An Excellent Investment

And no. I’m not trying to lure you into a Ponzi scheme!

Many of my readers came along for the ride when we redid our back yard a number of years ago. With the help of landscape architect, Alan Burke from Classic Nursery, we created a garden dedicated to one of my favorite poems, Baucis and Philemon by C. Day-Lewis. Here’s a link to an article complete with photos from the Seattle Times: Author J.A. Jance’s Garden... The poem is actually a love story. In Greek mythology, Baucis and Philemon were an elderly couple who, with the help of the gods, manages to grow old together gracefully.

If you look at the first photo, the one with the columns, you’ll see a glimpse of the landing at the top of the steps that lead down to the lower level of the garden. What you don’t see is a view of the steps themselves. There are twelve of them in all. Due to the lay of the land, they are unevenly spaced with landings here and there along the way. For as long as we’ve lived in this house, and especially after the garden was installed, those steps have scared daylights out of me, and for good reason.

People entering the garden tend to look at the view. They don’t pay attention to their feet, and how do I know this? First hand experience. Early on, I was going down the steps when there was water sitting on one of them. My feet slipped out from under me and down I went. What saved my life was the fact that I had my hair in a scrunchy at the back of my head, and that’s what hit the edge of the step three steps above where I landed. If it hadn’t been for that low-brow hairdo, I would have ended up with a concussion and probably a brain bleed besides. I landed hard enough that the brooch I wear on a chain necklace left a recognizably matching bruise on my collar bone.

After that I became paranoid about going down the steps to feed the fish, especially when it rained. And whenever we had company, I would give everyone a pep talk before they headed down to explore the garden, telling them that ours was a “twelve step garden” and cautioning that they not start looking at the view until they had counted down all twelve of them. Then after issuing the mandatory caution, I always ended up holding my breath until all the guests went home.

I always resented the term dizzy blonde but that was before I became one—at least a dizzy former blonde—because these days I have occasional bouts with vertigo. I can say for a fact, that when a room starts spinning around me, it’s not fun—at all! When we were down in Tucson closing up the house, I had a touch of vertigo which caused me to step onto the patio and then veer into the river rock boundary. I ended up several feet away with my butt on the sidewalk and my head against the side of the house. The skin on the top of my skull head instantly swelled up. After only a momentary discussion we headed off for the ER at Tucson’s Banner Medical Center where I learned the magic word that allows you to jump the ER line—Pradaxa. If you’re on blood thinners, they will take you in much sooner than later.

It turns out I was fine. No concussion. No broken bones. No brain bleed, although the two black eyes that showed up two days later when the swelling went down were really spectacular. And the bill? By the time they finished with CT scans and brain scans, the amount was astonishing. Utterly. Close to fourteen thousand dollars for a four-hour stay—and that’s the discounted price. Let’s just say that hospitals can charge whatever they want because Medicare will pay whatever they charge which, as a former insurance salesman, seems like an unholy arrangement to me.

Having settled on our Seattle house as our place to “grow old gracefully,” we came back from Tucson and decided to make some necessary changes. Top on that list was installing handrails on that flight of steps down into the garden. They’re in now, created by and artisan to match the ones already leading in and out of the house. They’re beautiful.

And what happened the very first time Bill and I used them? He was looking out at the blooming wisteria and ended up missing a step. And our newly installed hand rail saved him. We paid eight-thousand dollars to install those rails and they would have been cost effective at twice the price.

And now, having said that, I really am going down to feed the fish—with a very happy heart.

PS. By the way, now that the Big Guy has emerged from hiding, he’s about eighteen inches long and must weigh between four and five pounds. Big Orange is probably a third as big, but these days they both come out as soon as the food arrives.

And I’m back on the my back porch perch, Nerf Gun at my side, doing heron watch!

19 thoughts on “An Excellent Investment

  1. Sounds great. After stopping my trips to Fla and staying year around in Michigan. 80 years old, widowed, just me and my new old dog. I enjoyed ur books but now days I don’t read much. You wrote me some years ago about returning to Mi too early in the spring which doesn’t happen here till the end of may. Tough here in winter. Feed the birds and look for arrivals in the spring. Tried a fish pond. Didn’t work out. Sounds like u have a peaceful life. Best wishes. John

    • I know you said you’ve moved away from reading, but I think you’ll enjoy the upcoming Beaumont book Sins of the Fathers, due out September 24. It’ll be like meeting up with an old friend. Best to you.

