under my left shoulder blade
Tuesday, June 16 2009
I don't often suffer from back problems, which is a miracle considering the shoddiness of the hack job that the human back is. Originally evolved as a horizontal suspension bridge from pelvis to shoulders, it has been reoriented into something resembling a stack of poker chips, and if the muscles end up being a little out of balance, stresses can form and then multiply as the back's owner compensates and then compensates for the compensation. Over time pain can move from place to place, swirling around unpredictably like a weather pattern. A healthy back tends to stay healthy, but an unhealthy one has trouble recovering.
Today I was continuing with the plastering of Portland cement over electrical conduit in the greenhouse, a task requiring me to hold my hands up over my head for long stretches at a time. It's an unpleasant posture and one of the reasons I could never be a professional electrician. At some point I pain developed in my back under my left shoulder blade. It quickly grew to a level where it hurt to breathe and I could no longer work. I tried hitting the troubled spot on my back with a hammer (sometimes this works) but in the end I had to call on Gretchen for some emergency work, (she'd been doing non-spiritual yoga at the time, which makes one yogi in our household). That helped, but the pain kept creeping up on me throughout the day. I found the easiest way to keep that particular devil down in a hole was to lean into the corner of one of the two simple oak pillars holding up the second floor. I frequently use these same pillars as back scratchers, but they're also effective as deep-tissue massagers if one really leans into them.
It turns out that one of the best things for work-related back pain is more work, though work of a different nature. So at some point this afternoon I continued work on the stone walkway to the greenhouse. The hard part, the steps, have been completed for a week, and the part nearest the greenhouse has been complete for a month. Only about 20 feet between these two stretches needed to be done, and it was across nearly-flat terrain. I used a mattock to provide shallow pits for seating the stones, which were from a "library" of bluestone scraps, the small kind I don't normally use for walkways. I just wanted to have something in place to walk across. Over time, the loosest of the stones will aggravate me enough to demand replacement and, over time, the walkway will improve through an essentially Darwinian process. Sometimes you just have to do something and not worry about the shoddiness, being open to implementing fixes down the road. I hadn't done that for the stair-step section, which I'd made nearly perfect, but across flat terrain shoddiness is more acceptable.
Regarding the trouble with the slowly-tearing hydronic hoses going to the solar panels, today I implemented a fix. I decided that I didn't need to replace the hoses after all. They've only ever torn at the one spot where the stress has been concentrated. All I needed to do was support the hose bundle (both hoses coming and going, their insulation jackets, and the corrugated aluminum jacket protecting them from the sun). So I built a little outrigger from the solar deck that sticks out two feet and clutches the bundle in a circular clasp of board I'd specially prepared on the bandsaw. (Once you have a bandsaw, lots of problems start seeming like the kind that can be solved with a bandsaw.)
It was Mexican Tuesday in our household, with Gretchen preparing a fancy taco-based dinner with specially flash-picked carrots, some sort of wacky sour cream type substance, beany glurp, flavorful rice, stand & stuff taco shells, and tempeh marinated in three year old Guatemalan beer (from a can of Gallo that had been in our refrigerator since our Guatemala trip of 2006).
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