This is the anniversary of when I fell off a ladder at the Sea School’s old wharf building in Lunenburg, and broke my left heel bone.
Now I don’t see ghosts, but some of the Sea School staff have seen ghosts in that building, and other people in Lunenburg say, “Oh, yes, there’s ghosts in that building for sure.” So some people were thinking, maybe I was pushed.
I don’t know. I didn’t feel anybody push me. But I don’t have any other explanation for why I fell. I’ve been going up and down that ladder between floors for 20 years. My foot didn’t slip. I have no memory of losing my balance. Suddenly I just wasn’t on the ladder, and I fell 6 feet and landed standing with all my weight crashing onto my left heel. And that was that.
If I was pushed I don’t think it was anything malicious. Maybe there was just someone who saw me, and could see that I needed a noodge. Like, “Hey, buddy, (shove) wake up.” Maybe on some level I even saw that myself. Could I have pushed myself?
However it happened the result was surgery, two screws, crutches for 5 weeks, and an incapacitated summer.
But there was an upside to my injury, because there’s a golden chain tree in my back yard, and for two weeks every June it’s covered in bright, glowing yellow flowers, hanging densely like bunches of grapes from every twig, blazing in the sun and dancing with the wind against the clear blue sky. It’s mesmerizing.
Since I couldn’t go anywhere, I spent a whole week in the back yard with this tree. I tried to work, but my computer kept falling asleep in my lap as I sat captivated by that glorious yellow. I felt so fortunate that I had this natural blessing right in my own back yard, and that I had the time to really soak myself in it.
And then it hit me. I felt captivated by the beauty of the tree, and I loved it. I felt held captive by the pain in my foot, and I hated it. And I wasn’t sure I really understood the difference.
The Golden Chain Tree suddenly seemed well-named. My mind was bound in its golden chains, like a luxury prison, and I began to doubt my own delight.
My back yard, especially on fine summer days, is a place I have trouble leaving. I want people to come to me, and share my golden chains. Share my mud hole.
Because maybe my back yard is really a mud hole. A very fine mud hole, mind you, with the most exquisite, velvety, high class mud, made from the finest mountain spring water and rare ooze hand-imported from the soft banks of the upper reaches of the Amazon. The best mud you’ll find anywhere. But no matter how exquisite it is, maybe it’s still mud, and I’m a stick.
So if someone did push me off that ladder, if someone did realize I needed a noodge, and said, “Hey buddy, (shove) wake up,” maybe this is the question they thought I could wake up to. What things that I cherish, that I find so nurturing and delightful, are really my mud, that I let myself be stuck in?
This feels like a subtle, even profound question, and I’m still puzzling over the answer. But that’s okay, because questions are more trustworthy than answers. So this story doesn’t end with a moral or a lesson. It ends with a question. What are the things we cherish that are really our favourite mud?
But this story also ends with a song. A very appropriate song by Flanders and Swann, an English duo who wrote comic songs in the 40’s and 50’s. The song includes an invitation that I always found fun and delightful. But now when I sing this song I wonder, is this an invitation I should embrace, or an invitation I should be wary of?
This is the chorus from the Love Song of the Hippopotamus. If you know it, please sing along.
- Mud, mud, glorious mud.
- Nothing quite like it for cooling the blood.
- So follow me follow
- Down to the hollow,
- And there let us wallow
- In glorious mud.