Sunday, November 11, 2012


I stopped shelling pecans about two weeks ago. My hands just couldn't take it, cutting stencils for 3 days and shelling pecans for 4 days, and since I already have 10 pounds worth of shelled pecans, I figured I would wait til I finish all the stencils for the mountain wall.

I'm still picking them up though, almost three boxes worth and still when you look up in the trees you can see pecans.

One day, several weeks after the pecans began to fall, when I leaned down to pick up a nut, I felt a twinge in my back. I'm right handed and I carry the bucket in my left hand leaning down and slightly sideways to pick up the nuts with my right hand.

After doing this over and over for several weeks, my body was telling me that it was getting out of balance. So I decided to switch the bucket to my right hand and pick up pecans with my left hand. Voila! No pain. Only my right handedness is so entrenched that I would notice after a while that I had, unconsciously, switched the bucket back to my left hand.

That first week, I had to make a conscious effort to be aware of what hand I was using. After a couple of weeks, it didn't matter which hand I carried the bucket in as things had balanced themselves out so long as I periodically switched from one side to the other.

It reminded me how important balance is not only in the human body but in life.

One of the guiding principles for my life has always been 'all things in moderation' and I seemed able to apply it towards all things except my work. When I am working on a project, I tend to become totally absorbed and work for hours on end with no breaks.

As long as I was young with a resilient body, I never suffered any ill effects from this tendency. About 12 years ago though, we were working on a job that consisted of 10 panels approx. 5' x 6' each that made up two 25' long walls. It was a beautiful job and we were elated to be done and have it installed. After months of working intently, intensely, and non-stop, I was finally able to relax. And a week later my back clenched up so badly that I was all but immobilized. I had, for months, been stressing muscles, holding positions in one direction, without ever engaging the opposing muscles and now I was paying the price.

I'd like to say that after a week or so all was well but it was not and I feared it was perhaps a permanent injury. Sitting, standing, bending, lifting anything was extremely painful. Working in the yard was impossible for more than 5 minutes. It did, over about a year, get incrementally better but it did not heal until I joined a gym and worked on strengthening my core muscles, front and back.


I was out there a couple of weeks ago, feeling pressed for time, a little stressed. There is so much I needed (and still need) to get accomplished by the end of this month, and by the middle of December as well. That's our target date for finishing up the mountain wall.

I was feeling guilty and thinking, as I wandered around enjoying the temperate weather and idly picking up the fallen nuts, that I should quit wasting my time and get in there and get to work on the waxes or filling the molds or whatever particular task awaited me.

Fortunately, my previous thoughts about balance reminded me that this activity was just as important as the intensely focused activity of work in regard to my personal and physical well being.

I have tried to keep, in the conscious part of my brain, the warning of Spider Woman when she was teaching Wandering Girl how to weave:

"But there is one danger that you must always be aware of. The Navajo People must walk the Middle Way, which means that they must respect boundaries and try to keep their lives in balance. They should not do too much of anything. You must promise not to weave for too long, or a terrible thing will happen to you." from The Magic Of Spider Woman by Lois Duncan

For Weaving Woman nee Wandering Girl, that was becoming trapped in her most perfect blanket. For me it was a grave injury to my body.

I was led to this story, I believe, by Spider Woman after she made herself known to me on a vacation through the Navaho Nation several years after we finished the job that got me so out of balance.

It was one of those light bulb moments.


  1. thank you for the good advice. hmmm.

  2. Very nice post. All things in moderation. Before I retired I could become consumed in my work... now I'm consumed in my play. Have a great Sunday.

  3. You are very wise. Workaholism is a real thing. It's seen as such a virtue. I think during young adulthood, why not? People should go for it. However, at our age, we must force ourselves to put down the pecan bucket, or back slowly away from the stencils, for awhile until we're renewed. Thanks, sis-star.

  4. This rings with touches of Taoism, and your words are good ones for me to hear right now.

    I've had problems with my right knee for over a year now and have started having shooting pains in the left leg. Compensation. And so I've started thinking of awareness as an integral part to the balance you speak of. Kind of obvious I guess, but personally, I forget.
    Thanks Ellen.

  5. I used to be a city carrier, you know, the one in the blue shorts, years ago. I quickly learned to switch shoulders while carrying the satchel which could weight up to forty pounds.

    You are so right, Balance applies to things.

  6. I have picked those nuts until my fingers were ragged and really hurt.It is still a favorite.My grandfather was backlogged about 3 years on a cracker he made for pecans out of wood and a wide rubbberband.It made halves real well.

  7. I try really hard to be balanced but sometimes I allow the intensity of whatever it is I am doing take over ... I'm a work in progress as they say.

  8. I have become smarter too about my life...working in harmony with my body's needs. But it is so easy to get focused on the work and stray. Sigh!!
    Good you have remembered.

  9. Yes, I do agree. Body balance, like mind balance, is so necessary. We forget that. Yoga reminds me all about body balance.

  10. Oh balance - yeah that would be a good thing to strive for. I think the closest I come to it is eating something sweet after something salty :)

  11. Love this story, Ellen. Walking the Middle Way seems the way to balance, body and soul. I'm tucking this into my pocket. But I'll shift it around to all my pockets every now and then. ;)


I opened my big mouth, now it's your turn.