Sunday, June 27, 2010

Bruised, bitten, and slugged

I know, it's been a while. But I have this thing about writing during the summer. It's the one thing I want to do, and it's the one thing I have the most trouble doing.

My problem: "research."

I want to set scenes in nature? I must get out into nature. I want to write about people? I must go out to patio and people-watch. So, even though I had four days of relatively uninterrupted writing time...I didn't do a whole lot.

And the second most difficult thing to write during the summer is a blog! Well, for that matter, I haven't blogged lately, because I haven't done anything goofy in a while. I was so busy I didn't do anything silly! How boring!

I had four days off, three of them rainy, so, today, this one day of sunshine, I evacuated my island home and went into the mountains of the Eastern Townships. For a while, I managed to stick to the paved bike path, but darn it...I can't resist a good photo, even if it means sticking my neck out. (Ask my mother how far out I'll stick my neck. Once, she held me by the back of my belt as I leaned out from the Johnville bog boardwalk to photograph a mushroom.)

As I am often wont to do, I decided to get in a bit closer for a better shot of the river at the bottom of the ravine. There was a convenient little path leading down to a culvert, which in turn led to a pebbly riverbank. I signs, no poison ivy, the bank looks sturdy and dry, so let's go for it!


So, first, I squatted down on the righthand culvert bank and stretched out my left leg to the other side. No problem. Eased my weight onto my left foot. No problem. Stood up. Problem.

The edge of my left foot slid down mud the consistency of chocolate ice cream, which made me lean hard to port. My right foot - so excited about the sudden change of events - kicked high and goofy. With my arms flinging around, I slid down the rest of the bank until I was shin deep in squish.

My cowardly right foot, in the meantime, didn't want anything to do with water or mud, no matter how photogenic it was, so it stubbornly shook like a cat's paw and didn't know where to go from there. So, while my arms swung like a speed skater, and with my right leg hoisted and bent like a dog beside a tree, I did the only rational thing I could think of.

I jumped.

Futility at its best.

There were some flatulent noises, a grunt and the co-ordinated flap of two elbows, but I was firmly ensconced in slime and mud.

And then I started falling forward. Insert unladylike shouts of surprise and horror here.

Did I mention the blackflies?

I'm not sure what it must have seemed like to the casual observer, but I suspect it looked like an interpretive dance combining The Twist and the Hokey Pokey. And while I managed to get myself turned around, my dumb right foot still didn't know which way to go.

With no where to go but forward, I planted my right foot where the left foot shouldn't have gone in the first place. When I began to slide again, both feet tried to move at the same time - one afraid to go into the water, one desperate to get out, and with arms pinwheeling, my feet went their separate ways. With all balance lost, the right foot took one for the team and joined its brother in the velvety goo of the river bottom.

Once secure on a drier bank, my right foot dug in, and with two heaves and a lost shoe later, the left came free with more momentum than I had expected, and in a headlong rush to higher ground, I scrambled up the bank with both hands, with my camera swinging from its strap and thumping against my chest.

And then I felt something squirt out from under my hand.

It was fox dung. I kid you not. It was wet, warm, suspiciously carnivorous in nature, and well positioned for calamity.

Not to be outdone by Ma Nature, I washed my hands, stripped off my bucket-shoes and peeled off my socks (laying them far away from the dung), then I rolled up the old jean cuffs to my knees, and I sallied forth into the river like Huckleberry Finn.

Except Huck made it look easy. I looked like the world's worst tight rope walker, and every time a rock dug into my pampered sole, I'd stoop forward and reach for something to catch me - which is a really dumb thing to do when you're in the middle of a river and there's nothing but water under you.

But it was worth it.

Breathing in bird song and clover-sweetened air, I hung out in the middle of the stream for a while. It was a strange sensation: the water was so warm, I didn't feel wet. Work was a bad dream half-remembered from years ago. Writing could wait. For a moment, I had the world to myself, and time had stopped.

Reinvigorated in the spirit of adventure, I carried on downstream (leaning this way, leaning way too far that way, splashing down and stumbling on another sharp rock, doing a one and a half pirhouette, then breaking the law of gravity as I hovered over the water like a sculpture of Cupid - one leg way out, both arms spread, chin stuck out and camera devilishly close to an expensive dunking...). And there, I climbed a tree.

Me. I climbed a tree.

I leaned against the strong boughs and breathed, listening to the red-wing blackbirds, the lap of the water and the pip of frogs.

To capture the moment of peace, I took the most awkward self-portrait ever. Imagine this, if you would:

1. Climb tree in bare feet.
2. Hang onto tree for dear life. Ignore self-preservation instincts and lean.
3. Stick out right arm as far as it can go.
4. Hold camera in overhand grasp, trying not to let the strap, the lens cap or your fingers get in the way.
5. Stick out your right finger two inches further than humanly possible.
6. Press the button and wait for it to figure out what it's trying to focus on.
7. Look introspective and like you're having fun and not like you're scared of doing a face plant.
9. Realize...once you're done, you're going to have to walk back through the creek again.
10. Take picture.

Reluctantly, I quit my post in the willow tree and repeated my Gene Kelly spoof upstream (while wondering if there were any crayfish underfoot), and I returned to where I'd left my drowned socks and shoes.

Ma Nature was waiting for me.

Apparently she was feeling sluggish.

Alas, all good things come to an end, so I shook out my slug-slimed socks, emptied my shoes and struck off across the bike path.

Of course, this being the one day of sunshine in the month of June, the bike path was skillet-like, and I danced on it like a drop of water, shouting things like, "Ooh hot! Ooh very hot! Ooh, nice picture!"

Would I give up another day of writing for re-visit?

The better question is: when do you want to come with me?