  2. I can empathize with you concerning your vertigo. My comes and goes and I was finally diagnosed with vestibular neuritis. The doctor wanted more tests which included being spun around in something resembling a human centrifuge and chasing a red dot around a dark room with my eyes. I passed on those since I felt like I would be training to be an astronaut and would fail horribly. Besides, I already knew I had vertigo. ? Please be careful when it hits you.
    Glad you invested in hand rails. Much cheaper than ER visit with all the tests!

  3. Thank you for sharing your garden and pictures with us. Vertigo first hit me 20+ years ago, I’ve been told there are 3 different types and I had to get all 3 at the same time! Through Rx, using a walker to stay upright, a driver to/from work and PT I finally got me balance back 🙂 The Physical Therapy helped me a lot. Over a period of years I had 3 different rounds with different providers and it worked. The last time I started having problems, my primary care provider gave me a work sheet called: Epley Maneuver. Now when I get the first hint of vertigo, I go lay on the bed and do the excercises and the vertigo goes away = a life changer for me. Best wishes as you tame this beast vertigo. Thank you for many hours of wonderful reading in your books. jan

  4. Marvelous home and garden.
    BUT have been waiting to hear how your grandson came out in the bowling tournament in Vegas!

    • Glad you mentioned the Epley Maneuver. It truly is such a simple yet highly effective procedure to put a stop to the current vertigo without having to resort to drugs or other expensive (often useless) tests. I don’t know why all physicians, PTs, and emergency rooms don’t know about this procedure!! It takes minutes to perform. Learning to do it to yourself is the best medicine. One can also have someone else in the household help them through it if needed. Of course, it won’t work on every single type of vertigo issue but it should be tried as the first step. Simply type “Epley Maneuver” into any search engine and many YouTubes and articles will pop up for one to review.

    • Colt injured a tendon on Saturday of the tournament. Even so he bowled well enough to come in at#357 our of 25,000 U-16 bowlers. We’re proud of him for qualifying, we’re proud of him bowling despite his injury, and we’re very proud of him for being a good sport! Even with a game leg, most of his scores were in the 200s,

  5. You mean the big guy isn’t gone? He must have a darn good hiding place!

    I am guessing balance or rather loss of balance is a by-product of aging. Mine went about 15 months ago when I lost the hearing in one ear…..overnight. Not common but I am told it happens. If it happens to you, get to an ENT stat. Don’t dawdle.

    • Congratulations to Colt on his stellar performance in spite of his injury! Also, thank you for sharing that special photo of your handsome grandson.

  6. Glad you didn’t have a major bleed! Is your vertigo treatable? (Mine was).

    FYI Medicare pays what Medicare pays, regardless of the bill.

  7. Such a beautiful, calming space to retreat from the rat race. Glad the handrails are in. At 60, and always less than graceful, I’m leery of any stairs without a rail.

  8. Yikes, so sorry to hear about the vertigo – I had a terrible 7 months struggle before beginning a series of chiropractic treatments that (knock on wood) seem to have addressed the issue for me. The worst part was constantly dreading the next episode. The Epley movements work for positional vertigo; if that’s not the sort one has they don’t help. For anyone in that circumstance a chiropractor knowledgeable about vertigo can be a tremendous help.

    Good news on the fish – what a survivor!


    • Cici, you and I have similar problems. Loss of hearing and my ears plug up they say from allergies and I take a natural allergy pill to help it but it does make you unbalanced and I am very careful when walking on uneven ground. And I also think it has to do with aging, several of my friends in the “golden years” have this issue but mine are the ears and pressure with the weather being an issue. It is a scary thing, vertigo, and my heart races and think I’m dying but no one including Doctors seems to be concerned so I try to plug along. Also my chiropractor was able to help me and then she retired.

  9. Lovely garden. Thanks for sharing. Have you tried the Epley Maneuver to help with the dizziness? That works great for Allan when his dizziness comes back.

  10. I’m happy to hear that you didn’t suffer any major injuries. Safety is much more important than aesthetics, it sounds like you managed to marry the two.

    I’ve been reading your books for about 20 years and have enjoyed them immensely. I’m currently rereading the Beaumont series.

    I understand your going to be in Huntington Beach, CA next month. I hope I can attend.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *