who works those out for fun must be a lunatic!

    All the best,



  16. Just wanted to wish you a full recovery but at a speed that your body can maintain – only you will know what that is. Very, very best wishes


  17. From my utterly non-expert perspective, anyone who can set up, execute and conclude an extended metaphoric riff on the tortise and the hare with such elegance and control is N-O-T suffering from cognitive impairment. :-)

    On a more serious note, let me echo the others who have said thank you for letting us share this journey with you – tortise, hare, and everything else in between. You are helping me see the world differently, and I am grateful.


  18. Hello Kate,

    I can tell your cognitive powers are more than comparable to before the stroke – your character, insight and tone are possibly even sharper on the page these days and I welcome more of the same. I can imagine that writing your frustrations and ideas out help you gain a sense of control and progress within your intellectual world.

    Poor old Hares, Aesop has given them such a bad press! I saw two on Saturday as I slogged my way by bicycle around 100 miles of Essex, Cambridgeshire and Hertfordshire. They are truly beautiful creatures and they do have a much more considered and zen-like approach to their place in the world than many would think. Neither Hare ran even though I was within 20 yards. One gently lolloped forward in the opposite direction, slowly in the opposite direction with one large eye upon me. The other was even closer but did the frozen by fear, not move an inch, if I don’t move he can’t see me approach, which was lucky for me as I got a good long look. The Hare seems to be almost physically thinking, and I have been thinking about your situation in this regard all day as I thought of a response.

    Although the Hare can turn to rapid flight it has to consider it’s every move very carefully as the energy it has to draw on is limited, and it also knows that the greatest danger is once the chase is on.

    Apologies in advance for being the rare bloke on these pages and giving a dull, practical blokeish response, but I was thinking that a stationary exercise bike would be very useful. One of the ‘spin’ type with a fly wheel as you can get it spinning and then stop using your right leg and try to focus on engaging the left (don’t bother with any other kind as all you will be doing is pushing the whole time with your right leg). It gets round the gait and load-bearing problem. Even if you can’t engage the muscle the spin action will keep those muscles stimulated.

    I’m working at the V&A now so do let me know if you are coming to visit at any time – access all areas and lunch on me in the excellent staff canteen.

    Best wishes, Paul


  19. A suggestion from an interested and empathetic Canadian reader. The next time a “medical professional” comes along and asks you what day/time/where you are…or begins to ask you questions for yet ANOTHER test, ask them to read this blog entry…there is no doubt about your cognitive ability my dear.!!!!


  20. Questioning, becoming frustrated, plodding methodically through – all are so important to the recovery process. Hard as it is, the frustration serves you in the struggle. It’s a joy to read you, to see that indeed the cognitive is just fine! (and glad to hear about the continence! *wink*)

    Take gentle care, I’m sending thoughts of strength and patience…


  21. Bravo! You’re doing remarkably well, and still your courage to face your predicament amazes and inspires me. A gorgeous pattern you’ve made of the Tortoise and Hare, and you know, one thing I thought to point out : Tortoises live easily a hundred years old, Hares probably about 5 years at the most (not sure)… so, when you think about miles travelled in a longer, but to think *better calculated” manner , as the tortoise does over 50 or 100 years, compared to the unthinking, impulsive, kneejerk type of miles a Hare travels, in it’s must shorter life ~~~ the result is Tortoise not only travels more brilliantly, but colossally further !

    Hang in there Kate!
    Hugs & Love from
    Jen in Mts of NapaValley, California


  22. Your blog is amazing, and I cannot help agreeing with everyone else that one read of it should help convey how in tact and shining are your intellectual abilities! The hare and tortoise design is really special, in its own right, but even more so as it has become so entangled with your recovery. Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts and experiences with us.


  23. Maybe you can just point them at your blog, or print out a copy and pin it next to your charts? :-) Bless the NHS, it is a wonderful institution and I am eternally grateful for it, but sometimes it needs a little shake-up…I’d get out the complicated Estonian charts and just point them at that, but then I’m an awkward so-and-so. Walking is probably the hardest thing to relearn. It’s so hard to see your own legs for a start-off! You are doing really well, but I can understand how frustrating it is. Keep sharing it here as just getting it all off your chest will be a huge help.

