Wednesday, 11 December 2013

The Word-a-day Writing Challenge

Day Sixty-Four: Hummingbird

In the summer, I slipped two discs in my neck. It was unexpected, obviously, and undefined. None of the doctors were able to say how long it would take to heal or what it meant, only that I ought to consider some career other than construction and that I could expect to be out of work for many months. I'd never experienced an injury of this magnitude and I had no experience with chronic pain. I spent day after day on the couch, propped up on pillows and pain killers waiting for the slow work of cellular regeneration to mend me. I dozed in and out of a sort of dull agony, something that was neither sleep nor rest but which at least offered some relief. I watched the small world of the living room window move from spring to summer to fall. I learned some things, like which salmonberry bush the hummingbird likes best, and when, and how to tell time from the sun through the alders, and that baby hawks learn to fly in August and they scream the whole time, shrill and proud, or so I imagine. Perhaps it's just that I was proud for them. Maybe that would be closer to the truth. I learned the importance of being closer to the truth, and along with it, compassion and stillness.

Like all pain, there's little to say about it now except I'm thankful it's over. The other night as I climbed into bed, I remembered those first two months of it when I was unable to sleep in a bed, or at all really. I remembered the sense of loss, of being lost, and I thought what a valuable thing it is to know of yourself that you are capable of not knowing. That you can sit in the darkness and be afraid. I thought of the hawks with their first step from the nest, their shrieking and screaming and the sound of their wings slicing into the thin skin of the sky. I thought perhaps they weren't proud at all; perhaps they were terrified. It appealed to me somehow that what we all share by being alive could be at once so simple and so magnificent, such a dreadful opportunity: our mortal fear, our tenderness.

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