There is a little field in the midst of the forest, a five-minute walk from my house. I used to walk often to this field, at least a few times per week if not daily. If I needed a break from life I’d head this way- sometimes early morning, sometimes mid day, sometimes even late at night, admiring the moon as She peeked through the tall trees.
This is the field where Sam has spent the last four years building a log fort, perfecting it more each year. We took our family Christmas photos here in the field a couple years in a row, and shared countless picnics here too.
I can’t tell you how many times over the last 16 months that I’ve missed this field, have mourned the loss of being able to dart out my front door and walk through my friend, the forest, to this beautiful little spot. Of seeing it changing through the seasons.
It is technically accessible by my power wheelchair (not my manual chair)….but it isn’t easy. Although I could once walk here in five minutes flat, practically with my eyes closed, the wheelchair ride is a longer one, in large part because the wheelchair can’t cut through the secret forest pathways I used to take to the field. I have to circle the neighbourhood and go through several streets to reach it. The length of the ride is longer than my typical riding endurance, and it isn’t a smooth ride.
It involves riding the chair along a busy street, down a big hill, up another hill, and then navigating over a hard ledge to go from the pavement onto a gravel forest path. Then it is a bumpy ride down a jagged, slightly sideways slanted dirt path in the forest that, with a little rain, can turn into muddy hazards for wheelchair wheels.
I haven’t even attempted to make it to the forest’s edge since last autumn, and haven’t been back all the way into the field since I could still walk.
But….today is a beautiful day in May and more than ever my spirit needed to be in the field today. So I got Eric to get Sophie (as I’ve named my power chair) out of the garage before he went to work this morning. Then, I gathered my courage this afternoon, clambered onto Sophie, and road off towards the field.
Several times I almost turned back. At one point I got terribly stuck in the mud. That was after I had ridden 2 FT off the trail to look at my favourite marsh that appears each spring in a hollowed out spot in the trees, a genesis spot for new life. Sure enough, I did get a good look at the marsh as the sun sparkled over it, but then I could not get back on the trail! Back and forth, I forced Sophie’s joystick…. to no avail: the wheels kept spinning in thick mud. What to do?
You sure realize in a moment like that just how vulnerable a position it is to be a person who can’t walk! I was imagining being stuck in that muddy spot for hours until Eric finished work and could come rescue me! However, I gave the joystick one last try…and fortunately, somehow the chair twisted out of the thick mud!
As I approached the final hill, a small hill that nonetheless felt like Mount Everest, with the field in sight, an older man walking with his 3-legged dog asked me if I really thought my chair could make it down the hill and through all the mud.
I looked and it was muddy….but not as muddy as the mud I’d just gotten out of! It’s amazing how empowering it is to have extracted oneself from a muddy situation!
“I don’t know but I sure hope so!” I wrote back on my writing board with a wide grin on my face. Then I zoomed down that hill with nary a problem!
And…..I made it into the field! I got myself off Sophie and onto a raised wood platform at the field’s end. Here I sit now, penning this story on my phone.
Beside me, as I soak up the sun like a contented old tortoise, stands a big beautiful tree. It is the only tree in the field that bursts into flowered bloom each spring. It is Loveliness herself, this beautifully blooming white tree, bedecked like an early spring bride.
I still have to ride home, and I know I’ll be paying for this ride tonight……but it is well worth it.
Worth it because some of the most beautiful, meaningful things in life come with a cost. The cost can be high, but there is no price too high for living life fully and well.
And so, as I sit here outside in my favourite field, enjoying the sun on a May afternoon, listening to chickadees sing, watching dogs frolic through the field, and seeing the trees wave in the gentle breeze, my heart bows down and says, “thank you.”