Friday, July 29, 2011


                I just spent 48 hours in the most mind-numbing pain imaginable. Every time  I put my foot down to attempt a step in the midst of a dark night, in a dark forest, in a pitch- black cabin above a dark lake; every time I put a little w eight on my left foot, the whole world would brighten noticeably.
                It was as if there was a 40 watt bulb inserted in unseen track lighting in the back of my skull. And that bulb was connected directly to my swollen left foot, ankle and toe. And every time I put weight on that foot (which was swollen up like a like a ten sausage boil) the incandescent bulb in my brain  would brighten noticeably
                 There I was standing on a flat rock circled by eight 100 foot red pine trees my foot'd
squeeze down on the ancient granite of the Laurentian Shield, and all of a sudden the forest was bright all around me... And I'm thinking, "Jesus, who turned on the lights?"
                 And the forest wasn't just suffused with light, but a strange intensity of sound helped light up all the trees as well, And after a few seconds of this strange experience of light and sound, all washing around the trees and lighting up towards the heavens, I realized that I was hearing the magnified sound of my own scream, which in some mystic way, penetrated the rocks and trees around me.
                 I was on crutches and as I lifted my left foot off the ground, the forest darkened and I couldn't see so well, and the wall of sound disappeared. But as I took the next step, all was brightness once again...

                It's a strange sensation, and it's one I'm sure that many of you have had when agony suddenly fills your being and pain rings your torso like a gong. At such times you hardly even notice the sounds you make because pain is the more immediate reality, the deeper existential fact.
               Now I come from an ancient northern people, a tribe that has known about pain from the beginning - a sudden mind-numbing pain such as you feel when some fool strikes you across both shins with a steel bar... everything goes quiet for a second or two, then there is this strange brightness and sound that seems to come from everywhere at once.
                The reason my family has always loved to focus on such events of sudden hideous unimaginable agony, is this: such surprise gifts from the cosmos of sheer, unexpected mind-twisting  pain, such moments are, almost entirely, the  source of the sense of humour of my
                 Uncle Fred tried to kill a large ugly fly against the wall of a log cabin, and as he swung
the bottom of the saucepan (8 inches in diameter) in an attempt to crush the fly, he connected with cousin Walt's forehead instead of the fly.
                  There had to be about twelve of us sitting around the woodstove drinking a mix of moonshine, alcools, and various juices ( called a "Purple Jesus Punch"). And after Fred connected
there was silence for three seconds, and the sound of a gong, then a wave of hilarity such as I had never heard in my entire life up to that point. Several guys were rolling on the floor; one man fell out through the door. And my entire  extended family was screaming with laughter, crying they were laughing so hard - laughing so that they couldn't catch their breath.
                It's one of those moments that stays with you for the rest of your life, and always gets a response out of you, if the person survives the event, and sometimes even if he doesn't. It's as if God's Flyswatter comes down and, "WHACK!" it's all over. And even if death occurs, if you look closely around the family circle, you'll notice that most of the buggers are surpressing a laugh

                As I was making my way out of the woods, down a goat path towards the lake, each time I stepped on the hot swollen foot, the night'd light up and my screams would fill the trees.
                 It was a forty hour ordeal without alcohol or painkillers, and about a six hour wait in the hospital with sweat running down my back, and down my forehead and between my eyes, trying all the while not to scream and scare the kiddies in the emergency room.
                    A few low-pitched quavering grunts of pain did escape my lips every twelve minutes or so when I moved my leg; and it was enough  to make two or three infants cry, but that was about it. I noticed that after about 2 1/2 hours they moved me into a back room, where I waited another 3  so hours. My hideous bellows were more acceptable back there.
                      I must say though, the experience of 40 continuous hours of agony, clears your mind in a most surprising way. Even now, back at my office, after I have swallowed a handful of anti-inflamatories of the highest strength available, even now the room seems preternaturally bright, as a thunderstorm sweeps the streets outside. I must say (now that's  its over), that it was a cleansing experience, rather like the rain just now below...
                       Ha! Ha! The experience of that quarter mile portage, dragging a canoe through the night, bellowing like a mad ox and swinging my axe at the stars - well, it will be one of those 'special' moments of my life. You never forget experiences of mind-bending  pain. And now that it's over (Oh please say that it's over!) I've already started to almost chuckle about it.
                       Well, no that's bullshit. It's too soon for laughs. All I get is quavers of fear, and I fall forward on my knees and beg and spit up flem at the same time.
               Then when I scuttle back and crawl up onto my chair in the twilight, a sense of holiness fills the room...                                                     
                This is how we pray in the north.
                                                                                                                             Caveat Lector.

1 comment:

  1. This 1st hand account of agony in the wilds is so accurate, I've had to excuse myself.