Sunday, March 8, 2009

One Year Later

It is incredible to me, but yesterday was the one-year anniversary of my ankle surgery. And one year ago today I was sitting here, all casted up, wondering how the coming year would play out. This blog was sort of born from the occasion of my injury, and I am struck by the evolution of both as the months have passed. The paths of the two have spread apart, thank goodness! As I look back on the very early first posts back from the spring of 2008, I see that I wrote a lot about the recovery process (and the pre-recovery period when I couldn't even do anything yet). As I progressed, I let you in on less and less of what was happening, mostly because I had less time to sit at the computer and describe what I was doing but also because it seemed less interesting. And soon, thankfully, my cohorts joined in and you got to hear several voices tell the story of being a dancer at OBT.

For the record, and to put a satisfying cap on what was the origin of this blog: the surgically repaired ankle from last year is doing very well. I managed to make my way through the first performances of the season in Swan Lake, though it was not easy and I was really not at all fully recovered. There were lots of secondary problems that cropped up as a result of favoring a weak and painful ankle, as well as from the basic fact of returning to dance after so long. The nastiest problems were my toe woes-- my toenails could not adapt fast enough to pointe shoes and loosened in their beds, making wish they would just fall off. Or that I could chop them off! My podiatrist convinced me not to, and did his best to shave down the ingrown parts and the corns, but could do nothing about the loose nail beds. The problems were compounded by the fact that I was in the process of trying new pointe shoe makers, one of which was too square and wide and didn't support my foot enough. Unfortunately, I didn't realize this until the week we opened and then had to deal with trying to perform in shoes that I was sliding around in.

The three week layoff after Swan Lake was a respite for me. Nutcracker rehearsals began, my toes had recovered enough, and I found a couple of new pointe shoe makers that fit much better. I remember having a lot of ankle trouble throughout the rehearsal weeks and while we were in Anchorage, but reached a turning point when we returned to Portland. It was like a switch had been flipped and all of a sudden I was on the other side of the healing process. Not completely through it, but standing on the far side looking back over the field behind me. And since then... knocking on wood fervently.... my ankle problems have been minimal. I don't even feel I need to ice it every day, though I do pay special attention to working out the muscles of my lower calf and instep. A little tendonitis-y stuff is most of what I deal with now.

And the blog... it's grown and evolved and become a wonderful forum for so many voices. It's exciting to think of things to write about here that you'll be interested in hearing. The blogger team has hatched several ideas for blog-projects, a few of which have come to fruition and a few of which are still on the drawing board, so stay tuned and keep checking in with us.

I don't want to belabor this topic, but I can't stop thinking about the passage of a year and marvelling at what a body can do. I'm remembering the various milestones along the way, the stages and phases I passed through. My daily routines were so habitual because I had no option for varying them. For weeks it seemed that the days were filled with small tasks that just took a lot of time, like taking a bath, making the bed, making breakfast, cooking up exercises that I could do without standing on two feet. There were the tiny triumphs of walking again, going up and down stairs, standing on one leg. I remember so vividly the first time I walked outside, by myself, without crutches and in two regular shoes. It was a gorgeous spring afternoon and I felt like everything in life was about to be reborn! I sorted through boxes of photo cds from years of OBT's past, figured out what was on each one, labelled it, and filed them into categorized notebooks for the OBT archives. I wrote here and tried to imagine something interesting that didn't have to do with my injury.

Thanks to all you readers for sticking with us and responding with your wonderful comments. It's wonderful to hear your thoughts and questions, so please keep them coming. And here's to the upcoming years of the OBT blog!


  1. Gavin, it's hard to imagine a more successful way for the blog to have developed. The many people who care about you were glad to have a place to come for news of your recovery.

    As your coworkers joined you with their own posts, we've followed right along, equally glad to have some insight into their experiences as OBT dancers.

    So, thanks for getting it started, Gavin! There must be something to the old adage about dark clouds and silver linings.

  2. Yes, I firmly believe in silver linings!
    Thank you so much for your words of support, David.