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Fortitude's Footing

Writing After Stroke

Thirteen years ago my life was transformed by a traumatic brain hemorrhage. My need for expression was strong from the moment I regained awareness. Apraxia, a motor-neuron defect of speech, caused my words to jumble. Aphasia is a word-finding defect. In the first months of rehabilitation, I could do little for myself; my dominant right side was paralyzed: hemiparesis. 


As soon as I could sit at the computer at home, I began to work on the garden club newsletter I'd designed and published for my 55-plus community. Sadly, I could no longer garden and, to my regret, I had to give up my cheery, colorful, and informative newsletter. 

I decided to take online writing courses and delved into the meaning and making of memory writing. With practice and wonderful teachers, in 2016 I self-published "Stroke Story: My Journey There and Back."


An early version of this essay was published in the Remembered Arts Version. 

When All Else Fails

     I waver and sometimes stumble on snags. I encounter hurdles I’m powerless to overcome. When I falter, my frailty is plain to all. Since I’m human, I can recover my footing with love, magic, and even grace.

      My lifelong passion has been to work in life-affirming nature, with flowers and green plants that imbue my spirit, strengthen my fiber, inspire creativity, and help me through dark times. I embraced the study of Horticulture. Strong and able, I was a professional gardener. Life had a purpose among the plants.

      Then, a brain hemorrhage struck an ominous blow in my prime. A dread to my core, like a storm, gathered. Not asleep, but dead. I couldn’t move nor could I speak. Thought disrupted. Vision blurred. 

     There would be no gardening. No kneeling or bending for a weed. No reaching for a fragrant rose. No staking floppy Asters. No pruning or planting. No striding out to summer borders. 

     I’d miss the scent and touch of the dried grasses, brittle in the fall breezes. The crisped stems; turgor gone. Or stems that never strengthened – too much shade or not enough wind to batter them. Not enough weeping rain.

     Either stretch and move or...there was no choice and stay alive or acquiesce to long, healing sleep. Unless I once again aspired, I would lie in bed and dream I stood--think I moved a hand or took a stand. My toes move. Then my foot. You can do it. You must do it! Start, or lose the chance. I heeded the warning. I reached for courage, and cried and fought in anger and wounded pride. Bitter self-pity for what I had become. For having lost everything. 

     When my crying ceased, I remembered my toes had told their truth. They taught me to walk. To become again. Imperfect, but able. I would not be a dainty, flimsy flower. Frailty is not this woman. I’m a survivor. 


This new edition is an updated compilation of Stroke Story: My Journey There and Back and Coming to Terms: My Journey Continues.

All are on Amazon in e-book and paperback.


Bad MountainWeather



Fog of voices

a cool white bed

"How do you feel? 

you are lucky--delayed ambulance--helicopter--

bad mountain weather"

This summer of bad weather

all I can is be

loss of worth and choice

in this place of respite

Through long, lost weeks, weakened

I work brain and body

in summer of no birds and gardens

until sky and mind clear


When sunlight sparkles red and yellow

and slanted daylight breaches my haven's notches

I speak, walk, in new strength

and drink from a chilly stream of courage


Laurel Ridge, Fayette County, Pennsylvania


Sarasota, Florida 

by Mary Ellen Gambutti

published Spring 2019 The Bamboo Hut






if only I could gather again

scattered rosebuds

If only.._#Haiga.jpg
Watercolor Leaves
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