I love the month of June. Yes, it’s my birth month, so I must admit a bit of bias here, but it’s also the month of “everything lusciously leafy.”

Sixteen years ago this week, I spent eight days in a Portland hospital, undergoing a series of treatments to save my right leg and/or my life. I had undergone a torn Achille’s tendon repair 18 months before that, and still the complications plagued me. I’d had a series of debridements over several months to remove devitalized and contaminated tissue, and then I developed an apparent staph infection, which then resulted in a ruptured abscess complete with blood poisoning. I could literally see the dark blue lines of death creeping up my shin and headed for my heart. In other words, it wasn’t my finest moment.

Eight days inside a hospital may not sound like much in the whole scheme of things, but every waking minute I lay there and obsessively worried about whether or not I was going to go home with my right leg. Inside those eight days I had two major surgeries, underwent a whirlpool or a dressing change every few hours, and experienced continuous excruciating pain. The morphine pump was on a timer, and no matter how much I begged, the time between doses was not shortened.

So what does all that have to do with the greenery of June in the Pacific Northwest?

Coming home from the hospital, we traversed the winding route of the Sunset Highway. I stared out the window, amazed at the multitudinous shades of emerald foliage forming a sequestered canopy over the roadway. Yes, I was still on some pretty heavy-duty prescription painkillers, but the experience was not the stereotypical hallucinogenic “trip.” I felt a deep sense of peace, gently enveloped by Mother Earth, coddled and safe.

Every June for the past 16 years, I have driven Highway 26 on a type of gratitude pilgrimage. I never want to take for granted the abundance of miracles that have blessed my life. I take time to give thanks for the promise of renewal, for the advancement of medical science, and especially for the variegated shades of green.