The Boy from Bolinas

In the summer of 1972 my family became close friends with a family from Bolinas, California. They lived in a small house near the ocean that somehow fit all six children and the ensuing chaos.

They were fine friends, brilliant and singular. We shared many of our interests with them in those years. We had more fun playing with everyone in George Simon’s Community for Conscious Evolution in Pacifica and Half Moon Bay, and of course, there was Esalen and our friends there with the endless baths, great food, and always something new and interesting happening. We also introduced them to Rolfing. After I had finished working on the mom, she said to me that she knew just the kid for me to start on out of her six; her youngest, the four year old, who had a “gimpy” leg.

The boy’s leg trouble had started with an accident when he had been two and a half years old. His older siblings and their neighborhood friends were riding bicycles through the hummocky grass that grows near the ocean. He was too little to ride a bicycle, so he was running along with them. One of the children hit a hummock with the front bike tire, and the front tire wobbled sideways. As it did so, the tire ran up this little one’s right leg from behind. When the tire got about half way up his lower leg, both of the lower leg bones, the fibula and the tibia, broke inwards, towards the mid-line.

At the doctor’s office, the little boy was screaming, crying, and scared. Mom told me she thought the doctor was in a big hurry to get them out the door because she did not control her son and make him stop crying. The doctor put a cast on without straightening the bones out and sent the boy and his mom home. When the cast came off 6 weeks later, the leg had healed about 34 degrees off true.

Noticing this very crooked leg, she asked the doctor what to do, and he offered to re-break it for her so it would heal again straighter. Her reply was “Over my dead body.” So at four and a half, the boy had a crooked right leg that looped around a little bit like a flipper when he ran.

In order to work with him, I had mother and son form a communication relay team. If I was bothering him too much, he could tell him mom and she would tell me, and I could adjust my pressure. I had mom lay down on the table with him to stay close and available for him for comfort and companionship, as well as the occasional shameless bribe of a cookie or juice or maybe even a story.

We worked along pretty well in this fashion, doing all right with the first three sessions of the ten series… and then it arrived: the dreaded fourth session in which I was to create a mid-line on the inside line of his legs. I was going to have to go right through the area of the break. I remember that I worried about getting him through his fourth session from the moment I saw that leg. I had visions of him screaming, and his mom going on the attack… One good thing about number four: you don’t have long to wait.

I remember doing his fourth session during a visit to Bolinas. I did my fourth session work on the “good” left leg first. Dr. Rolf’s general advice was to start organizing as far away as possible from the worst trouble, with the hope that the resulting length and organization would make the work on the worst area easier for the recipient. At the very least they know what to expect for the second side. By the time I was done with the first leg, both the boy and his mom were both peacefully asleep side by side on the table. I got all the tissue work done on his right leg and he stayed asleep and so did his mom.

At the end of the session, I was sitting back looking to see what else I could do for him while I had this golden opportunity for doing some good. As I was looking, I thought I saw that the right leg was two or three degrees straighter than it had been before I had started the session. I wondered if I really could have influenced the bone, and, curious, I decided to see what I could see. I did the most obvious and simple thing I could think of; I put my right hand on top of the high point of the break on his right leg, and the left hand on top of the right and I leaned into the leg bones, pushing this way and that, and listening for any hint of change. I was pushing into the bone and holding the pressure deep in for much longer than I would have if either the boy or his mom had been awake. I must have held on to it for between 45 seconds to a minute— even longer— when I felt something big rather suddenly start to change. Being a good Rolfer, I jumped on that change and I followed direction of the release. As I watched, that crooked little leg went from 34 degrees off true to about 4 degrees off true in about 7 or 8 seconds. As the leg neared straight, the change rate slowed down and then seemed to finish up and be done. I took my hands off and I sat down again rather hard, feeling for the stool behind me. I sat and looked at that leg for a very long time. I remember feeling rather stunned. Then the awful thought occurred to me that maybe it was straight because I had broken it. I reached out and wiggled it from both sides of the break to see if the two sides would move independently. It seemed to be still in one piece. Also, he had slept through the whole event, so it did seem unlikely that I had broken it. I decided to try for a little more change to see if it would go all the way straight. ( What the heck, you never know…) and I leaned into his right leg again. I think it went a tiny bit straighter, but nothing at all like what had just happened. It seemed to be “done”.

I was not going to quibble —considering. I was ready to call it a session, so I woke mom up first, and she woke her son up. I made sure that I was ready to catch him when he got up, for I thought his leg might fold up on him when he put his weight on it. He got up and stood up on top of the table and then he jumped off the table to the floor. If it was going to break, his leg had it’s chance right there. He leaped around the room with abandon; on the table and off the table, and then under the table and he ran around the table with happy shrieks and bounding energy. It was a pretty thorough test drive for his new right leg, and after a minute or two of this I relaxed about it collapsing under him. After he wound down about 5 minutes later, I asked his mom if she would “ Take a look at that right leg of his and tell me what you think.” She did and what she said was “ Oh. That’s better. Thank you.” Just like that was what she had expected all along. What else was there to say? I said, “You’re welcome”. I still laugh when I think of it.

The rest of the ten sessions went reasonably uneventfully. I did try to straighten the leg a bit more in later sessions, pushing from different angles. but I didn’t get much of anything . Mind you, I am not complaining, and neither was anyone else. It was a great series.

I did describe this stunning change to Dr. Rolf, and all of my western medical and osteopathic friends, but no one had any explanation except maybe the young age of the boy was a factor in the straightening of those lower leg bones. Someone also said something about growth plates… but those are at the ends of the bones —not in the middle of the leg where this change happened— and at four years old, there is a fair amount of strong cancellous bone in those long leg bones for an age related flexibility to have been the answer. I do believe there were a few of my friends who doubted the reality.

For myself, I wondered about bones. I found myself paying attention to breaks in the bones. I discovered that I could find the break site, as there is a thickening and/or a ridge at the break site. Applying pressure into the bone did smooth those minor ridges and lumps, but a really crooked and obvious bone problem is not that common. Re-break & re-set is usually the choice that is made for healing when the bone comes out really crooked. Luck and time provided me more bone lessons in my practice.

I learned to identify what I call “bone problems” like a bent ramous or crooked tail from falling down the stairs, the dent/print of the scapula into the rib cage from a fall on the back, and the warp in the ileum around the acetabulum from a hard side fall that drives the femur into the pelvic bone but dosn’t quite break, a twisted, splintered finger bone that was caught in a Ghi, or a dent in the top of the skull from a car dashboard. These are not positional bone problems, like a rotation or a displacement, but rather distortions in the configuration or shape of the bone itself. I learned how to change the bone.

I consider bone to be different density of the same stuff the rest of the body is made from. I have discovered that distortions respond to deep pressure into the bone that is held steady for a little bit of time – between a half a minute to a minute – then the bone rather suddenly changes. If you follow that change with your pressure, in a few seconds, the bone will go home. Just like the boy from Bolinas.  

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