Crossing a bridge... March 24 2015


It was a beautiful August morning-clear, warm, fragrant. There had been a violent storm the night before, and the world felt freshly scrubbed.

My black lab, Turbo, and I were on a trail walk along the Brandywine River. Turbo had been in deep mourning for two months, as his beloved companion the yellow lab Chester, had died in June. I had never seen anything so poignant than the grief exhibited by this magnificent dog.

But on this day, Turbo had a smile in his eyes and a spring to his step as we started out.

Crossing a bridge, we startled a Great Blue Heron, who flew out from under the bridge with a burst of color and the whir of wings beating the air.

Turbo was elated as he pranced along. We were both smiling now.

Typically, the end of summer was bittersweet for me. But this year, I was anticipating a very full season of concerts, talented students, and exciting work on the residency my flute and harp duo had developed. My mind was full of plans.

On the return, Turbo and I left the path, and walked along the river. He scrambled down the bank frequently to swim, his very favorite activity. Rather than cross a meadow damp with dew in my brand new trainers, I elected, as I had dozens of times that summer, to take a path along the stream over which the "heron bridge" crossed, and jump across at my favorite place.


The gully washer the night before had undermined my landing rock, and as my right foot hit, it shoved forward, pitching me back onto my left hip, which in turn drove my left hand into the stream bed.

I knew instantly that the hand was broken.

I swore a blue streak, and then Turbo's nose was under my arm and he nudging me out of the stream and leading me up the bank. Looking at my hand, I saw that the pinky was at an awful angle, pointing away from me at the knuckle. Turbo looked back, seemed to say, "let's get out of here" and marched in front of me the 1.5 miles out of the woods. Getting to the car, he hopped nimbly in the back, something he had not done in months.

On that walk out of the woods I knew that my wonderful concert season was going to be changed. I faced the reality of not ever playing the flute at a professional level again. I made plans to take up the work on my doctorate again, only now it would be a PhD in Musicology.

The hand was badly broken. I think the word "crushed" was used. My 4th metacarpal was broken in 2 places, my middle finger badly dislocated and the tendon had been pulled away from the pinky at the broken knuckle. The doctor speculated the force it took to damage the pinky that much. The word "tons" was used.

And so, I went home and picked up the pieces, Turbo curled at my feet, my devoted companion as I mourned the destruction of that concert season.

As it turned, out, I was playing again in 8 weeks, and with the guidance of a brilliant Hand Physical Therapist, my flute technique began to approach what it had been.

There was much to learn here:

1. Find out what the heck the symbolism of the Great Blue Heron is.
2. Use the bridge.
3. Yes, you can teach flute lessons without playing the flute. But you also have to develop a very strong vocabulary of adjectives.
4. It is possible to get stuff done in 10 minute practice sessions.
5. All physical therapists are guaranteed a place in heaven.
6. Concerts can and will be rescheduled and no one is the worse for wear.
7. You still have a right hand.
8. Paul-Edumund Davies "28 Days of Warm-Ups" book is fabulous for training the hands to move at the same speed. Esp. No. 3 and 4.
9. A puppy can change everything.*
10. There is more to life than playing the flute.

I learned that adaptability is a life long skill, and when you look beyond limitations it can lead you to great things. Like starting a brand new business.

*Two weeks later, we brought home our precious yellow lab, Blitz. He died a year ago this week.

11. All dogs go to heaven.