The Literary Drover No. 4000

There was an accident.

Not recently. Several years ago.

Unlike many accidents it was not prefaced by reckless physical behavior or the misguided expression of masculinity. It just . . . happened.

***

The emergency room of a major hospital. A bay where the injured, the ill, the sick are  stationed following admission. A white curtain provided privacy. Beyond the whiteness the sounds of diagnostic equipment and life support systems.

The curtain was drawn aside and a doctor, dressed in the expected white coat, and professional attire, entered. The curtain was pulled closed. Beyond the whiteness ordered chaos reigned.

You had an accident? The inquiry was calm, even – a pleasing bedside manner.

Yes.

Any pain?

No.

Tell me what happened.

Details were provided.

The doctor moved to the injured area and carefully touched it.

Any pain?

No.

Does this hurt?

No.

The medical professional said nothing for a moment.

I am going to order X-rays. Okay?

Sure.

The X-rays were completed, the doctor returned, and displayed the digital images on a light table on the wall nearby. I saw what I saw, but I did not understand.

I want to schedule you for surgey. All right?

I failed to understand the need. I did not understand or comprehend the urgency of the intention. But I did not challenge the decision.

***

As I lay in the operating theater I saw two clocks on the wall. One was digital, with big red numbers. The other was analog, with a second hand.

The time was 8:47:17 P.M.

In that moment every point in the universe intersected, and I was aware of a presence.

Some might succumb to the relevant melodramatics of the occasion, and promise to pursue a good life following the surgery. A vow, a declaration might be offered; or a deal: Get me out of this and I WILL do as you ask.

I did not give into such things. I said, silently, I will continue the life given to me.

There was a sense in that moment that the presence heard my unspoken statement.

When I opened my eyes the red numbers on the digital clock read 11:54:09 P.M.

I watched the second pass. At 12:04:09 A.M. the attending nurse moved in her chair.

You’re awake, she said.

I am.

How long have you been awake?

I told her.

You’re quiet. Some wake up crying or moaning.

I don’t.

No comment was offered as response.

We’ll move you to your room. A private room. Top floor. A view of the mountains.

I said nothing to the implied generosity.

The room was available.

Ah.

There were two clocks on the wall of my private room, on the top floor of the hospital. The curtains were opened, the night sky was clear, and in the moonlight I could see the mountains, with their snow-capped peaks.

The time was 12:17:15 A.M.

I was given prescription medications. I went to sleep without hesitation.

***

When I awoke sunlight was streaming through the windows and I could see the mountains in all their glory.

The duty nurse arrived and explained that the doctor was making his rounds. He would be along shortly.

I said nothing.

The doctor arrived shortly thereafter.

He examined the dressing, and was pleased. No bleeding. Light swelling. Everything went well.

Then he sat down, the top of his head lower than the side of the hospital bed.

He told me the specifics of the surgery, the reasons for the surgery. He explained what had been done and why.

There was a pause.

An injury like this is not rare, but not common. You should heal. But there is always the chance you might not.

Apparently my expression suggested a lack of understanding on my part.

You may not walk again. If you do, you might need a crutch, a crane, a walker, or a wheelchair.

In that moment I was aware of a presence.

The doctor left me with my thoughts and the facts of the matter. I was not upset. I was calm. The presence provided calm and peace. I knew that I would recover, I would heal.

I was discharged the following day. There were a list of requirements. Physical exercise and diet. I was scheduled to see the doctor thirty days after my injury and surgery.

***

People who binge-watch television know that your muscles will atrophy if you stay in one position too long. I had been in bed two days and it was apparent through physical pain my muscles were starting to fail. I made my way to the floor and began the prescribed exercises.

Five minutes of physical exertion and I was sweating. The pain wrought of the surgery and the attempt by my body to recover, to heal itself, was almost too much to bear. I persisted. I refused to yield.

Thirty days after my injury and surgery I made my way to see the doctor. X-rays were taken, and the doctor said nothing as he looked at them, and that at me.

Let me show you something, he said.

He brought another set of X-rays up on the light table. This is your X-ray today. This is the X-ray of someone half your age, with basically the same injury. This is their X-ray at one year. Do you see?

I said nothing. There was no need to speak.

The man of science would not use the M-word (“Miracle). No suggestion of belief or faith. All that he said was: Keep doing what you’re doing. I’ll see you in thirty days.

Visits occurred at sixty days and ninety days. I was given a clean bill of health ninety days after my injury and surgery. The doctor refused to use the M-word or suggest the possibility of anything beyond modern science. He carefully offered that I was in excellent health and that my lifestyle aided in my speedy recovery.

I did not pursue the matter.

During my recovery I had time to think, to contemplated, to consider. I determined that prior to my accident I had chosen an appropriate path in life and that I would not deviate from it. I spent time reflecting on what was included in my life, and what should remain.

Three months after my injury and surgery I visited a trail not far from where I live. The name is deliberately imposing and formative. The first two miles climb almost two thousand feet in elevation. So steep is the incline that mountain bikers who attempt ride it are required to ride another trail for the descent.

The average hiker may travel the two miles to a summit of sorts in about three hours. My first attempt to hike it took me four hours.

The next attempt was accomplished in three hours and forty-two minutes.

The third ascent was completed in three hours and one minutes.

The next attempt was done in two hours and forty-one minutes.

Attempt after attempt on the ascent was undertaken. As I pursued the goal I learned that a trail runner in top physical shape can reach the summit in thirty minutes.

I have not been, and I am not a trail runner. I do not aspire to such things.

Each time I pursued the summit I pushed myself. Each time I reach the summit the time it took was less and less.

On a quiet, somewhat overcast day, when spring, summer, and fall struggled for dominance I undertook the trail again.

I started the stopwatch I carried and set out. When I reached the summit I stopped the time.

The summit was reached in twenty-eight minutes and eleven seconds.

As I stood on the summit I became aware of a presence. In it there was a sense of calm and peace, of accomplishment and worth.

Each of us chooses a path in life. Each of us decides our life.

I am asked where the strength in my life comes from. I am asked how I achieve the focus and clarity that I know. It comes of faith and belief. It comes an awareness and acceptance of something greater than myself. Something bigger than me, that I am part of.

We live in a world burdened by fear and doubt. We can accept this world or stand in defiance. We make the most of what we have or squander because we choose and decide to do so.

The Literary Drover No. 3996

Where you come from is gone, where you thought you were going to was never there, and where you are is no good unless you can get away from it. Where is there a place for you to be? No place… Nothing outside you can give you any place… In yourself right now is all the place you’ve got. – Flannery O’Connor