    Helen x
    PS I sent you a card, just wanted to make sure the NHS-bureaucracy haven’t eaten it :-)


  24. Things that appear to be TOTALLY intact

    Item 1 – sense of humour
    Item 2 – sense of the absurd
    Item 3 – pride (not as in the 7 deadlies)
    Item 4 – eloquent use of language
    Item 5 – ability to convey thoughts through pictures
    Item 6 – perseverance
    Item 7 – desire to create a better world
    Item 8 – ability to inspire
    Item 9 – your humanity

    Items many, many more

    Kate – I work in the field of Relationship Based Care – taking healthcare back to the fundamentals og connection between human beings. May I use your words to illustrate the crucial importance of those tiny/HUGE things like plaiting your hair the way you want it done?

    You are a joy. Thank you.



  25. The loss of freedom during serious illness is something that is often under-appreciated. Whether it’s to plait one’s hair, or just be able to go outside to breathe fresh air and look at something green, the change between every act being planned out and the unthinking rushing of healthy bodies is hard to understand for those who have not been ill or injured.

    Though it can be hard to accept illness itself, the limitations that seem impossible to bear when we are healthy are often much easier to become accustomed to than we fear — especially when one is as thoughtful as you and tries to be patient with the tiny indications of improvement. When you’re back walking the hills, and I very much hope this will be much sooner than you can dream, you’ll feel like all the little indignities were nothing compared to the joy of regaining your freedom.


  26. I somehow missed your stroke when it happened. I’m so very sorry, and I feel terrible coming in so late to offer my support and condolences.

    I’ve had some medical problems in past, quite different than yours, but with some similar challenges. The frustration you describe is all too familiar. I have this hare-like sense that trying harder is all it will take to succeed, and when my body simply can’t keep up, I tend to batter it by pressing on, rather than doing the ultimately helpful thing and resting.

    I hope your recovery is less fraught with steps backward and frustrations to the inner hare in the weeks to come. Many, many good wishes your way.


  27. Hi Kate,

    Yes, I do think of you has a Hare. There are times I like Tortoise mode, but not when it’s enforced. :-(

    Here is a link to an inspiring talk from a neurologist who had a stroke:

    She also has a book out “My Stroke of Insight”
    Thinking of you daily.


  28. I will never see a hare and tortoise without thinking of you and your courage . If and when your rehab people think it would help. Try horse riding therapy Sure the gate of a steady horse would help your muscles that don’t want to walk. and A horse is diffently good for our soul! The best to you…


  29. Thank you for keeping us apprised of your progress. We all look forward to your recuperation, in your own time. Keep up the good work and we are pulling for you.


  30. Hi Kate,

    I think it is, in general, part of human nature to be impatient. Certainly you have a lot of challenges ahead of you, and regaining the fine muscle and motor control of your legs is hell, but you know it needs be done. And of course, anyone would gripe! I know I sure would! Learning these small controls is so incredibly tedious. And that is why patients are called patients – patience is the key. You are doing all the things you need to do.

    I could not help but wonder if it the excitement of just being able to move – like you said, in big, awkward steps – was not a critical part of the healing process. Knowing that you *can* move is important; now, relearning the finer movements is the point.

    Every day I look at Needled to see if you have written. Your posts are poignant, tough, realistic, thoughtful, and for anyone having to go through rehab, inspirational. Keep up the good work!



  31. Kate, you’re doing great! I do believe there is such a thing as rehab burnout (on the part of the patient/client). Sounds like you have a wonderful team.

    Keep calm and carry on (or, better said, keep calm and carry yarn!). I feel more relaxed when it’s in my lap much less when I’m knitting!

