Five minutes there. Five minutes back. I should be able to make it. Excitement makes me smile. This is my first walk outdoors for almost half a year. I step out the door backward, holding the house rail, to accommodate my healing legs. Ah, solid pavement. Testing my weight on legs and cane -- they should be solid enough.
I remind myself, the heel goes down first then rock forward to the toe. Don’t forget to bend the knees. My hip needs to give a little jerk to ease the leg forward and slowly enough to still balance my full body weight.
Lunenburg harbor beckons me one block away, down a small incline. The sidewalk, frost-patched and frost-heaved through many winters, looks challenging compared to the smooth gym floor at the rehab center -- I think I can make it. Checking my watch, I have strength to walk for five minutes before having to turn back.
Only five months ago, before my accident, I had been scheduled to climb the highest peak in the Tucson Mountains, a six-hour hike by moonlight. Two days before, the world suddenly stopped. My new motorcycle was as mangled as my legs and arm when I lifted my head from the pavement to assessed my damages. I struggled to remember my daughter’s telephone number. Pain jumbled the numbers. My legs felt like a high-rise building was squashing them, yet they just both lay twisted on the road. My arm also seemed bent at the wrist at a very strange angle. Through the haze of pain, I knew I had to keep my head and not move or be moved. No one tried.
My motorcycle had been hit by a truck and I have gone under its wheels. I also knew I was miles out in the desert beyond the Tucson Mountains. It seemed beyond-ages before the ambulance arrived.* Yet, waiting for it, I kept my eyes on where the mountains met the sky. I remember thinking, "I love these mountains. If I live (and I was aware the odds were not in my favor), I don't want to hold this against them. I want to still love them."
Now months later, with these same legs, this five-minute walk seems as challenging as my six-hour moonlit hike. I am half-way down the block before I dare to look at anything but the frost heaves. A flash of light to my left comes from a welding torch in the blacksmith shop. It distracts me, momentarily. Yet, trees, houses and a few seagulls cheer me on. My legs swing forward with an odd waddle. Wet spring snow disappears on my cheeks. The yellow crocuses, struggling to come up through the spring grass, seem to fold and take cover on the lawns.
Yet, unlike them, I feel stupendous. I am free. And my five minutes are up. The masts of the fishing boats just across the road tempt me onward. I don’t dare. I still have to climb the slight incline back to the house.
My breath feels exquisite in the salt air. The house is just ahead. I enter the driveway with a poem dancing on my lips.
i who have died am alive again today,
and this is the sun’s birthday; this is the birth
day of life and love and wings...
~ e. e. cummings
*As the police report later stated, I had waited, apparently, sixty-five minutes on the pavement before the helicopter arrived.