Generally, for those of us lucky enough to live in first-world countries, life generally plods along in a rather routine way. We get up, do the stuff we have to, then go to bed. The excitement usually comes from whatever TV show/movie/video game we’re watching.
However, on occasion, life takes a hard turn, slaps us in the face and says, “What are you gonna do now?” One year ago, I had such a moment when I got Covid, passed out, and woke up with a severely broken leg that would require surgery, but which left me untouchable until the virus passed. It would be three weeks before a surgeon would re-break my leg and attach a titanium plate along with eleven screws, which sometimes makes me feel like I might be related to Oz’s Tin Man. Clearly, nothing was the least bit normal. I was in bed for months. I was completely helpless. I couldn’t prepare food or bathe myself. I had to learn to walk again.
When you’re staring at four walls, you tend to think a lot. I kept recalling that old commercial saying: Life comes at you fast! I learned that seemingly insignificant decisions can have a huge impact. Had I not gotten out of bed that night, I would have recovered from Covid and been bouncing around as usual after a few weeks. Instead, I would not feel like myself for almost nine months and I will carry my metal bits as a reminder for the rest of my life.
During my convalescence, I reflected on other moments when a snap decision put me in eminent danger. One time that sticks out happened in my early twenties, when I went skiing in Switzerland. I’d grown up on the slopes in New Jersey and New York, but skiing in the Alps was a whole different sport.
The lift dropped me above the tree line, and I faced a vast, mountaintop field of fresh snow. It was delightful until I saw the trees below. Other skiers funneled into what appeared to be small trails, disappearing into the pines. I followed them, but the tracks were only about ten-feet wide, which might be okay for a leisurely walk in the woods, but not so much for an average skier heading rapidly downhill.
The snow was deep and fresh, powder flying. But then the trail split in two ahead and I had to pick one. I skied to the right and the narrow track quickly disappeared. I hurtled into the woods. Suddenly, I came to a dead stop, up to my chest in snow. I blinked and tried to get out, but couldn’t move. Muted quiet assaulted me. I guessed the rest of the skiers had taken the other route. Irrationally, I attempted to lift my skis, but the snow held them down. I couldn’t turn around. Surrounded by trees and silence and snow, I started to panic. Would someone come my way soon or would they find me the next spring as I thawed from an icy tomb?
Then, I felt one foot slip backwards slightly. It was only an inch or two, but my ski had clearly moved. I took a breath to calm myself, then tried moving my other foot. Again, the ski slid back, but only a little. I found that I could move in only one direction—backward—and only in tiny increments.
I don’t recollect how long it took me to get out or how I made my way back to the correct trail. I do recall not being the least bit cold. No doubt the panic and exertion kept me warm. And, I can still vividly remember the euphoria I felt when the snow finally released me from its grip and I knew I would live.
I have had other close calls over the years. A narrow, underwater lava tube one-hundred feet below the sea’s surface where I found myself scuba diving without a light or the ability to turn around comes to mind, as does a ride over an equestrian show-jumping course—a place I was completely unqualified to be—where the horse magically sprung over rails and water obstacles, while I clung to the poor creature’s mane using a death grip.
Yes, I’ve been a dope a few times in the past, and I realize how fortunate I was not to end up, well…dead. Still, I must confess, I might be apt to do more dumb things in the future.
That which does not kill me and all.
The past and present collide when a tenacious reporter seeks information on an eleventh century magician…and uncovers more than she bargained for.
February 2, 2022
In 1939, archeologists uncovered a tomb at the Northern Arizona site called Ridge Ruin. The man, bedecked in fine turquoise jewelry and intricate bead work, was surrounded by wooden swords with handles carved into animal hooves and human hands. The Hopi workers stepped back from the grave, knowing what the Moochiwimi sticks meant. This man, buried nine hundred years earlier, was a magician.
Former television journalist Kate Butler hangs on to her investigative reporting career by writing freelance magazine articles. Her research on The Magician shows he bore some European facial characteristics and physical qualities that made him different from the people who buried him. Her quest to discover The Magician’s origin carries her back to a time when the high desert world was shattered by the birth of a volcano and into the present-day dangers of archeological looting where black market sales of antiquities can lead to murder.
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