Please enjoy these blogposts, written between 2011 and 2015. Another blog is on the way.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Slanted Landings, revised

Many Brits greet you with the phrase, "You all right?" This is to allow a yes or no answer, rather than force you to consider a whole spectrum of responses. So a new English friend explained to me.

My first reaction to this greeting was to think, "Why? Don't I look all right?" But I answered yes, or I'm fine, or something like that, and passed the test. If I'd answered no, I suspect that someone in the vicinity would have offered to help. I say this because when I fell down the stairs in Wales the other night, landed on glass, and produced a great deal of blood--in other words, when I was not one bit all right--a whole squad of people hurried to help me.

I'll try to make this quick because I'm supposed to be discussing how to write slant about climate change. I'm going to do that, maybe tomorrow. I came away from the class with some ideas that, vague as they are, might ignite less vague ideas in you.

On the way up the slanted stairs to my room--the central structure of Ty Newydd is 600 years old and has its quirks--I lost my footing and somehow turned 180 degrees, or maybe I changed my mind about going up and turned on purpose to take my glass to the kitchen. I can't remember this moment very clearly. Either way, I tumbled down 8 carpeted stairs, landed on my face on the now broken glass I was carrying, and cut my face deeply over my nose. More blood than I've ever seen. The ambulance driver walked in and said, "Has there been a massacre in this house?"

By the time the National Health Service was finished with me, I had nine stitches over my nose, two in one finger, a very impressive black eye, and some scratches and bruises. But that was all. I was wearing my glasses, and I have to tell you that when the optician says "safety glass," he or she really means it. My glasses are bent beyond saving, but the lenses are 100% intact. I don't like to think what would have happened if they'd broken. Two of my stitches are a nanometer from the corner of my eye.

While the ambulance was on its way, one of my classmates, Ruth, the quietest among us, held me and collected the blood on towels, toilet paper, whatever the other women could find, as fast as they could find it. Others supported my back, gathered up my things, and so on. Then Ruth followed me in her van to the hospital, about 40 minutes away in Bangor, stayed up all night with me, and drove me home in the morning. Forget Queen Elizabeth. Ruth is Britain's true royalty. The others comprise her idiosyncratic family.

The NHS was slow but good, and charged me nothing. Imagine.

Everyone was very kind to me when I got back to the house. They didn't want me to be alone there on the weekend, and I think they made the right call. I wasn't moving very fast, and it would have been difficult to organize my meals, wash my bloody clothes, etc. Merryn did all these things for me.

My teacher, Jay Griffiths, invited me to spend the weekend at her house in South Wales, but I didn't think I could sit up for a two-hour car trip. As it turned out she had a breakdown on the way home. But how wonderful of her. 

I didn't stay at Ty Newydd for the second class I'd intended to take. I'm a troubling sight. I'm in Manchester now, holed up for a few days. I suppose I must have replaced all the blood I lost by now, but I still feel shaky. I'm wearing my sunglasses indoors and out. I avoid contact because I don't want any stranger to say, "You all right?" I'd be tempted to take my glasses off and tell the truth.

I've done some thinking about why this happened. I'd been up and down those warped stairs maybe 20 times before I fell. I knew they were "dodgy" (one of my favorite Brittisms). But I was also very tired, having done too much that day, walked too far, felt a wave of emotion during the workshop that morning that left me in tears, and drunk, over four hours' time, three small glasses of wine. I'd been feeling uncomfortable in the group, too. I was either the most pessimistic member when it came to climate change or the least in denial, and I felt a lot of pushback. I was also the only American. If you've done any traveling in the last, say, 50 years, you know what that can mean. We have pissed people off. A lot. Last but hardly least, the EMTs (I think they're called something else in Britain) commented that I was on a lot of medication--antidepressants, meds for restless leg and low thyroid. They blamed American doctors for this, but that was a stretch, I think. If anyone is to blame, it's me. Wine plus fatigue plus medication plus emotion plus slanty stairs equal a fall, I guess.  

A friend of mine, another kind of teacher, has suggested that my difficulties lately--I also had a car accident in June--may be about dealing with who I will be as the hardships of climate change accelerate. I'm undergoing some kind of spiritual transformation, she says, and I might as well surrender to it. It's out of my control anyway. She reminded me of the Buddhist saying, "When you're falling, dive."