Thursday morning, I set out for Northwest Arkansas, 800 miles across the Southern Great Plains from Salida, a two-day drive, to visit my Arkansas in-laws. I planned to drive nine hours the first day to Woodward, just east of the Oklahoma Panhandle, more than halfway.
That gave me a shorter drive the second day, so I would arrive at my sister-in-law’s house in Springdale a little more relaxed.
I meant to leave at ten that morning, but I wasn’t on the road until eleven. So when I saw the white evening-primroses blooming on the flats in Bighorn Sheep Canyon just downriver from home, I didn’t stop. Even though there were so many the high-desert looked dotted with snow.
Until I came around a curve and spotted thousands across the river. I had to shoot a photo. I parked, dashed across the highway and clambered atop a guardrail post for a better view. I snapped a couple of photos, and then stepped down. Only I fell. Backwards. Onto the pavement.
I lay there, saying, “Oh sh___!” for a moment. Then I hauled myself up. My left leg didn’t work, so I stood on my right, holding the guardrail for balance. After a few seconds, my left leg responded and I limped across the highway to my car.
I debated about turning around and driving the 40 minutes home to the closest hospital. My knee was wrenched, my hip aching, and my ankle was weighing in with pain signals too. But they all still worked. Pretty much.
Further, Molly and I planned the Arkansas trip weeks ago. She and her partner Mark were flying in to meet me. (M&M live in San Francisco.)
So I drove on until I found a deserted side road where I could stop and slather arnica ointment on the offended hip, knee, and ankle. The stop also offered the view of the snowy peaks of the Sangre de Cristo Range in the second photo above.
Then I drove on. And on, and on, and on until I reached my motel in Woodward at nine that night. It was 88 degrees out. I applied more arnica ointment, plus ice. And fell into bed thinking I had been stupid and lucky and that I should slow the frenetic pace of my life.
I woke the next morning very stiff and very sore, but the hip, knee and ankle worked, and weren’t too swollen. I applied the arnica and ice again, and then hit the road. (Not literally this time.)
As I exited the driveway of my motel, located on an ugly industrial strip, I spotted clumps of glorious yellow Missouri evening-primroses blooming along the highway margins. I stopped to photograph them, limping considerably. But I didn’t fall.
And then I drove on. The roadside wildflowers all across Oklahoma were lovely, which cheered me considerably.
I reached my sister-in-law Letitia’s house late that afternoon, and limped inside to warm greetings from Molly and Mark and Tish, all of whom were sympathetic and impressed by my story. (Impressed, that is, by my stupidity.)
Still, it was a great weekend of visiting with Molly and Mark, Miss Alice, Tish, and her daughter Carolyn, spouse Doug, and their son Oliver, who at four is quite excited about becoming a big brother this fall. (I am very lucky in all my family.)
We ate well, had time to catch up on each others’ lives, look over family photos, plant Miss Alice’s windowboxes, and visit the spectacular Crystal Bridges Museum of America Art, an outing organized by Tish.
(If you’re anywhere near northwest Arkansas, it’s worth a visit to Crystal Bridges just to see the woods-and-wildflowers setting and the gorgeously curved building tucked into that landscape. The art collection is superb too.)
This morning I headed out on the long drive home. The weather maps showed a gap between fronts (including the one that spawned the tornado that devastated Moore, near Oklahoma City).
After I passed through Tulsa, the rain abated and the wind dropped. The driving was pretty smooth and the roadsides were abloom with wildflowers. I was tired but eager to get home. I have things to do.
I drove almost nine hours to Guymon on the Oklahoma Panhandle. As I unloaded my car at the motel, I congratulated myself on weathering the grueling drive pretty well despite my fall at the beginning. And promptly smacked myself in the face opening the car door. By the time I got upstairs to my room just moments later and went to get ice, there was a lump below my eye socket the size of a jumbo green olive.
Good thing I have that arnica ointment. And the ice machine is just across the hall.
Okay. I get the message. Tomorrow, while I carefully drive the rest of the way home, I will make concrete plans to slow the pace of my life.
First, though, I’m going to bed. As I do, I will send Light and love out to the people of Moore, Oklahoma. What a terrible, terrible tragedy. Bless us all.