Friday, October 24, 2014

That Camel Kicked Me! I Swear It!

Where in the world have I been? Why, to the hospital, of course, being naturally prone to adventures and all their implications, including accidental injury to life and limb.

And off on a wildlife safari, cavorting with a galloping white rhino. Where else would you expect me to be on a rainy day in October following a major injury?

But let's back up. It has been a few weeks since I've posted anything in this space; alas, I have been quite preoccupied. If you followed me on Facebook, you undoubtedly picked up some subtle clues about what I am--and am not--doing this fall.

I am not sailing. (Pope is depressed about all our cruising friends leaving for the Bahamas; please take your turn cheering him up.)

I am not hiking. (I am depressed about missing the crisp, clear, invigorating fall days with the prettiest red and yellow maples; please stop sending me photos.)

Most days, I am holed up on my teal-green sofa, nursing a swollen left lower limb with a broken metatarsal #4 and a sprained ankle. 

That's what I get for sky-diving without certification! Or practicing judo on neighborhood toughs. Or neglecting to defend myself when the gremlins of Capitol Hill's historic swamp rose from the steam to take out their aggression on unwary passers-by. Take your choice.

From my comfortable yet prone position, I have managed to gain 4 pounds while catching up on my reading and editing the manuscript for a book. (No, not my own; not yet.) I have made a colossal mess of the living room from a stationery sitting position--no mean accomplishment.

Last weekend, I heaved myself off the couch and accepted a ride to Columbus, Ohio, for the Science Writers 2014 workshop, for which I had registered months earlier. Got myself a luxurious "accessible" hotel room with steel bars over the bathtub, and a loaner wheelchair.

And then had a blast with my highly entertaining former colleagues and tale-telling scientists (glaciers are melting and coyotes are invading downtown Chicago--oh my!). I even survived hobbling around on crutches in a 26-degrees-below-zero freezer for Antarctic ice cores. Now, that's determination!

Which brings me to the safari. Some of us more determined writers, always in search of a better story than the competition's, and despite any minor inconvenient injuries, sallied off to The Wilds, a wildlife research and conservation park. We were hungry for a glimpse of some sprightly Sable antelope, baying Bactrian camels (quiz: do camels bay?), curious cheetahs, and slinky African painted dogs.

Naturally, it rained on our open-air safari bus. That didn't stop us from getting down and dirty with Thunderball, the one-year-old rare white rhino, who stooped low for an affectionate pat on the head, then skipped off light-heartedly around the backyard, mud flying, like any happy, carefree, 6,000-pound toddler.

A little farther, we jerked to a stop in the bison pasture. My crutches went flying and I went sprawling. Out of the road, ye damn giant beasts!

Should you be sufficiently intrigued to hanker after your own safari, you can visit The Wilds for the day or stay overnight in a yurt with a king-size bed. And make up your own story about a serious injury sustained when one of the resident hellbenders (slimy salamanders also known as "mud otters") chomped down on your unprotected instep.

Many thanks to Pope, Sally, Gini, Lisa, Linda, Harvey, Pat, Wendy, Steve, Jim, and the many others who have conspired to turn what could have been a miserable month of missed opportunity into a merry melange of magic, mischief, and mobility.
Photo by Clay F. Naff

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