The Long Way Home

It’s been a while since I’ve written, but I’ve got a good excuse. I spent most of the last month just trying to hang onto life.

It all started six weeks ago. The moon was full, making me feel comfortable as I walked along the trail that lead across the meadow. I had walked all day. As the sun was setting I told myself that I was only a couple hours from my favorite camping site. The thought of the beautiful lake jumping with fish in the early morning light convinced me to keep walking. I could almost taste the fried fish I would be eating in the morning.

I was a bit weary and was pushing myself a bit too fast when my foot dropped into the hole. With the weight of my pack pushing me, I pitched forward. Of corse my leg stayed vertical as the rest of me went horizontal. The snapping sound, followed by the searing pain, quickly convince me I was in trouble.

Now I’ve been in pain before – stabbed, shot with an arrow, bit by a wolf – but nothing like what I was feeling now. I struggled to get a hand under my chest to release my pack, and then fought to get each arm out. Once the packed rolled off of me and onto the ground, I was able to move.

Somehow my body turned off the pain long enough that I was able to lift myself up enough to pull my leg from the hole. As I held my leg, I rolled onto my back and screamed as the pain came rushing back. Laying there I just wanted to die, but God had other plans.

Over the next hour I managed to find moments where I could stand the pain and I began to tear my clothing into strips. There were some branches within reach and I tied a splint around my throbbing leg. Luckily the break had been a clean one and hadn’t caused sharp points that would have punctured my skin. But I could see that the area around the break was already turning dark, even in the moon’s light.

After I had finished splinting my leg, failing several times as the muscles in my leg contracted and caused the bones to slip and run up next to each others, I fell back exhausted and slept.

I woke as the sky was starting to lighten, the pain from the night before had been replaced with a throbbing. I pushed myself up on my elbows to look around and the pain came rushing back. I collapse and my head hit the ground painfully.

I lay there for another hour or so, then I noticed that my stomach was growling. I managed to pull myself next to my pack without too much pain and retrieved a trail bar and my water skin. I pushed my shoulders onto the pack and rested there while I ate.

As I looked around I saw that I was only a hundred feet or so from the lake I had been heading to. I had a mixed feeling at seeing how close I was. I was glad that I could probably get to the lake, but disappointed that I had come so close.

Over the next several hours I managed to pull myself and my pack to the edge of the lake. I really wanted to set up my tent, but I just didn’t have any strength left. I fell asleep as the sun was high overhead, grateful that the trees were giving me shade.

When I woke the sun had been replaced by the full moon, and I was shivering. I pulled a blanket out of my pack and tried to control my shivers. I don’t know why I do that. I wonder if it because I think I should be able to control my own body. Well of course it didn’t help and probably made it worse. I did finally warm up a bit and fell back to sleep.

The warmth of the sun woke me. I said a little prayer of thanks for protection through the night and for the warmth of the sun. I ate some more of my pack food and then decided since I was just sitting around, I should at least have a pole in the water.

It took a while to get the pole put together and the hook in the water, but it was good do be doing something. The rest of that morning I sat there and thought about all of the things I could have been doing if my leg wasn’t broken. I did catch one fish which was good because it prompted me to gather some of the twigs and sticks near me so I could build  fire.

I waited till evening to make the fire. I figured that I shouldn’t be wasting the wood, since I was going to there for a while. The fire felt wonderful as the sun set and the air became cool. The fish wasn’t just good, it was fantastic.

On the fourth day the throbbing started to go away. On the seventh day I risked standing on my good leg with a pair of crutches that I made from some sticks. I took a few carful steps and was feeling pretty good about the whole thing until my leg bumped a rock and then I remembered what pain was.

Over the next few days I started practicing my one legged walking by moving around and throwing sticks back to my pack. I finally put up my tent because it looked like it might rain. Two days later it did. That shut me down because I didn’t trust myself on one leg on the slippery mud.

That night I witnessed how powerful nature can be. The sky was filled with lightning. The valley rolled with the thunder. The rain came down in a torrent, putting out my fire in seconds. As I lay in my tent I could feel the charge in the air. My hair rose from my head and clung to the sides of the tent. The the storm decided to show me what power really was. Bolt after bolt of lightning started slamming in to the ground. They struck several of the trees near me, splitting them into kindling. They struck the ground, throwing dirt and rocks into the air. They struck the lake, lighting it up with an eerie glow.

The storm raged around me, threatening to strike me down. Somehow I managed to just lay there and enjoy the show. I knew that God was there with me, and that he was protecting me. I know that Cleric Bosman has often said that God is powerful, but it was in that storm that I really came to understand how powerful he is. God created a world that could produce such a storm and he could protect me from it.

I finally fell asleep even as the storm raged around me. In the morning the clouds were gone and the sun shone on the side of the tent. I pulled myself out and found myself sitting five feet from a raccoon. The raccoon was carefully washing a fish and then putting pieces into his mouth. I said good morning to her. She looked at me and took her fish ten feet farther down the shore line, and then continued her breakfast.

I thought about getting my pole when I noticed that there were fish floating in the water just a few feet away. I pulled myself to the water and could see that there were maybe a hundred fish floating just under the surface of the water. I collected them and put them on sticks over a low fire. I added pine needles and wet wood to create a heavy smoke.

As I watched my fish smoke, I wondered why all the fish had washed up along my shore. Did God send me these fish? Was he trying to tell me something? I don’t know if he was or not, but I decided that all of these fish meant that I could start walking for home and not have to worry about finding food along the way.

The next morning, after three weeks of sitting on the side of the lake, I packed up my camp, and my fish, and as much water as I could carry and headed out. I had thought about trying to wear my pack, but quickly decided that that was a bad idea. I built a sled and pulled it behind me. I wasn’t moving fast, but I was moving.

I think I walked about half a mile that first day. By the end of the first week on the trail I was probably doing two miles a day. As time went on I started putting a little weight on my leg, by the end of the second week I was strong enough to wear my pack and walk with one crutch. The last week I was making five miles a day.

I finished the last fish as I was walking up the hill to town. I know I looked a mess from the way the guards were looking at me. I usually wash my hair every day, even when I’m on the trail, and everyone knows it. It had been three weeks since I had washed my hair and it looked a mess.

But you know what, I didn’t care. I let one of the guards take my pack and he helped me to the inn. Now you want to talk about being in heaven, that bath felt so wonderful. I finally got out because the maid stopped bring me hot water.

Looking back on these last six weeks, I might wish that they had never happened. I could have done with out the pain and I could have gone on a couple of hunting trips. But I’m kind of glad it all happened. It made me slow down a little and just be. I think that sometimes I’m so busy that I lose touch with who I am. But maybe next time God could use something a little less painful to slow me down.

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