Eastern Great Lakes Fiber Conference met in Chautauqua, New York, for the 2011 gathering. The weather was wonderful. Clear, bright, warm, and dry enough to demand you look up and recognize the glorious autumn in the trees. Just enough brisk at the edges of the day, comfortably toasty by afternoon to open all the windows and drink in the fresh air.
Walking down to lunch from the classrooms at the midday break, we did have the option of taking a longer, safer route that followed the road, but most of us were brave enough to chance the grassy hill that tucks just behind our destination. It’s a manageable risk that shortens the time to lunch. The first half of the journey comes to and through the tennis courts. The concrete path is clear, level, well maintained, and marked at the steps with a 3-inch band of warning paint. The slope is gentle: forward a few feet then down a few inches in easy progression.
As I came out the door, I saw a younger couple playing tennis. I thought it a good day for that type of thing if that’s the type of thing you liked. I tried to keep my mind busy with the mysteries of bound weave, but she was playing so badly I couldn’t stop watching. She’d miss, then laugh, and he’d try to gently advise. She’d connect, and the ball would launch. I guessed them to be a new couple as he kept patient as she kept giggling. I thought back to my tennis days; too small for a one-handed hold, I missed almost everything presented and connected only by chance. I hated tennis. As another yellow missile cleared the fence, I heard myself mumble, “Even I could play better than that.”
At that moment the universe reminded me that my opinion is sometimes more fantasy than fact. My right foot came down too far over the well-marked edge. A quick teeter and drop, and the toe of my shoe wedged into the crack like a pole vault. I went up and over and came straight down like a timbered tree.
Luckily my stride is close enough that my left leg almost had enough time to get out there and stabilize the situation before my face hit the pavement. My poor knee took the hit, but I’m sure I got the best of possibilities. I kinda hope that lady saw it, maybe she was chasing a ball and was faced just enough in the right direction to have caught my fall out of the corner of her eye. She could have thought to herself, “Well, I can’t play tennis, but at least I can walk better than that.”
There were many hands to help me up, and the Chautauqua kitchen crew provided a gallon-sized zipper bag to fill with ice. I managed lunch and the afternoon class, but by dinner things started to purple and swell. I excused myself and went back to the room to rest. I had left everything that could distract me up in the class, so I sat. Before long, Sarah and Debbie came to check on their poor roomie, choosing to pass on the general gathering in the lounge in favor of keeping me company.
We were talking when a woman appeared in our doorway. She saw me, stopped, turned and said, “Are you all right?” Well, I generally am, but I don’t like to lie, so I said, “No, not currently.” She wailed, “What happened?” I answered with the truth. “I fell down and went boom.” I lifted the edge of my dress to reveal the thumb-sized scrape on my knee and the dime-sized one on the top of the other foot. “Oh,” she sighed. “Boom,” she agreed. She asked my diagnostic guess and chosen course of treatment and then told me I needed a compression sock to keep the swelling down on my ankle. Before I could even confess to not having one, she volunteered, “I have an extra.”
She disappeared and reappeared and put it in my hand. As she stepped back, she asked the obvious question, got the negative in reply, and proceeded to show me how and help me put on the sock. Once it was on and wrinkle free, she gathered up all our extra blankets and built a platform on which I could elevate my ankle for the duration. It throbbed, but I thanked her. She blew healing kisses, and she was gone. Maintaining such a position throughout the night provided for a light and fitful sleep. The bright side of that is that my roommates didn’t have another night of my snoring.
I woke up the next morning pain free. It was a miracle. I went to class, went to lunch, treadled more in the afternoon and took my turn on the runway at the fashion show after dinner. I met the woman who had saved my weekend and thanked her as best I could for her immeasurable assistance. I returned her sock, but I will get my own and keep it in a superstitious attempt to ward off future acts of uncoordination.
I left a little bit of myself at Chautauqua, added in to the local ecosystem. Not much really, just a few thin localized layers. It may leave a mark as well as a memory.