    If you can bear another tid bit from me: this is my favorite shoulder sling: to help with that overly relaxed shoulder.
    See if your OT/PT team has seen it…

    I got myself an ipod and am enjoying your lecture podcast in PA this week, wish I could hear more!
    all the best,



  32. You are right ~ it is best to have a little of each the tortoise and the hare as both have qualities we can learn from.

    BTW, thank you for your sketch of the tortuoise! I have a good friend whom I need to make a gift for and she has a turtle sanctuary…so I’ll use your form for the picture I’m going to paint on her mug :) It is just for fun – but perhaps will look more like a turtle – thanks to your sketch!


  33. “Continent. Goal: to remain at this level.”

    I feel that’s a good goal for all of us to work towards ;-)

    You do explain all of this very lucidly. During my cross-country race today whilst running running down a very steep muddy slope I was thinking about all the different ways I was making my steps to compensate for the angle and condition of the ground (land with toe, land with heel, angle heel to one side, spring off again sideways) but it’s so difficult to think about how to make that same step when you’re at rest and not doing it spontaneously.

    I love the wee little hares and torties on the sweater btw and their use as a jumping off point for this post.


  34. Dear Kate, your thoughts about reconciling the hare and the tortoise in you made me think about all the hard work you are going through to reconciliate your right and left sides : what a deeply appropriate simile your came upon ! I love that you meditate actively on it with your knitting, which is lovely and inspiring. As for the one-size-fits-all medical routine, I can understand how annoying it is for you, but then again I’m sure they do not often get such an articulate and determined patient as you are – if only they could get to read your blog posts, I’m sure they would change a little bit.
    Cheers, Kate, you *are* making progress, one stitch at a time. I’m sure you’ve gone on hikes before when you didn’t feel like you were getting any nearer to your goal, and yet suddenly it was there. Your stubbornness will pay off. And thank you again for the lovely and interesting posts.


  35. You sound as though your mind is working as brilliantly as before! How awful about the chart on the bed detailing your gastric workings. From the outside, it seems like there are some simple changes that could be made to help patients feel more like the individual humans we all are, but one thing we definitely learn while working in academia is how hard it is to change a system. Sigh. Keep up the good work! My friend Adrienne (who was a dancer before her stroke) wrote in her book about how hard the gait recovery was, and how frustrating it was to have everyone minutely inspecting its progress, when moving that leg meant mobility and independence. She didn’t recover so much use of her arm and hand, so it sounds like you are working wonders over there and I can imagine the collective sigh of relief from knitters around the world, as well as readers of your blog and your academic work (and your students), to know that you can knit and type again so soon!


  36. Crap! I meant hare-like recovery! Sorry! Darn! Although tortoise like, in regards to patience, might be better. But speedy is what I was after, sooner rather than later. Crap! Can’t blame this on eye glasses. My humblest apologies.


  37. While I love the NHS and eternally grateful for the amazing care that they have given people who I love, I find it frustrating that they can’t adapt care to make it more patient centred and less alienating for those receiving it. I’m full of admiration with your channelling of your inner tortoise and think your hare-like qualities will help you survive the puzzles and keep the medics on their toes. Hope this week passes quickly and that you get more time to yourself. Lx


  38. You are, indeed, following (or rather stuck on ) the twisting journeyed path of the labyrinth – just when you think you’re near the centre, it chucks you back the other direction. I remember a professor of drama that took us out into the middle of the prairie to a labyrinth and required us all to travel through it, taking our time and pausing for reflection. I kept feeling, “I don’t need this.” I had long understood that it was the way life moved, ebb and flow, twist and turn, and felt patronized by the professor that wanted to “give” us a profound experience that would guide us to becoming better at understanding the characters we played. (None of those that I have come across have ever walked through a labyrinth, however, and have had to journey through life the hard way). I would rather have sat in the shade with a journal, or walked along the river with my camera, than standing impatiently on this “symbol”, waiting for the others to get OUT of my way – to pause felt phoney and useless. I should say that a few of the students actually got something out of the experience (terrible actors, all). I got frustration and a seething rage. I did congratulate myself of being a big enough person not to hit him. :-) I did et a blistering insight into understanding ‘hare’ that day – I already knew tortoise.

