by Amy Martin
Autumn Equinox, a day for balance. In the human body, 20 to 30% of your balance comes from the exquisite pivot of the C1 Atlas vertebra that holds up your head in relation to the C2 Axis vertebra upon which it rotates.
This allows your head to turn and look over your shoulder. It maintains your interactions with the world in a gyroscopic way by constantly adjusting to keep your visual world level and in balance.
My C1 to C3 are fused into one chunk of bone and the past 5+ months since the neck wreck has been a process of vestibular retraining, getting the inner ear to take up the balance slack.
Thought I’d done pretty good until I went hiking on uneven ground. Holy moly, the inner ear just couldn’t react quick enough. But the C1-2 gyroscope could have.
The depression was swift: I won’t be able to do real hiking again? But I plowed ahead down the trails at Clear Creek Natural Heritage Area.
Over the next hour, I became aware of how active my entire neck became as I walked. It moved side to side like a hypnotized cobra.
My lower cervical vertebra were picking up more balance slack, doing what C 1-2 could no longer do. I didn’t do that consciously. The body did it on its own.
Before the broken neck operation, the lead surgeon and his team explained they were going to bolt my shattered C2 like sandwich meat between C1 and C3. The fixed forward perspective from the accident was going to be permanent.
I wanted to cry, but I was too glad to still be alive. The assistant surgeon lingered in my hospital room and said: “Look, I know it sounds bad. But your other vertebra can learn. The human body is amazing.”
And he was right. On this day when the Earth spinning on its tilted axis finds a moment of balance, I am celebrating the process with it, knowing that we all seek in one way or another the balance I crave.