On the Road to Recovery: A Spiritual Journey Begins

BY Anita L. Sherman TIMEMarch 27, 2022 PRINT

It’s been long overdue but I finally made it to UVA Medical Center in Charlottesville for foot surgery. As I pen this from my laptop station aboard my bed top the leg is prone and heavily wrapped. Instructions are clear. This is the non-weight bearing stage so keep it elevated and off the ground.

Forget walking. Forget doing the laundry or preparing a meal. Forget going upstairs to my in-home office. Forget scurrying around doing anything.

My world now is bed to bathroom and back again via crutches. Curiously I’ve had a few dreams where I’m running and have to catch myself in that woozy wake-up period before an attempted leap out of bed.

I knew from the outset that this recovery would be long. I’m calling 2022, “the year of the foot” and my plan is to give it everything it needs to heal and to heal well. Once I move into the “boot” stage I’ll regain some mobility. In the meantime, I sit atop my bedside view of the world and there is time for reflection on the recovery road.

Time in the Wilderness

I missed Ash Wednesday and the imposition of ashes, an annual ritual that usually finds me in church emerging with a black cross on my forehead.

It’s the Lenten season. What perfect timing to coincide with my road to recovery.

Lent is a time of quiet reflection and spiritual discipline. It’s a time for repentance and renewal. Fashioned after Jesus’s 40-day time in the wilderness, the main focus was fasting.

I’m an Episcopalian now but was raised Catholic. Lent as a child wasn’t a particularly happy time. This notion of giving up things wasn’t a philosophy that I could totally wrap my arms around, particularly as a grade school student taught by nuns who seemed to embrace this primarily penitential season with gusto. The more we could “give up” the better, so favorite television programs, chocolate bars, going to the movies, and buying treats were all up for grabs.

Fortunately, by high school, our understanding of Lent had broadened (and some of these harsher tactics softened) so that emphasis was more on giving to others rather than giving something up. Acts of kindness and charity were encouraged.

As adults, there are plenty of meditative and contemplative programs that you can follow within your given church structure or on your own during Lent.

I do know this. There is value in spiritual renewal and quiet reflection.

And now, that my recovery absolutely requires rest, I have plenty of time to reflect without the gift of guilt to push me toward physical feats that I am simply incapable of doing at this time.

In many ways, my road to recovery has given me an extra dose of reflective time. I feel like I’m on a retreat.

View From the Top

I am blessed that I have a very pleasant view from my bed to the outside. Through the large-framed, picture windows I can see in the early morning the sunlight pass through a row of pine trees that line the front of the property. I don’t know if the original owner planted them as a privacy screen. What I do know is that they grow taller each year.

Fallen needles kill the grass below. Those same needles create a cushiony soft bed for the white-tailed deer that frequent the yards of this Virginia suburban neighborhood.

These tall pines—nearly a dozen—are home to a myriad of birds who build nests, feed their young and fly about often in some frenzied state.

The squirrels are ridiculous with their antics. Like chimps swinging on jungle vines, they hurl themselves from limb to limb.

The fallen pine cones are picked up by grandchildren, used as kindling when we have fires and work well in harvest wreaths.

As I find myself gazing at their graceful beauty, watching their limbs blown around when a good wind blows through and marveling more and more at their intricate design and the splash of green and brown against the blue sky, my thoughts take me to the whole tree rather than the part I’m seeing above the ground.

Now, if I were mobile, which I am not, I could go out and sit beneath those trees, pretend there are no other houses or a road nearby, close my eyes, and be “bathed by the forest.” Another concept that intrigues me, this Japanese tradition of “shinrin yoku” or the restorative power of forest bathing.

What supports those majestic pines is a tangled root system that will never see the light of day. Except for a few tougher roots that may make their way to the surface, the majority will remain underground.

That mess of roots is busy, soaking in the earth’s nutrients to be fed to the tree above who gets all the glory of being on top of the ground rather than beneath.

The tree can stretch its limbs in a myriad of directions. Its branches can support many other life forms. For me, they stretch heavenward. They stand as daily sentinels that all is right with the world.

But in order for that tree to be a tree it takes both the lightness of day and the darkness of the earth below to make it happen.

Sometimes it’s hard to see that joy and pain are partners. Light and dark as two sides to the same coin.

I also read that the word Lent has Germanic roots referring to springtime and the lengthening of days. I like that as our magnolia tree starts to bud.

Restoration. Renewal. Reinvention. Recovery. Reflection.

What gifts I’ve been given as my foot forces the rest of my body to remain quiet.

Anita L. Sherman is an award-winning journalist who has more than 20 years of experience as a writer and editor for local papers and regional publications in Virginia. She now works as a freelance writer and is working on her first novel. She is the mother of three grown children and grandmother to four, and she resides in Warrenton, Va. Anita can be reached at
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