    I was frustrated by stones on a patch of grass. That you have not been more frustrated by having to rewire half your body from scratch is astounding! And I am uplifted and inspired by your progress and attitude, and doubt I would be as graceful in your place. But it is those hare moments, and the hare’s drive, that keep you hungry for more and keep the tortoise moving. If he wasn’t racing anyone, why would he even move forward? I hope your hare can take long naps and celebrate how far your tortoise has journeyed while he was too busy to notice.

    Take care!


  39. This analysis of your present condition is quite interesting and very well written. I do hope the standard questions and puzzles will diminish a bit. It reminds me of my father, who lost his speech and the ability to write. He had to do all sorts of simple reading and small exercises while he was well versed into literature. The day he quoted Shakespeare the “lessons” stopped quickly.
    Reading your blog should convince everybody that your mind is as vibrant as ever. And the approach to mobility as you conceive it should bring along a lot of improvement. Keep going!


  40. As others have asked–is the neuropsychologist aware of your blog? It is more cogent than a lot of others that I read, and those people (presumably) haven’t had strokes. I am in awe of your fortitude. Wishing you tortoise-like progress!


  41. This post reminds me of “Young Miles,” by Lois McMaster Bujold. It’s frivolous reading, but the fragile-boned, great-hearted hero is a hyper-hare type constrained and defying the constraints of the body he was issued at birth.

    Lurch-walking and knitting, re-walk-practicing and tinking, it goes to show that no experience is a total waste if you have the will and the wit to recognize the parallels. And you do! Keep on keeping on.


  42. So beautifully put — you’re a fantastic writer, in addition to being “one tough cookie”. I think that toughness during necessary (and necessarily) tedious stretches of life is the hardest kind of toughness to come by, and I marvel at what you’re doing every time you post.
    Many many pleasant thoughts to you and yours — I hope that the opportunity for more hare-like behavior comes your way soon, even as you cultivate that tortugan patience!


  43. Kate, I’ve always been happy to see a post from you (since finding your blog last year), but doubly so these days! The grace and intelligence that you’re bringing to bear on your situation are … well, I was going to say “staggering”, but then it occurred to me that it might be rather tactless :-) I’ll stick with awe-inspiring.

    I agree with the commenter who said that all the puzzle-doctors need to do is read your blog, if they’re in any doubt about your mental faculties.

    Hare, tortoise, or a fantasy hybrid of the two – I’m sure you’ll find the inner resources to get through this unreal experience.

    I’ll be thinking of you.


  44. At least the stool charts provide entertainment for visitors!! I used to get p*ssed off at being woken at 6am by the nurses to wash my hands and face … then I would go back to sleep until breakfast was served. The nurses finally stopped doing it when I promised to wash my hands when I went to the loo when I got up …..


  45. A natural and remarkable storyteller. Your intelligence is obviously intact. You have endured a journey into the land of the unknown.

    This a cornucopia of celebrations for many occasions. A gift of great abundance. The Tortoise and the Hare present their gifts each in their own way.

    Life bestows everybody else gifts in ways that are unexpected. In ways everybody else fails to mention. No owners manual. Life endures. A thing that is not a thing.

    Gifts of Experience taking place in places that are not places. These are great gifts.


  46. I agree with Mary…have them read your post! I’m so glad you are doing as well as you are and sending wishes for progress that will make the hare in you leap for joy.


  47. Your inspirational posts display your intelligence and passion for the subjects of which you write, whether it’s knitting, academia or a long walk in the highlands. And now, I’m so, so pleased to see that those same traits are guiding you through your recovery. I think about you often and send some strength and a little patience all the way from Idaho.


  48. Kate, Be grateful that they have stopped you from walking badly! It is very very easy to get into a bad habit. And it reminded me, horribly, of the exercise we carried out in a drama class at university, where you had to pick someone else in the class, observe their movement pattern and then see if everyone else could tell who it was. Time after time, I had to watch my classmates walk round in a circle, launching one leg forward, balancing on it, and then kicking the other leg round in an arc to meet it. They were imitating ME, and I had absolutely no idea until that moment that I had adopted my father’s post-stroke walk.


