I haven’t skinned my knee in years, so when I stumbled over the extra-high curb at Mark and Cheryl’s three weeks ago, I knew it meant something. It’s a Basic Principle of mine: Everything Means Something. (Not all Basic Principles utilize italics, but this one likes to have them.)
Well, it was a Basic Principle until a few months ago, when my friend and chiropractor Andrea gently suggested, “Sometimes an injury has a deeper purpose, but sometimes an injury is just an injury.” Her comment led me to revise my Basic Principle: Everything Can Be Used. (See? No italics, though it uses passive voice. Apparently Basic Principles bring out my least sophisticated wordsmithery. But I digress.)
Everything Can Be Used. It’s not always an easy task, but I endeavor to receive life’s minor events as signs or blessings or calls to awakening. So even if an injury is just an injury, I’ll ferret out a use for it.
The skinned knee (and foot) at Mark and Cheryl’s happened just minutes before we drove the last leg (pardon the pun) of the journey to Wichita, so I felt them for the next week of bending and squatting, unpacking boxes, and repairing secondhand furniture.
When I tackled the old bureau, I cut my finger extracting a twisted staple with a hammer. It was a minor injury; still, it did a number on my adorable-and-astoundingly-inexpensive new gloves. (Needless to say, I was somewhat less astounded by their inexpensiveness afterward.)
I didn’t cry when we moved. Friends wept farewells into my shoulders, but I couldn’t summon up tears of my own. What is this? I wondered. I can cry over Mad Men episodes, but I can’t cry goodbye?
We are fools if we’re so enamored of the new that we don’t take time to mourn what we leave behind. Grief didn’t make its way to my tear ducts, so my body found a different expression. Again and again I felt the sting in my knee or foot, and I remembered that even though this season is wonderful, it also hurts.
I haven’t tumbled from my bike since I was twelve. I broke my jaw in an accident at age nine, so after another nasty fall three years later, I bid adieu to two-wheeled bliss. Bikes and me don’t mix, I said. It was a Basic Principle for the next 16 years.
This past Saturday I was headed to the farmer’s market. We’d enjoyed a leisurely morning at home, but outside our windows the day shone like a nectarine I couldn’t wait to taste.
It was the silliest fall imaginable. A woman stood power-washing the driveway of our apartment building, and I tried to ride over the hose. The ground was slippery. I was coming at the hose sideways rather than straight-on. It was a rookie’s error. You’d never guess I’ve been biking nearly everywhere for the past four years.
I couldn’t have been moving fast, but I splatted pretty hard. Poor, alarmed, power-washing woman. “I’m fine, I’m fine, totally my own fault,” I said, catching my breath and surveying my blackened tights.
Upstairs, I handed David the camera. “I can’t be that badly hurt if I want you to take my picture before cleaning up, right?”
“I don’t know,” he said. “You take pictures of everything.”
My tights were toast. Small pieces of gravel had lodged themselves in the top of my foot. (Let this be a lesson to you, friends: flip-flops make sub-par cycling gear.)
We washed and neosporined me and bandaged up the mysterious gash in my right calf. The band-aid matched the last remaining flecks of my wedding pedicure. Right there between the three-week-old scars on my knee and foot.
Why did I need to get back on my bike as soon as the wounds were dressed and my clothes changed? “You don’t have to buy our veggies at the farmer’s market this week,” David said. “Don’t you want to take it easy for a little while?”
I couldn’t explain myself. I kissed my husband and promised to be careful. I changed my shoes. And while I was out, the Whys streamed before me the way the world does when I’m on my bike.
There was the Shakespeare mural on 1st street.
On the way home, I remembered a bike ride I took last August. We’d just returned from a long vacation, and I coasted down Lovett Street toward a friend’s house, wondering if it would be my last year in Beverly. I inhaled the salt air and gazed upon the fading hydrangea, thinking of how we’re always in the process of losing something.
All year long I took pictures like a shutter-happy parent: partly for my newborn blog and partly because I wanted to keep seeing my life as though I’d never seen it before.
Hello to the bricks of Mosley Street.
I’ve mothered myself over the past 72 hours, repeatedly applying ice to the lump on my hip. I wrap the blue gel pack in a pretty dishcloth Sarah and Andrew gave us and think of how friends heal us even when they don’t know it.
My Monday morning legs might as well belong to a child. They’re the legs of a person still learning to keep her balance in an unfamiliar world. They’ve never felt more beautiful.The glove won’t ever be the same, but my finger’s good as new.