Updated: Mar 16, 2020
When a fawn stands for the first time, it summons all its courage, strength, and independence to overcome gravitational forces working against her. With all four legs angled inward toward its belly, the fawn's legs quiver uneasily in attempt to bear weight for the first time.
March 10, 2020
And so it was on this early Spring afternoon, when I briefly pictured a fawn's struggle while in the midst of my own battle. I was caught.
It had been a beautiful morning, one of those early Spring days when the sun feels new and warm and birds provide accompaniment with their spirited melodies. The day was still. A quick decision and I was on my way to the track to work out-- nothing like a trip "home" to carve out some magic from this opportune window. I was psyched.
Walking poles* in hand, I successfully navigate the now normal obstacles from my car down to the track. Such obstacles include: getting out of the car, shutting the door, opening the back door, shutting the back door...down the stairs from the parking lot, over to the bleachers, down the bleacher steps, and finally on to the track. Post PLS, the aforementioned require laser-like focus and concentration. I make my way along the fence that borders the circumference of the track, and reach my workout destination.
[*I use my walking poles more often than my cane now. While I don't like to admit it, I am feeling more unstable on my feet. It's often a complicated cocktail of denial, being positive, facing reality, safety, risk, will, and ego..."I CAN and WILL do this" meets "You're crazy; another fall and who knows what could happen."]
It arrived with force and disruption, out of nowhere. The gentle breeze that felt soothing toward the end of my workout had become gusts of wild wind that, like a ghost, come unannounced. I held on to the fence as my thoughts turned to self-preservation and my immediate challenge-- "How am I going to make it back to the car?"
I was overcome with a burst of strategies: "I can get help; call for help; ask someone to help; wait it out; crawl; role; I can make it up the stairs if I can get to them--they have good, strong railings; I CAN do this; it will be good for me; another 'Free Solo' opportunity, an opportunity in disguise..."
What's the smart decision? What's the fool's choice? My ego got the best of me. I would take this on! Decision made, my adrenaline fueled my excitement for my new challenge. Imagining climbers planning their final ascent of Mount Everest, I broke it down. There were two sections that would pose the most risk. They were both open sections where I would be fully exposed, wide open spaces. The first one, let's call it "E1" (Everest, section #1), I estimate to be just over 100 feet in distance, and occurs between the top of the bleachers and the bottom of the stairs that lead up to the parking lot. "E2" (you know what this stands for...), is about a 50-foot open space between the top of the stairs and my car, which has suddenly become-- you guessed it-- the summit of Mount Everest!
Fast forward. I make it to the top of the bleachers and take a break on the top bleacher. I summon my energy reserves and mentally review my plan for E1. From the end of the railing that runs along the top row of the bleachers, I'll be on my own for the full distance. From there, I'll take it one step at a time, relying on my sense of sound to warn me of impending gusts threatening to take me down. When I sense a blow, I'll go into the four-point stance to wait it out.
I'm ready. I take in the natural beauty of the panorama in front of me one last time before I lock in. "OK, here we go," I say out-loud with optimism, strength and determination. My hand hesitantly lets go of the rail, like two best friends parting for what could be the last time...
The first step-- the hardest step. And then a second, and a third. No turning back. I am now exposed to Mother Nature's elements. A whir, the sound of an accelerating breeze. I freeze. I brace myself, legs in a slight A-frame and mirrored by my walking poles. A gust! "Stay solid, man...you've got this." I survive the first blow. Mother Nature gives me another window and I take it-- a few more steps. Another whir. Abrupt. Another four-point stance. Another blow survived. A few more rounds of the "rope-a-dope," and I make it across E1 to the base of the stairs that leads to E2, the final hurdle to the safety of my car.
Up the stairs-- no problem. Almost there. Fifty feet to go. Once I get across the initial open space, I think to myself, I can weave in between cars to catch myself if I start to fall. Since the advent of my PLS, I've learned that close quarters among inanimate, stable objects are usually better for me than being in open space, where I can easily get disoriented and suffer the consequences. "Let's do this," I announce. And again, I take the first step after my hand's reluctant release of the iron railing. Then a second, followed by steps 3, 4, and 5; I'm clear so far. Steady. Focus. A soft gust pushes me; "No," I say, "no way," as if my words have influence. I recover and stabilize in my "A-frame" stance...
The wind leaves as quickly as it came. A final window and I make it to the maze of cars; a zig and a zag, I reach my car. Not there yet. Opening a car door can throw me if I lose focus for a split-second. I remain laser-focused, open the door and climb in..."I made it-- yeh," I declare with a deep sigh. I look out to the track, to the beauty and power and allure of the sky; its ashen clouds floating across the horizon. I am thankful...I am blessed.