Dear readers, after watching my last post develop a life of its own thanks to your thoughtful feedback and generous contributions, I feel it's only right to explain my absence from that extended conversation and let you in on some personal details that will impact the next chapter in my foraging career.
I took the above photo from my 4th floor hospital room the other night after awaking from a dense, dreamless swim through Dilaudid, Valium, Oxycontin, and Oxycodone. My mood was as somber as the skyline. Frankie calls these the wee hours, that lonely time in the pit of night when we feel our smallest and most insignificant. But I prefer Dylan's counsel on the matter—that it's darkest right before the dawn.
Remember the Amanita cocktail I mixed for my ailing lower back? It didn't do squat. So, after five years of chasing remedies to the degenerating disc at vertebra L5-S1—from acupuncture to Feledenkrais, from chiropractic to Pilates—I finally gave the thumb's up to the scariest and most invasive option of all: a spinal fusion.
I had the surgery last week. My lower spine where the lumbar meets the sacrum is now locked together with a couple titanium bars. A mulch of bone harvested from my iliac crest (pelvis) is housed in a cage where the disc used to be, hopefully fusing the spine as I type this. I'm back home and walking around some, though mostly I'm resting in a narcotic haze. Each day the pain recedes a little more. Yesterday I was able to stroll through my neighborhood for nearly an hour without any sciatica.
My timing was deliberate. January is the quietest month for both foragers and authors. I plan to lay low for most of the month and then gradually ramp up to my usual activities. This March you might catch me harvesting stinging nettles in a brace. If all goes according to plan, by the time the spring porcini start to push their rusty caps through North Cascades duff I'll be out of the brace and hoisting a heavy backpack once again—or maybe chasing a Squirrel Gumbo up a tree.