When my summer was cut short on the last day of July, I realized I hadn’t taken a lot of photographs yet this summer. I kept telling myself “there’s more time, don’t bother with your camera right now.” Unfortunately, I fractured my leg and ankle joint in a freak accident at my best friend’s camp on Lake Ontario. In an instant, summer was over. I didn’t have that slow goodbye that I usually have. That familiar, month-long period that typically starts at the beginning of August and ends sometime early September, where I reflect on my summer and realize I did a lot more than I thought I did. Then begins the excitement for fall; the changing leaves, the crisp air, the dozens of activities that bring out energy in us that we lost through the summer heat. Summer ending doesn’t feel that bad anymore. But this year, I didn’t have that transition.
What I did have was a metal plate and 13 screws in my leg. I had long nights in the hospital filled with excruciating pain, random moments of panic, tears pouring out of my eyes when I told myself I’d “keep it together today,” and very limited mobility and freedom. That initial shock of what an injury entails; the first moment when your doctor tells you that no, you cannot work for several months at a job you just started, and no, you cannot drive or bear any weight on your leg whatsoever, THOSE were the most difficult moments I have experienced with this injury. Then comes the slow, drawn out pain–the feelings of loneliness, like you are missing out on life, the anxiety that comes from feeling trapped in your own body, and the guilty feeling you get because you are relying on everyone else for things you never thought you would. But then, in between all these variations and hews of pain and sorrow, you experience and witness beauty in so many forms.
I always tell myself that I “know” how lucky I am. But truthfully, before this accident, I really did not know. I forgot how selfless my mother can be; how she puts herself on the back burner time and time again to make me feel loved, safe, and not alone. She spent two nights in the hospital with me; sleeping on a pull out chair. The nurses buzzed in and out to check my vitals, give me more morphine, and see how I was doing. Sleep wasn’t really in the cards. She didn’t complain, she just woke up with the same tenacity in trying to make me smile; make me feel like I had made improvements in my mobility, and hug me when I just couldn’t hold in the tears again. Despite my crabby mood that comes and goes as quickly as summer, she maintains a smile, she maintains her positivity, and above all, she is always on my side.
The outpouring of support has been astonishing to me. People coming over to keep me company and sit with me, a seemingly simple task that means so much to me, my best friend Shannon coming over every few days to help me shower, lift my spirits, and tend to my needs. As she says with a smile, “all I do is work, sleep, and come over to see you!” How did I get so lucky to have a best friend who says that without a tinge of resentment, and with love in her eyes so that I don’t feel any guilt? Friends taking me to/from doctor’s visits–where I sit miserably; my spirit worn down. Yet they still somehow enjoy my company & offer to do it again next week. People come over & bring food, or cook for or with me; keeping my spirits up. Family friends found me a wheelchair that’s more suitable to my needs and brought me their “injury supplies”–like a walker and travel wheelchair. My Dad tucks me into bed and caters to my daily needs throughout the week, my sister gives me special treatment–like a pedicure–and keeps me in her busy schedule, neighbors stop by frequently, friends who moved far away came to visit or sent their condolences & gifts, and so much more. It is because of all of these people (I hope you know who you are), that I really know how lucky I am. Despite people telling me that this is them paying me forward; I can’t wait for the trend to reverse, for the seasons to change, & I can shower them with love and support again.
Now, back to these photos. What I think I WAS able to capture, all in the month of July, was how diverse the landscape is in New York State. We have everything–from large mountains, to sharp cliffs, from rivers and streams, to vast oceans and great lakes. I feel lucky to live here and experience its vastness, its richness, and its range of beauty.
These photos, in order from top to bottom, are from Green Lakes State Park, Woodstock Farm Sanctuary, various spots in the Catskill Mountains, & Chimney Bluffs state park on Lake Ontario. Although I wish I captured more this summer, I am so happy I at least have these. For me, photographs help bring me back to what I was feeling when I was in that moment. Even if they aren’t photographed, I can remember who was right next to me when I was taking the photo. I can hear their voices, recall what we were talking about, what we did right after I stopped to take the photos, and I am transported to that moment; that glimpse in time, even if the people & conversations aren’t captured.
So here I am, still trapped in many ways by my immobility. But my mind is free–able to transport myself back in time to cherished memories, but also carry myself forward to brighter days. As Robert Frost so eloquently writes in his poem titled “Nothing Gold Can Stay,” both beauty and sorrow don’t last forever. We are constantly transforming and changing. And alas, it all passes by, eventually.
“Nature’s first green is gold,
Her hardest hue to hold.
Her early leaf’s a flower;
But only so an hour.
Then leaf subsides to leaf,
So Eden sank to grief,
So dawn goes down to day
Nothing gold can stay.”
With love and immense gratitude,