  49. As a committed tortoise, I envy your hare-like ability to surge forward, deftly and with purpose. However, as you so astutely recognise, tortoisism does has its advantages. Move your body like a tortoise, Kate; your mind will dart like a hare, sure enough.


  50. Perhaps you should work on answering the whatdayisitwhatisyourbirthdayhowmanyfingersamIholdingup questions in other languages. :) “Hola, me llamo Kate…” I know how difficult it must be to keep hold of your usual grace and charm in these situations. Health care folks are pretty good at not taking things personally if you do have a cranky day, so be kind to yourself. Lots of emotion comes with all the other hard things you are doing and working with it is all part of your recovery. Hold onto who you are and hold on to Tom and you guys will make it through all of this stronger and with a whole new appreciation for a lot of life. Dan and I think of you often, and send you both thoughts of love and peace.


  51. I think it is very healthy to recognize both aspects of the fable in our personalities; the balance is challenge. Your hare-ness will propel you when your tortoise-ness wants a rest…

    Oh the ministry of silly walks! It’s great that you can be humourous through all of this.

    The motif is very nice; the shapes of the animals is friendly and the braided rounds are special. Amazing!

    best – Annri


  52. Like many of your other readers, I must say that your way with words and your ability to analyze and pick apart your feelings, the system, and frustrations is inspiring and eye opening.

    I am reminded of when my youngest, born with several anomalies, was spending so much time in hospital. I saw so many parents with worse problems, and many whose problems ranked up there with a stubbed toe. The instinct to compare is overwhelming–“Oh, but they are so much worse off,” or “They really don’t have much to worry about,” but in the end, what I learned was that it didn’t matter what other folks had to deal with. My feelings about what we were going through were valid, and I had to feel them to move through the surgeries, the illnesses, the casts, the therapies, etc. and ad nauseam, to come out to the other side of healing.

    The result is a pretty well adjusted 25 year old whose brain, like yours, is brilliant, but whose body, like yours, is not always cooperative. And we still have days of feeling frustrated and yet, in the end, are grateful.

    Does this make any sense at all?

    Wishing you continued recovery, and hopeful that on the other side you will recall the better days and not the worser ones!


  53. Should the doctors wish to monitor your cognitive abilities, I suggest they read the postings you have made on your blog since the stroke. I am sure most of them would feel the need to return to classes on writing as yours would put them to shame.

    Your attitude, a combination of the tortoise and hare-like approach, will serve you well in your recovery. I am sure my attitude would be more sloth-like, so I marvel at your measured approach. That said, I do not, however, underestimate the pure and intense effort you are expending these days.

    I will be visiting Edinburgh from the US for a few days next week and will be sending you my good thoughts from close by. I wouldn’t presume to invade your privacy, but if you would like a brief visit, I would make time to do so.

    Again, know that we in blogland hold you in our thoughts. Best of luck with getting out of the puzzle routine…I, for one, find your cognitive abilities a wonder!


  54. Carry on, whether in the guise of tortoise or hare. Both matter, and both serve you well. Without the hare, the tortoise would probably just stop and sit in the sun, you know? And then where would he be? Sending wishes for strength and will from the U.S.


  55. thank you for this. as others have noted, so many in the US have been working so hard to keep some sort of national health system off the table. it’s bittersweet to hear about such a system from someone who is forced to see it, and use it, up close and personal. i can imagine how frustrating this process of healing is for you, and i especially understand the anger at a “one-size-fits-all” solution. but i am so very grateful that the system is there for you, and that you are making progress within it!
    oh, and i love the knitting project…


  56. Your self analysis is so amazing Kate, where many of us would swing from highs to lows, you find the words to expres and analyse them! Proverbial hats off to you!

