Nearly 5 years ago, I was massively injured in a near fatal car wreck.  My small sporty Saturn was T-Boned while I was driving across Lawrenceville Hwy. I found and re-found myself (after mega-doses of drugs including a morphine overdose) at Grady hospital where i spent over 4 weeks in Intensive care and over 5 weeks all together.  I had 12 broken ribs with at least 18 total breaks, collapsed and damaged lungs, torn and ruptured spleen, and ditto on diaphragm.  I also had numerous other injuries and difficulties; broken wrist, slight concussion, hampered ankle etc, but after 2 major surgeries, an excised spleen and $350,000 in medical bills I went home. My mom hired a private nurse for me for the first couple weeks back home and i had lots and lots of friends come take care of me as I began to recover. The first time i went for a walk I was able to go from my front door to the mailbox and back but I needed someone with me.

I’m not fishing for sympathy here, but I’ll get some when i tell you that concurrent to the above experience, I: laid my father to rest, got divorced, had to move, put my cat to sleep and lost my new farmer’s market business.  On the good side of things, my community showed me amazing love and support, I am eternally grateful for that.

I moved from unincorporated Dekalb to Oakhurst so my son could go the the Decatur schools.  My cute girlfriend at the time (another good thing happening then,) got a dog and we started  visiting the oakhurst dogpark.  At the time, a drought was in effect and the dogpark was in dire shape.  There were 2  conditions  that the lower field was in 95% of the time- dusty or muddy.

My son and i  got a dog (Piper!) soon after and started walking more and more. I was definitely getting healthier and stronger and began visiting the dogpark on my own.  I began heading up into the forest part of the dogpark and was surprised and dismayed at the health of the forest.  While looking around one day, I saw a man whom i got to know well over the years, (Richard Backwell) cutting vines with some great gardening tools.  We spoke and agreed that we would both work towards healing the forest and, as a byproduct, the lower field.

I realized early on that I can help heal the forest at the same time that I healed myself.  I contacted the City  and requested that they bring woodchips.  LOADS and LOADS and LOTS and LOTS of woodchips.  I made a commitment to myself to load up and deliver 10 loads a day all over the park on every non-rainy day.  At first i was bringing my own wheelbarrow and shovel every day, but i eventually left them at the park and I bought new tools with my own money.  Day after day i went.  There was a 2 month stretch where I delivered 600 loads of chips!!!! Richard’s and my intention was to heal the forest so i brought the chips up to rebuild the soil.  In addition, there were so many vines choking the forest that the ground cover disappeared and very little water was staying on the hill when it did rain.  While Richard was cutting vines like Dr. Livingston in Africa (Where Richard was born,) I assisted where i could plus I spent my time and effort and re-energized muscles moving soil, leaves, vines, chip o’ wood and rocks.  I was conscious of feeling better physically.

The next step was healing mentally, emotionally, psychologically and spiritually (It was a big step.) I got a small settlement from the wreck- not nearly enough for my pain and suffering (my attorney thought I should have gotten 10-20 times as much!,) but enough so that I didn’t need to work much and i could spend a lot of time healing.  While i did spend a lot of time/money/effort on chiropractors, massage therapists, yoga classes, acupuncture, therapy, etc. etc., one of my best and most effective healing spaces was and is the Oakhurst dogpark.  Hanging in the small canopied forest with fun, entertaining dogs (and their wonderful human companions) has been a true blessing for me. I have made lots of great friendships, did breathing exercises as i cut vines, began and continue to do art projects, laughed a lot and have grown to love the community of humans, dogs and trees.

Fast forward a bit.  At the end of 2013, Richard and i were nominated and selected to be “Decatur Hometown Heroes” for our work in the dog park. We received medals from the mayor and our photos are on the wall at City Hall. *Please see below for Hometown Hero blurb. I am felling well physically, emotionally, spiritually and mentally (although my ex and a few others may deny a couple of those latter 3.  Oakhurst dogpark, on a daily basis, for everyone,  is a great place to be outdoors, to visit with one’s neighbors, to watch dogs play, to be in an urban forest and to heal oneself.

Woof woof, aaawwwwoooooooooooo.    Lee Goldsmith