My first instinct is not to publish this post, which I wrote a week ago, and to leave these events just between me and those privy to my moments of stupidity. But it’s good fodder for my new reality show, which my girl, Cynthia, calls “Dumb Shit David Does.” From the beginning I’ve tried to be truly vulnerable on this blog and to do that I need to do better than just write the stuff that makes me look good. Someone recently asked me when it is that I feel the most vulnerable and part of my answer included those moments when my stupidity is on display for the world to see. But this blog is, or tries hard to be, more than a PR machine for me. I want it to be more honest than that. I feel more than a little nervous about this one, because if it does anything, it doesn’t make me look like the man I wish I were. I wish I were less clumsy, but I’m not. I feel like a buffoon. Still, what doesn’t kill you only gives you something to blog about…
A couple nights ago I found myself lying on yet another hospital gurney, with people working on my foot. Again (though I won’t recap how I fell from a wall in Italy a couple years ago and shattered both my feet and cracked my pelvis, the memory is painfully fresh). This they did after I pulled up the torn pant leg, pulled off the thick leather boot with the yawning gash in the side of it, and pulled off the layers and layers of bloody gauze and tape I’d applied in the darkness, beside my fire in Tombstone park, after the axe glanced off the wood I was cutting, and into my foot. When the axe hit me it felt like little more than I imagine getting hit sharply with a baseball bat might, and I wouldn’t have looked at all had I not glanced down to pick up the axe and saw my pant-leg cleanly cut.
Trying very hard to be calm we closed the tent on top of Emily, my Jeep, put away the medical kit, and secured things, then set off in the darkness to Dawson City, because part of the appeal of places like this is the remoteness and there’s no medical help, or cell signal to call it, for miles, so you’ve got to go find it. Getting from Tombstone, an hour along the notorious Dempster Highway, back to Dawson, at midnight, was terrifying, and not something I’d chose to do again without the need to find someone to patch me up driving me to it.
Finally pulling into Dawson we found the RCMP station and after 20 minutes of phone calls, an ambulance pulled in and took me to the medical centre, with one lone nurse on duty. Nurses in the north are a different breed, and she did it all: she cleaned me up, took a couple hours to freeze and close the wide wound, and then did x-rays. The images showed that my axe had gone into the bone, though cleanly, and I was casted and put on an anti-biotic IV before they sent us back into the night around 5am.
And now we’re on our way home, our adventure cut short, if you’ll forgive the clumsy pun. I had just arrived that day into Tombstone Territorial Park, Yukon, when the leaves set the park on fire with colour, a place and time I consider one of the most beautiful on earth, and after only 8 hours was leaving it. A year planning and it all washed away. Most artists I know love their work too much, invest themselves too much in that work, to just sigh and mumble a resigned “c’est la vie.” I’m trying to be zen-like about this, but am ashamed of my stupidity, and of returning home without the work I so hoped for. I’m afraid of yet another 4-8 weeks in a cast and leaning again on friends and loved ones who thought they’d seen the last of me crippled and hobbling. I worry no one will want to travel with me again (or that those who do are secretly hoping to see me do something spectacularly stupid). And I’m in pain. The painkillers only go so far to numb things, and don’t at all touch the pain of what feels a little like a sudden, and self-imposed exile from Eden. I made some sketch images, and a few photographs I love, but I thought my best work was still ahead of me. Perhaps it still is, but it won’t be this year, and that disappointment stings and angers me. Most of all there’s the fear that this kind of thing is the cost for what I do as the apparently clumsy person I am, and I wonder how much more of it I can take before I give in to the voice of fear that calls me to just stay home and do something less harmful to my body, though to do so would kill my spirit. I know that’s not the only alternative, but so far from home, right now in this hotel room about 4 long day’s drive from Vancouver, I’m more emotional than I am rational.
The accident happened Sept. 05/13; I’m home now. Why I post this at all is because in my deepest parts I believe art, to be art, must have something true and honest of the artist within, and so that is the real work of the artist. To share himself with the world. With or without photographs. In all our imperfections and flaws, and if that means showing the world what I feared they’d one day find out anyways (the bit about me being clumsy and a little prone to disaster), then perhaps it’s better that way. Anyways, all this is the reason the adventure’s been cut short and the photographs I so hoped to share after that adventure will have to wait for another time. You can see that work here if you’ve not already done so. I know in my heart that it’s the work I did that matters, not what’s left undone. No one sees those. But their absence, when I had set my heart upon them, and the experiences that would make them possible, stings. My heart hurts more than my foot does right now, and I guess that tells me I was on the right track with this work, because our work is probably not worth doing if we’re not prepared to shed some tears over it.
There’s gold in them hills, I tell ya! Cynthia never imagined when she met me that she’d be to the hospital so many times in 3 years. She sat with me while I awaited evacuation from Pisa, Italy, and in the months of recovery afterwards, and then again when my gallbladder screamed to come out last year. And now this. I’m the luckiest man in the world (well, except for that other stuff…).