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04 August 2011


Liquid Golden Sunshine - Honey!
Some of you may have noticed that I've been using a walking stick of some kind since spring. Most of the folks who know me know of my arthritis and assume the cane/walking stick is for my knees. If it were so simple.

A pinched nerve in my lower back creates phantom pain in my left leg usually far greater than the grinding pain in my knees. Fortunately, using a walking stick or cane in my left hand will take the pressure off the nerve so that I can walk long distances or stand for long periods of time on concrete--that wonderful stuff so many retail floors are made of.

Get me on turf or wooden floors, my back is much happier. I also have to remember to sit correctly: that is, straight and upright in a chair or car seat. Failure to do so results in pain, that fine teacher.

I do have to remind folks that just because I use a cane, doesn't mean I can't lift things, walk or even jog. The stick is there to let me have less pain. I don't need it for balance or to take weight off of one leg or another. In fact, I fence fine without the cane (although it can be useful as a rigid parrying device....). It helps me keep from wondering how long until my next break at work so I can get off my feet. It is most importantly a crutch to help me through my day at work.

Some crutches are better than others. Mine is just a stick I have to manage and keep track of. An annoyance (for me) at worst. It's just more annoying for me if I don't have it.  Some escape to their phones or rumor swapping. Some people resort to chemical help in the form of a pill or liquid that "makes the day go smoother". Those last are a menace to themselves and others. Fortunately, a very rare few of my co-workers are that stupid.

One crutch I rely more heavily on is coffee. Must. Have. Coffee. I don't care too much about quality unless it's truly awful. I do prefer light roasts. To me french roast tastes burnt. A little cream/creamer/whitener makes it go down smoother, but I don't otherwise sweeten my coffee. I inherited my father's ability to consume caffeine with few side effects. Like Papa, I can literally have a cup of coffee and go straight to sleep. Not having coffee results in caffeine withdrawal-manifested as a killer headache that lasts a couple days if I don't get some caffeine in me.
Morning Fog over the DeForest Bike Trail
Some crutches are truly useful. A monopod or tripod is that often overlooked piece of equipment in an amateur photographer's kit. Steadiness is one of the easiest ways to acheive sharp photographs. If you can't use a tripod (like in the conservatory), a monopod may do the trick. Anything to hold the camera still while it takes the picture. The photo on the left was taken with my phone, but I held it steady against my bike to get the shot. I used my bicycle as a crutch. The photograph of honey bottles was made at the Madison Farmers' Market. I could have only got there to see the picture and take the shot because I had my walking stick.

I'm also reminded of the adage: Good photographs are 5% the camera and 95% the photographer. Know the limits and capabilities of your equipment, and work with them to produce your magic.

All photographs copyright 2011 W. Clinton Hotaling

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