We sat cross-legged around the crackling fire, basking in the glow of the flames, warm mugs of tea in hand, and recounted the adventures of our day on the trail. Moira, getting pooped on by a bird. Stan’s unfortunate encounter with a territorial squirrel. Jill forgetting to put the lid back onto her water bottle properly, the liquid leaking all over her pants as if she’d peed herself. Laughter ensued. It felt good to be back. It felt especially good to be the one who had avoided even a small disaster.
Last summer we’d hiked the same trail. The same week we do every year. But the weather had been different. Overcast. Rainy. The scree slick beneath our boots, sliding across the mud of what had always, up until that point, been a dirt track. It was the epitome of bad conditions. Knowing that a wrong footfall from any of us could spell disaster, we no longer moved blithely, struggling through the rain in silence instead, concentrating. Concentrating. Concentrating. Something bad was bound to happen, and it did.
A mountain goat skittered across the trail, and despite knowing better, I looked up, following the creature’s nimble ascent up the ridge. But I was no mountain goat: my eyes should’ve been looking down. Concentrating. My feet slid out from under me, body twisting. It all happened so fast, my left arm crumpling under the weight of my body and pack into a useless mash of flesh and splintered bone.
At first, I felt nothing. Our bodies are strange that way, holding the pain at bay while we lie, shocked, bravely attempting to acknowledge what’s happened. But half an hour later, as Jill tied off the knot on my sling, it came.
Physically, I was in agony. But I also stewed in my own mental misery, which hurt just as much. Embarrassment, shame, horror. Jill and Moira supporting my upper body, grabbing handfuls of the yellow raincoat around my shoulders they fashioned into a makeshift stretcher. Stan, his once twinkling eyes now filled with worry, lugging my legs. Down the trail we went, winding towards a lengthy hospital stay, pills, rehab. An HGTV addition.
But today we wound our way back up. Moira got pooped on by a bird. Stan angered a squirrel. Jill spilled her water. My arm had no need for a sling. And I laughed, grateful for good company. Grateful for those willing to overlook my foibles. Who could want more?