Sticks and Stones

Like many people, life has been throwing a lot at us over the past year or so. Much of it, it may surprise you to learn, I haven’t written about. Turns out I do have boundaries. Or limits. Or something.

One of the particularly challenging things has been my hip troubles, which, despite support from a fabulous physiotherapist and wonderful myotherapist, have been quite recalcitrant. I work hard, make progress, then get hit by something else that sets me back yet again. For example, I was very nearly back to normal mobility when I got covid in April of 2022, and the combination of being bedridden and largely immobile for too long, and the inflammation that goes with covid set me back so far I began to believe progress was impossible. My attempts to prevent pain and protect my poor abused muscles lead to a kind of cascading failure state where everything I did to try to fix one thing made something else sore. I felt quite beleaguered.

It reached the point where I was lurching like some kind of twisted, drunken, troll, and couldn’t even begin to figure out how to walk normally anymore. At some point along the way I purchased a walking stick, having carefully measured according to all the guidelines I could find, though I resisted using it for anything except extreme pain during travel. Unfortunately that careful measurement failed me, because none of the guides to measuring reminded me to wear shoes. The only stick I could find that was tall enough was only tall enough (and it was marginal) when I was in bare feet. Like most people, I wear shoes when I’m out, and a walking stick that’s too short tends to make the twisted, drunken, troll thing even worse.

When my physio suggested using a stick to train me to walk more upright, I embarked on a search for a walking stick tall enough for all 185cm of me. Sadly, the walking stick industry appears to cater exclusively to short people, and I was stumped. I managed to find a nice tall set of crutches, which my kiddo made much more palatable to me by decorating them with rebellious slogans like “Fuck da patriarchy (& the fossil fuel industry)”, “Trans Rights”, “Crazy Cat Lady”, and my personal favourite: “Warning, will attack the education system if left unsupervised. (Supervision may not be sufficient).” I felt so seen.

Elbow crutches, though, are tedious, especially in the heat, and tend to rub on the forearms if used for any length of time, so I was keen to graduate to a walking stick. On social media I lamented the lack of options for someone my height. Enter my amazing friend, Christian Klopfer.

Christian is the founder and proprietor of Oztables, where he makes the most extraordinarily beautiful, functional, and strong furniture you’ve ever seen. In 2020 he designed and made these glorious shelves for our living room – note how the wood grain on the front of the cupboards goes all the way across, those doors were made out of a single piece of reclaimed timber – and we have long admired his work.

A wall to wall set of shelves, with a large print of a beach scene inset in the center. The shelves contain books  in the outer thirds, a set of glass cabinets in the inner third, and cupboards at the bottom that go all the way across, in beautiful reclaimed timber

Christian offered to make me a walking stick out of reclaimed timber that would be exactly the right height for me, long legs and all.

Being a meticulous sort, he carefully researched the ideal shape of both stick and head, and set to work. He chose an absolutely beautiful piece of timber (though I suspect that all timber becomes beautiful in Christian’s hands), invited me over to test drive the handle and check the height, and then finished it with careful polishing and a natural hard wax finish. I was so inspired by the final result that I used it as the centrepiece of a talk at the ATSE Activate conference.

My walking stick is a truly glorious thing that brings me great joy, and every time I use it I am reminded of the power of friendship, kindness, generosity, and sheer artistic talent. I am extraordinarily lucky in my friends. See for yourself.

A tall, wooden walking stick in beautiful reclaimed timber, standing framed against a weeping wattle shrub.

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