Thursday, January 22, 2009

Falling? or flying?

It was hot and sultry yesterday evening as I walked home along the creek trail.

The sun was burning on the back of my neck and I was glad I'd remembered to stick a hat in my backpack. Every step I took hurt my thighs a little. And my t-shirt stuck to me with sweat.

I saw four beautiful things in the hour it took me to get home.

First, Exhibit A - the big grey and white goose that lives on the creek.

He usually paddles up and down near one of my local train stations, but yesterday I saw him proudly in the middle of the creek near the waterfalls. He is a big fat duck, that one! He stood perfectly still so that I could take a photo of him.

Second, Exhibit B - the line of water markers that show the level of the creek. The stark black and white lines appeal to me, and the prettiness of the way they all line up down to the water has a certain symmetry that I like. They measure high water marks, and low water marks, and middling water marks.

But which is which? I suppose it depends entirely upon your perspective.

Thirdly, the mother duck and her seven little ducklings carefully negotiating a section of pebble rapids, until at last they all bobbed through and paddled out into the calmness of the deep water, with the mother duck at the front and the seven little babies strung out behind her like a ribbon trailing in the water.

Fourthly, the young man I saw being lifted onto a stretcher and fitted with a neck brace. It was at the notorious bridge section, where the path dives down a steep incline, and it's always covered with leaf litter and gravel and sticks. Nearby, his bicycle was leant up against the rocks lining the path, and his two friends stood there wordlessly. One was taking a photo with his mobile phone.

I had to walk past them on the path, and as I looked down at him – at his ripped t-shirt and his skinned knee, at the arm tied laterally across his chest, at the rolled-up towels keeping his torso in a straight line against the hard metal rails of the stretcher – I saw his left arm was torn and bloody, the skin grated and shredded, and some of the deepest bruises I’ve ever seen. They were already black, and getting darker.

His nose was a giant lump and his eye was cut, and I thought his collarbone was probably broken as well. His face was swelling.

As I took it all in the ambo looked briefly at me and I said to the bloke on the stretcher “You poor bugger!” and the ambo made a joke and said, “Who, me?”.

And I kept walking, and I thought of the arm I broke a year ago when I fell off my bike on a slope almost exactly the same gradient as this one, and of the way whenever I’m cycling along the creek trail I get off and walk my bike up and down this particular slope – I never ride it – and sometimes I feel a bit silly about doing that. But I probably won't feel silly anymore.

And I thought about what’s happened in the year since then, and I thought of the things I’ve learned about myself, and I wondered if I’d have learnt them if I hadn’t broken my arm. I thought of the questions I’ve been asking, and whether I’d have thought to ask them if I hadn’t been forced to. I wonder if I'd be looking for those answers at all.

So as I went past, I didn’t feel sorry for the chap on the stretcher, all wrapped in pain and bandages, because perhaps this accident is going to end up being good for him. It might even be great.
Because sometimes when you think you’re falling, it turns out you’re actually flying.

1 comment:

Mountaingirl said...

I'm so glad you used the word "middling". It has a certain charm and has unfortunately fallen onto the scrapheap we've collectively made of the spoken english language over the course of the last few decades. So thankyou!

I think that whatever questions we need to ask ourselves in life, if we fail to recognise them from self-reflection or out of sheer stubborness, the universe always has a way of giving us a push - too bad some of us need a bigger push than others! Even if the lesson to be learned is not to ride too close to steep leaf-and-gravel laden slopes.