Sunday, March 29, 2009

My Escape

Green Bay, WI ...

The wind howls through naked tree branches and whips down desolate grey streets. The cold seeps through cracks as the sound of a lone automobile fades into the distance. Am I on another planet? In another world? Has time stopped altogether? Grey days and cold windy nights blend together in this ethereal vortex. I feel as though life has stopped around me, or has slowed to the degree that movement is barely noticeable. Motivation comes slowly and inspiration is lost in the dreary grey skies.

The dampening pressure of this place was closing in around me. Instead of using each day to write or paint, I became apathetic and felt myself sinking into a state of depression. I needed people, warmth and sunshine. Escape became necessary ... I had to protect my sanity.

A friend told me about his planned Spring Break trip to the Red River Gorge. I immediately felt a pang of jealousy. I longed to go somewhere warm and sunny, to sit at the base of a crag, adn to be in the presence of the climbing world. The gears in my head started turning as I thought back to previous hikes I had done in the RRG. I somehow convinced myself that even in my present state, I could still hobble around on the trails ... as long as I was extra cautious. As Mike told me his plans, I had already formulated some of my own. I was broke and crippled ... but I was going to Kentucky, too! I grabbed a credit card, my dog, and a change of clothes, hopped in the van, and told the folks I was going to visit some friends. I didn't tell them exactly where I was going, because I knew that they would seriously disapprove.

Let me clarify an important aspect of my situation. When I got to town, I did not have health insurance. Only by the generosity and goodwill of others did I receive surgery and top-notch medical treatment. I CANNOT re-injure my knee. There is not a question in the matter. My one 'job' in the world right now is to protect my knee at all cost.

Only five weeks out from surgery and still on crutches, I was ready to take full responsibility for anything that happened. Even if I simply sat parked at Miguel's for a few days, I needed to feel as if Charlie and I were on the road again. As we drove off, Charlie resumed her rightful place on my lap, as though it as only yesterday that we had arrived in Green Bay in the same manner. The engine roared to life, coughing up the residue from months of inactivity. I felt a rush of adrenaline flow through my body as I felt the wheel at my fingertips. It had been too long.

Hours down the road, I opened the windows to warm fresh air ... this was a good decision. After stopping at my cousin's house in Milwaukee, we continued to pull over at almost every rest stop along the way. I hobbled around the parking lots, letting my baby girl run circles around me off-leash. It felt amazing. Recently, her fear of my crutches and my immobile state caused her to grow quite fond of my parents. I was definitely a little jealous, but I was excited that she was my little partner-in-crime again. It took us almost two days to drive the ten hours it takes to get to the Red.

You always THINK you know what you want, but sometimes life knows better. I wanted people ... I wanted the climbing world ... and boy did I get it. Spring break at the Red? Cars were double and triple parked in the lot at Miguel's. The tables were jam-packed, crowded with enthusiastic faces. It was amazing to see so many people psyched on climbing ... especially after spending the past few months in seclusion at my parents' house. However, because I was used to days alone on the couch nursing my swollen knee ... I soon became overhwelmed and faced a major system overload. Eventually, I retreated to the van to cuddle with Charlie and recoup overnight.

The next day, I hiked to two crags and top-roped two routes ... it was exhausting. I was unprepared for the huge amount of energy it would take out of me. My leg muscles had atrophied to the point of being non-existent, and due to recent rainfall, the trails were muddy, sloppy and slippery. I was horrified that I would slip and hurt myself. At the end of the day, I returned to the van, crashed, and had to rest the following day. Pathetic, right? I guess it will just take time for me to get back into shape. Time and a lot of pain. I was sore everywhere, and my knee had swelled to twice its normal size. Luckily a day of reading and playing chess was enough to get me out to the crag again the next day.

Unfortunately my friends chose a crag with a slightly more involved hike. Not to back down from the challenge, I went along. It was a beautiful sunny day, and I got to TR a few more climbs. I even got to watch a friend send his first thirteen! However, hiking back made me realize that I had gotten in a little over my head. I was not quite ready to be out and about yet. I was thoroughly convinced that if I stayed any longer, something really bad would happen.  I started craving the safety of home.

Charlie and I took two more days to get back, during which I contemplated the risks and rewards of my trip. There is no question in my mind that I made the right decision. The week out of the house was exactly what I needed. I feel bad keeping the truth of where I was from my parents, but I know that I will tell them about it sooner or later (after all of my medical bills are worked out). It is not that I dont want them to know, I just don't want them to feel as if I dont respect them. I took a huge risk, and luckily everything worked out. I got out of the funk I was in and got to watch Charlie bury her head in piles of leaves, hunting for small critters. We both spent hours in the sun and returned home refreshed, renewed, and psyched to spend this last month at home with my folks.