Perhaps the most difficult part of this disabled life is the constant balancing of caution and risk. Childhood and progressing into adulthood there are so many warning and precautions. Many (but certainly not all) necessary. So, how are we to find the line? It’s a discussion I’ve had with disabled friends and extreme endurance athletes alike. They almost all answer with some variation of the same theme. You have to push against it to find it. You have to overstep and risk a certain amount of catastrophic failure to know where the edge of possibility lies. Heading home after a multi day, or even just a strenuous single day out in the wilderness, I’ll joke that any day that ends without being airlifted to safety is a day ending well.
Let me be clear, last Tuesday was in no way a traditional wilderness epic. But, also, let me be clear, there is almost nothing (outside of town) accessible about the french alps. I’ve been here, writing, wandering, taking pictures, making friends, and otherwise living a charmed life since the start of June. This is nowhere near enough time for me to comfortably assess the degree of freedom my specific body has on nearby trails. Or, (even though I love these people like family) to assess how comfortable my new friends might be lending a hand (literally) or, assessing trail accessibility themselves before inviting me along. Historically, new friends are very ambitious on my behalf. This is always flattering, though often disastrous.
The safe play is to pass. Let my new friends run off on their own adventures while I poke around in town or ride the cable cars; meeting up later to swap adventures over Moscow mules and fries at the bar. We’ve done plenty of this all summer, and I’ve loved it. But, something about Tuesdays’ free-flowing lack of planning was irresistible.
A cable car ride up to the Plan de l’Aiguille for some lunch and an alpine photo shoot/ nature stroll somehow turned into a drive down the valley to Lac Passy which turned into swimming. And, then, turned once more, into a spectacular sunset drive back to Chamonix while the alps showed off how many shades of magenta they could flash as the light performed its slow change on the peak of Mont Blanc.
By that time I was in deep. In for whatever the day would bring next; when my small tribe of friends suggested clambering up behind the Brevant lift to a secret fire pit in near total darkness; up a path that was partially a stream; well, the good judgement and safety of refusal didn’t even occur to me.
Of course I couldn’t make it. Of course, hands were lent. I was pushed/ pulled up with a staggering grace. A fire built. Sandwiches made, wine opened, both passed around with the easy conversation of new friends that are well on their way to old friend status. We lay on the forest floor and watched the moon rise across the valley. Sunburnt, covered in sap. Muddy, spilling sauce and wine. Telling secrets and tall tales without distinction. Using logs as pillows. Listening to each other, the crackling of flame, and the twinkling of the stars. If I have one wish for the world, it’s that everyone, disabled and able-bodied, have days as grubby and free-flowing; as perfect as last Tuesday.
Your writing brings me to tears. You are outrageously cool!!!
Ha! You’re cooler! All my love to you and your furry roommates (and Ken, obviously) 🙂
Wonderful, Christine. Keep it up! Love, Bev (Alison’s Mom)
Thanks Bev, I can’t wait to see your family next week!
Means a lot coming from you 🙂
I’ve said it before and will say it again- keep writing, gal… its awesome stuff.
breathtaking, heart opening & so inspiring. Thank you
Thank you for reading!
New reader here! Love. This. Grubby and free-flowing days are the best kinds of days. Beautiful writing (and that photo, ohmigodddd)! =]
Ha! Thanks so much, I love hearing from kindred spirits!
Oh wow. Perfect timing. Struggling with a different disability – hearing loss — but still face the risk of catastrophic failure a lot and have to resist the very big urge to avoid it. What a lovely piece and so helpful.
Jan, I’m so humbled and grateful that you found some value in this post. Allowing ourselves some room for vulnerability, to trust and depend on others, can feel like the worst kind of gut-shakingly bad idea. In my experience, however, it is often that spark of vulnerability that ignites both fast friendships and the goofiest, most memorable adventures.