August 26-27, 2013 Sydenham section
I did the unthinkable – I broke my ankle on the Trail! And it happened on the very day that I had decided to focus on walking meditation.
It was day 2 of what had been planned as a 5 day hike that would bring us within 100 km of finishing the entire trail. A few more weekends this fall and we’d be done. But as John Lennon said “Life is what happens when you are making other plans.”
Day 1 of our week started with pouring rain, which maybe should have been seen as an omen but left us undaunted. When we are wearing our orange rain capes we become armed with warrior goddess super powers, fearless in the face of the elements.
Still, with damp feet and challenging terrain, not to mention the drive in from Toronto that morning, we did call it quits after a mere 12.9 km, choosing to conserve our energy for the rest of the week.
Tuesday we started anew, refreshed, energized and eager to see how much we could accomplish. As on the last few hikes, the trail in this section continued to be rugged, uneven and challenging. Making our way between randomly strewn boulders and over gnarled tree roots and gaping crevices required full concentration on each step. That’s what got me thinking about walking meditation: intentional stepping, staying focussed, being in the here and now.
I realize that I am so conditioned to multi-task, that often the act of walking is subconscious, my body is going through the motions of walking while my mind is busy elsewhere; thinking about things unrelated to walking, making plans, problem solving, talking, listening… focussing on so many other things. But in this terrain it is crucial to focus on where I place my feet each step. Keeping my eyes on the ground in front of me limits the opportunity to see the bigger picture. My other senses become more acute. Looking up to take in the scenery requires a purposeful stop.
After 18 kilometres we arrived at a field with a sign warning us that there may be a bull in this pasture. Looking for the bull and planning what to do if we saw him, plus the easier terrain, resulted in losing my focus on walking. In hindsight – a big mistake! One wrong step, I heard a crack, felt a jolt of pain in my foot and was on the ground. After some moments, I tried to walk but a few excruciating steps confirmed that I could not continue.
While Magdalena went on ahead to see how far it was to the next road access, I waited in the field and planned how I would escape the bull if he approached. And I took off my hiking boot to inspect the damage; there was a huge swollen ball attached to my right ankle. A sinking feeling washed over me as I slowly began to concede that our plans have changed, not just for today or this week but likely for the rest of this hiking season. One misstep and suddenly everything is changed.
After what seemed like forever, Magdalena returned with the first few EMS volunteers, tromping through the field in full yellow firefighting gear. Over the next hour more EMS personnel arrived with a stretcher and an ATV.
I felt foolish and embarrassed by all this attention and needing to be carried on the stretcher to the ATV.There was definitely a comical side to it all, especially the ride through the field to the waiting ambulance. As we jolted and bounced over the rocky pasture a mesmerized herd of cows watched us go by. I wanted to wave to them, as if I was in a float in some outlandish parade. The ambulance carried us to the Wiarton General Hospital where an X-ray confirmed that my ankle was indeed broken. It is a frustrating turn of events for us both, but we reassess, readjust and grudgingly accept that we will not be finishing the Bruce trail this year. …marian