One step forward

Kate Mackinnon
5 min readSep 29, 2020


Last March, no one understood this little virus called SARS- CoV2 that led to COVID in the human body. Yet, I knew it would make a global impact.

Despite the fact a shelter-in-place order had been likely, I put the concern firmly in the back of my mind. After California’s Governor made his announcement on March 16 at lunchtime, I now faced the reality of SIP. “What would this mean in my life, for my teenage children, my husband, and all my patients I treated in my Physical Therapy practice?” I asked myself. I’d need to cancel all my patients and I couldn’t even tell them when treatment could begin again. I felt overwhelmed with all the uncertainty about my children’s school, my income, and the insurmountable unknown. For somebody who likes to have a plan in place and be in action, this was not a good day!

My best strategy was to put all this nervous energy to good use, so I turned to our deck. It was in a critical state with rapidly greying wood. If we didn’t do something quickly to protect the wood from the elements, it would start rotting and need to be demolished. The plants in our backyard were now mature and created a peaceful space to be in so it would be a shame to not have the deck to sit and enjoy it from. A perfect place to sit and chat, this deck has hosted many family gatherings. I decided to wash down our deck and restain it. My husband and I had talked about this project many times, but we had never had the time. Now was the perfect time. We rented a power washer and the four of us, my husband, 14-year old twins, and myself, enthusiastically started hosing down the deck. Each teenager washed a section for about 15 minutes. As they realized they had only covered a tiny portion of the deck, their initial burst of energy dwindled rapidly. Eventually, Andy and I got it all washed down but after walking barefoot, we were left with splinters from the rough wood. The whole deck needed sanding. Days later with sandpaper lying around everywhere, the wood was smooth. To our dismay dust now covered the once clean wood. Argh! Back to carefully washing the deck down again.

Finally, it came time to pick out the stain and start the task that would reap results. Initially, I was very optimistic about the timeline for this project, thinking it would only take a couple of days at each stage. Somehow my husband knew early on that this project would take much longer! He told me, with his look of just you wait and see look on his face, that he thought that the staining would take a few weeks. This is a very familiar scenario for my more pessimistic husband who tends to predict that things will be much harder and longer. Between the two of us, it is usually somewhere in the middle of my optimism and his pessimism.

The deck is not just made of a wooden floor; it has a bench that runs along the edge of it that is made up of nine slats of wood that form a seated area and an arc to bend around the lemon tree. The previous owner of our house was a talented woodworker who must have spent hours crafting the deck. There is a complex arrangement of wood to create a cover to the deck, and it was a massive undertaking! It is only when it comes to staining every surface of this wood overhead does anyone appreciate what it took to build it in the first place!

This project was now spanning weeks even with us putting in an hour or so of staining first thing in the morning before work. Four weeks later, the end result was very impressive and satisfying. Now we had a beautiful place to sit and walk over with no concern for splinters! And we both saw it through to completion despite the moaning and complaining!

By the time this deck project was finished, I was receiving calls from patients who were struggling with their pain, and my understanding of how this virus was transmitted had increased from reading articles and taking online classes for healthcare professionals. I started to formulate my plan of how to see my patients again as safely as possible. Working outside was certainly an effective way of reducing the possibility of spreading the virus. I was quickly able to adapt my deck into a beautiful outdoor treatment area. We put up shades, cleared off the outdoor furniture, bought some fans, and set up my treatment table.

This brought back special memories of receiving bodywork on the deck at the Esalen retreat center that I visited annually over the last 20 years. It was where I had begun my training in craniosacral therapy, the specialization I had developed in my PT practice. Esalen is on the Big Sur coastline where you can soak in natural hot springs looking out over the Pacific Ocean and watch the otters play in the kelp, and seals bob up and down. If you were very lucky you would see whale spouts off in the distance before receiving a massage out on the magnificent deck.

My first day back at work the sky was blue, and the air was the perfect temperature, not too warm or cold with a gentle breeze as the early morning fog whisked away. Anna arrived for treatment and her eyes lit up with the sight of the treatment table set up on the deck “Wow, is this where I will be working today?” She settled onto the table and took a deep breath in and immediately relaxed as she heard the hummingbirds buzzing by the feeder and the sound of the water cascading down through the fountain into the pond below.

As I settled into the treatment, I was able to relax into the serene outdoor environment, appreciating the work that we put into the deck and making the upgrades to our outdoor space before doing anything indoors. The look of the newly stained deck gives the effect of having created this space especially for this situation. Combined with the native plants, the space morphed into a little outdoor oasis.

So, with all my cleaning protocols, a checklist of questions, and mask-wearing in this enchanting space, I have been able to get back to helping people with chronic pain and on a number of occasions prevent a visit to ER when the pain flares. I now sit in my backyard at the end of the week with a warm cup of tea and appreciate how the undertaking of the upgrading of our deck has reaped such a reward. My patients love this space so much that they hope it’s not just a special COVID option but that I keep this a permanent treatment space.



Kate Mackinnon

Author 📚 speaker 🔈 peer support 🤗 🙏🏻PT specializing in Craniosacral Therapy 🙌🏽 co-founder @touchadvocates