Check out my science experiment this week:
When a body falls in the forest, and no one’s around to hear it, it does make a sound, and that sound is “Great Johnny Appleseed, but OWWWWWWWWWWWWW!”
This scientific breakthrough happened the other day when I was out for a run on one of my favorite sections of The Superior Hiking Trail. I love trail running for multitudinous reasons, but one of them is that the varied terrain breaks a run the hell up, so that I can be out there for more than an hour and not even realize it’s time to turn around (contrast this to a run in town, where I spend the last mile counting down: “Fifty-Second Street. Fifty-First Street. Fiftieth Street. Ah, hell, is this only Forty-Ninth Street?”) A side benefit of trail running (aside from rock-hard quads capable of opening a No. 10 can of peaches) is that the varied terrain provides all good reasons for sloggish runner to go rewy, rewy slowly.
With all those roots and rocks jutting up, caution is clearly in order.
What is The Suck, however, is when a sloggish runner who is “running” in a way that actually resembles a quick hike because she is being so very careful about rocks and roots
still takes a mo-fo of a tumble, thanks to biffing her toe on a semi-exposed piece of Nature.
Yup, the other day my body hurled–backwards, by the time I finished pirouetting–into the prickly brush, making contact with at least three more squads of rocks as it gradually skidded to a stop.
“OWWWWW!” does, indeed, echo loudly in an empty forest. As do a few of Yosemite Sam’s finer expletives, particularly those ending in “-frackin’sassafrass.”
Taking stock, as I lay there, I first checked for witnesses (it being several weeks before the local trail ultra-marathon, I’d already passed a couple of gel-squishing 135-lb full-grown wiry males out on 40-mile training runs). Fortunately, no one was around, so there was no need for me to spit the ferns out of my mouth to facilitate a sheepish explanation of, “Em. Lost a contact lens. Oh, and also: I ran 50 miles yesterday, so I’m only having a short 20-mile recovery run today. But keep at it, you pusses.”
Alone in the now-silent woods, I felt around for my head.
Praise Marie Antoinette: it was there!
As well, I still had roughly four limbs extruding from my torso, and as luck would have it, two of them hung out above my waist (Hey, wait. a. minute. I actually have four appendages hanging out above my waistline alone—although two of them are capable of hanging just to my waist while the other two can stretch nearly to my knees. It’s your guess which two are my breasts).
All that new math aside, I felt around and sighed in relief when I realized I also still had two hands–thanks for doing the feeling around, dudes!–along with some leggish things stretched out in front of me. When I bent the leggish things, I saw one of the kneeish things there in the middle was properly scraped up and having a good bleed.
Yes, I realize one of the biggest drawbacks of social media is that anyone with a boo-boo can broadcast it to the world. I also realize this could totally be Conan O’Brien’s knee.
Here’s the moment in a mini-crisis when I often surprise myself: in my general self perception, I tend to think that I’m infinitely open to getting wound up and milking the drama from any possible moment (such as the time, on a day called yesterday, when I got a hangnail and was convinced its removal would require radiation). In reality, though, I actually tend to keep my spirit together in moments of crisis or OWWWWW (case in point: one of my all-time favorite students was raised without advantages, so she spent her mid-twenties learning things most of us mastered as kids…you know, like reading and writing; she also didn’t know how to swim, so I determined to teach her. The first time we were in the pool, her natural athletic abilities kicked in, and she was stroking around in no time. We headed for the deep end. Did I mention she has a seizure disorder? Yea, okay, so in the deep end, the movement of the water and the weird fluorescent lights brought on a seizure, and while I would have thought I’d get all shrieky and limp when faced with her jerking, sinking body, all I really felt was a sense of calm resolution and “NOT ON MY WATCH” wash over me, as I swam to her, dove down and grabbed her, swam her rigid form to the edge, and called repeatedly for the distracted life guard to help me pull her out and to get flotation devices to put under her head so she didn’t crack her skull).
After taking a moment to collect myself there under the sugar maples, I realized I was only bleeding from three places (knee, shoulder, hand) and couldn’t do much about it until I got home. So why not enjoy the rest of my run, as I had to cover the ground to get back to my car anyhow?
I hit the backtrack button on my Ipod, having, during the fall, missed out on the last few informative sentences of the Savage Love podcast (sentences that, upon relistening, went, “I have no problem with you having a centaur fetish; I just feel sorry for you because it’s not a fantasy that can ever actually get played out in real life. ‘Cuz the closest you can come in real life is a guy in a centaur costume, and when everything interesting is packed inside a costume like that, it’s never going to be fulfilling.”). Thusly heartened, I started to run again.
Four minutes later?
I was actually thrown several feet into, you got it, another stand of ferns. I actually didn’t know what had happened until I found myself sitting there. Gently, I shook my head and tried to focus my vision. Oh. My. Lawsy.
Then I saw my glasses sitting next to me on the ground.
Once I put them on–gingerly, as my noggin was a’screamin’–the world got clearer and, once again, I found myself in a moment internal inquiry: “Do you need to have a little cry right now? Because it feels like you might need a little cry.”
So we did.
When I got home fifteen minutes later, ready to tell Groom about my wee trail adventures, he pre-empted my story with a, “Are you okay? You look really rough.” I’d known my skull was rattled and that I was worried I was going to go all Natasha Richardson or Sweet Baby Lime on him, and I knew I was bleeding, but I hadn’t realized how much dirt was covering my body. Seriously, some women would have paid hundreds of dollars for a mud wrap like I had just gotten for free. Later, when I rinsed off, I realized I might have needed Ibuprofen, but, damn, my pores were tight.
In the days since my wrassle with the woods, my neck has been stiff and painful, even mid-way down my spinal column (my neck extends very far). Plus, the jarring of my top and bottom teeth against each other during the impact chipped a nano-tidbit off one of the lower teeth. I need to file that baby.
Maybe into a fang.
What I’ve learned from all this is that emory boards (and mojitos) are wonderful tools for coping.
Even more profoundly, I’ve learned that Nature and exercise are, like the thing I tripped over in the forest, the Root of All Evil.