    The charts and tests brought back the neuro wards all too vividly. “I’m hypersensitive on my left side, with extreme reflexes” Dr invariably gets his hammer-thing or pin out. I was always disappointed when my leg didn’t kick them somewhere personal, as it did often kick them and hurt me!!! ;)

    til soon! :)


  57. Each time you post I cheer for you. What synchronicity that your knitting project has become a daily teacher in such a profound way. And in turn, we learn from you. Melody

    PS The knitting project is lovely.


  58. I would be sorely tempted to produce a large and ornately decorated notice, detailing my current stool status. It’s a shame that the thorough, and thus wonderful, rehabilitation has to include some 1950s style patronisation.
    I love your hare and tortoise. Will it be a child’s garment ?


  59. I think that combining the virtues of the two animals is very wise and I’m sure this will help you recover! I am not as eloquent as some of those that follow your blog, and have spent quite a bit of time editing what I have written as it all sounds a bit trite to me. I just want you to know that there is someone from my little part of the world, thinking of you and cheering for your every effort. I imagine you have plenty to read but thought I would share a few of my latest favorites.

    Earthbound and Heavenbent by Elizabeth Prendergast Carlisle

    The Age of Homepun by Laurel Thatcher Urich

    Our Own Snug Fireside by Jane C. Nylander


  60. Dear Kate,

    It’s always so good to hear from you (and assume, since you are posting, that you are on another weekend home).

    I really admire your persistence, and the courage to admit to yourself and others how hard it is. Your story reminded me of your knitting, though. There was a story you shared a couple of months ago, about finishing, and about how you used to just finish objects hastily in order to have them done as soon as possible (I seem to recall a hippy skirt finished off with safety pins during college years…). And then the story went on to say how in the meantime you had learned to appreciate fine details and the effort that goes into getting things ‘just right’. I used to be the same when I just started knitting. ‘This will do’ was a frequently-heard statement. But, and partly thanks to you, I have learned to appreciate that we get a lot more satisfaction from knowing that we finally got something right, even though we had to unravel it four times to actually get there. The process is tedious and sometimes so endless that you just want to cry out of sheer frustration, but once you actually get the right result, you don’t regret a minute you spent on achieving it. So, bon courage with your unraveling and re-knitting! You’ll get there, just strive on!


    p.s. I’m loving working on your Owlet pattern. Don’t forget your past achievements either!


  61. I want to be able to tell you, in words as graceful and articulate as your own, how much your journal means to me. Let it suffice to say that I am cheering you on and that I wish those in the U.S. who keep health care out of the reach of so many, would take a look at you and have a heart for us.


  62. In my opinion impatience, vim, vitality and dissent are as important as patience, the ability to slow down, acceptance and a steady pace, when it comes to the healing process. It is difficult sometimes to defend the former – especially in health institutions, in my experience – but vital for retaining a hearty core.

    Hurrah for a bit of puzzle-griping, some deriding of the unpleasant ‘stool chart’ and some resentment for the unnecessary continence goal on your chart!

    And hurrah also for your patient tenacity with the difficult process of relearning your gait, attending to correctness and detail in the process, and taking the time to write about and consider the process so thoughtfully.

    I think your beautiful hare/tortoise knitting project combines these elements beautifully and I think you are amazing.


  63. I’ve read your blog for ages, but have never commented until now. I was so upset to hear of your stroke – especially knowing how much you enjoy hiking and camping in the highlands. Thank you so much for continuing to blog through your rehab. As someone who has sat on the other side and been one of the doctors constantly asking name, place, date etc its wonderful to get a patient’s perspective of rehab. You have such a gift with words – and I think very pragmatic about the whole process – that the patient’s view of what can be a pretty alienating and frustrating experience for everyone (patients/family/doctors/phyios) come through. Thank you.


  64. Well, hello there!

    It’s good to hear you’re working on the complete recovery and not rushing towards a workable one.

    In the mean time, you will become very good at being patient. Just because you have to be.

    Good luck with all the hard and tedious work,

    PS. the good thing about patience is that, once your goals are achieved, you can just let it go…


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