Sunday, November 23, 2008


The view from my seat by the window

This summer I re-read Pause: An Emily Carr Sketchbook, a book of Emily Carr's writing and drawings that was compiled and published after her death in 1945. From the dust cover of the book...

"While studying at the Westminster School in London in 1902, Emily Carr so undermined her own health by overwork that she "subsided into Sunhill Sanatorium with a limp and a stutter" for eighteen long months. Pause is the story of this enforced hiatus in her artistic development: the dreary, stultifying San routine, annoying doctors and devoted nurses, the foibles and courage of the patients. Emily Carr's active mind rebelled at San restrictions: "They gave us very little credit for having sense at Sunhill. We came here to pause our ordinary activities. Even thinking was prohibited." But her natural gaiety could not be defeated. She delighted all those around her with verses, cartoons, games and, most important of all, by her interest in the glorious songbirds of the English countryside which then engrossed her attention for the first time."

I love Emily Carr's books and have Grandma's collection of all that have been published. She is best known as a pioneer Canadian artist who struggled for years to gain recognition for her work. In the early 20th century she travelled to many isolated Indian villages in British Columbia painting totem poles and scenes of natural beauty in the magnificent forests of Canada's west coast. In later years illness kept her from her beloved outdoors and canvases so she started her literary career from her sick bed. Her writings are even more brilliant than her paintings in my opinion. No word is wasted as she creates images as vivid to the mind as any art form.

Pauses are not welcome in our busy modern world. Quick fixes are sought, vacation time is neglected, important relationships ignored, and days are often overbooked with activities.

I came home late Tuesday night two hours after I started waking from a general anaesthetic. I was aware that I was the last patient on the Day Surgery unit. My nurse had already worked four hours overtime and could go home when I was discharged so I forced myself into alertness. My daughter drove me home and I slept through the night. In the morning I felt great and wrote Wednesday's post in a somewhat euphoric state. I was still in a morphine/versed/gravol induced haze and had minimal pain and swelling. I laughed at the prescription given by the surgeon...50 percocet! I wouldn't be needing anything more than plain tylenol. In fact, I could walk well without crutches even though I had been told to use them all the time. I would be back at work in just a few days.

Off-centre, but happy

Things were a lot different a few hours later as my knee ballooned and pain marched well ahead of me. While percocets really don't take away pain, they cause you not to care about it or anything else (scary!). So I am learning the value of rest and patience. I have caught up on some reading and have spent time in contemplation.

My coworkers sent me a large poinsettia and a gift bag full of generosities. As I rest and look past the red leaves, I see the snow in the front yard and roadway.

A pause at a busy time of year
may not be a bad thing...

I have really appreciated Ginger's posts this month and they have been part of my "contemplations". Here are a couple of links. Sundown Friday, O Give Thanks


  1. Please do take good care of yourself.Hope the pain doesn't last too long and that you can enjoy some time to relax.

  2. I'm glad you feel better, when will we be able to go birding again. Even if I just come to your house to bird in your back yard with you. Anyway, that book you read seems good by how you described it.

  3. Pause sounds like a wonderful read and perhaps we should all take note of the title. As you so rightly say in todays rushed living we rarely take the time to just stop and think.......

    I do hope your knee starts to must be frustrating to have to rest when the mind is active and wants to get up and go......

    Take care of the way I love the snowman......

  4. Thanks for the referrals! So sorry to hear that you've been feeling the pain, Ruth. I hope that's over soon. And thanks for the tip on a good author; she sounds fascinating.

  5. Oh, Ruth--I know whereof you speak--at least where knee pain is concerned. A decade ago I had knee surgery--and came through in flying colors. Propped up on the couch that evening, I thought--what's the big deal? Then a day later, the proverbial ton of bricks hit me. PAIN. Woooo--nothing like knee pain.

    Thanks for the intro to Emily Carr--she is new to me.

  6. Pause sounds like a good read. I read a book somewhat like that about another female canadian artist. I like Emily Carr's spirit. Maybe I'll borrow some from her!
    Do take care and rest. I hope your knee mends soon. I also like your off centre snowman! Cute!

  7. Please enjoy convalescing as much as possible.

  8. This is a really great post Ruth and you are so right. Maybe we should look at some of the times we are forced to take a pause as sort of a blessing and a time to reflect...I hope your pain will be well managed..

    New Rambling Woods Site

  9. First, a wish that you will continue to improve. Pamper yourself with your favorite books and drinks. And Percocets now and then.

    Secondly, a tremendous thank you for informing me about Emily Carr. I read your post and then spent a while learning about her online. What an artist, and what a woman. I'm going to be looking for the sketchbook. She sounds like such a fascinating woman. After my brief introduction, I can just imagine her in her homemade scooter, still working after heart attacks and strokes.

    Take care of yourself.

  10. After resisting scheduling my hysterectomy because I felt I couldn't pause my life, I was forced to give in. That six week break was just what I needed, and the doctor gave me permission to relax and take care of myself. My husband even noticed that my sleep was more restful during that time than it had been in years.

    I hope you are able to enjoy this pause while you mend from your surgery.

  11. Wishing you a speedy recovery.God boo-boo'ed when He designed knees!Take care and don't rush back - I did that and you gain nothing.

  12. Take gentle care of yourself Ruth. Just remember what you'd say to your own patients about pausing to heal. :c) Hope the pain is subsiding and that you will be up and about soon.

  13. Oh Ruth, be careful and take care of yourself. Enjoy the books and the view from your window--you will be up and about soon.

  14. Anonymous7:50 am GMT-5

    I know what it's like to think "I feel great", I have this licked" and then WHAMMO - you are hit with a ton of bricks. That's when reality sinks in and you are forced to just take it easy, one day at time.

    I'm sure you tell your patients that as well, but taking your own medicine is always hard. So please take care of yourself so that you are in 100% shape to get back out there doing what you enjoy most.

  15. Hi Ruth,
    I hope you're feeling better soon.

  16. Pause. What s simple and brilliant statement. I think I like Emily Carr and I've not heard of her before now. Thank you for sharing her with us.

    Enjoy your own Pause as you heal. I hope you are feeling better already!

  17. It is a shame that pausing is not an acceptable practice in the midddle of an average day here in Connecticut.-We are too wrapped up in following rules that we made for ourselves.

  18. Ruth,

    It's good to hear how you feel. I remember the pain after urgent ankle surgery and feeling the loss of control - that's the most difficult part of recovery. But, after a while, the "pause" is what I had to embrace because there were no other options!

    Enjoy the quiet for a while. I hope for you a speedy recovery. The rivers and nature trails will be waiting for you. Take care of that knee!


  19. By the way, that snowman made me laugh out loud! What a happy soul!

  20. Thanks to every one for your kind comments. I had to laugh at your observations, Donna (KGMom). I have treated 1000s of knee patients in my career but experiencing the pain personally was enlightening to say the least. It is improving :-)


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