Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Holy Days

At first the huntsman thought I'd blown an aneurysm. That's what he said, afterwards. He said, "You went down without a sound."

I know I did. We were cantering across a mown hay field, the mare still a little rambunctious (all this down time from the wildfires, she was bored, bored, bored) after 90 minutes hunting but essentially obedient. I skirted left to give her room to stretch where we wouldn't trample hounds--I was riding in the huntsman's pocket, as, on a ridiculously cold day two days before the big Christmas Hunt and Breakfast, the entire hunt consisted of the huntsman, one whip, fourteen couple of hounds, and me--and the mare stumbled, lurching hard to the right. I found out later she'd clipped the back of her front right shoe with her hind right foot, and pulled it off--anyway, momentum carried me forward, over her left shoulder. There's always that oh shit moment when you can no longer save yourself but have not yet hit the ground. I remember it. It's the last thing I remember, until the ambulance arrived.

Our huntsman was born out of time; he belongs to the eighteenth century. I loved hunting so close behind him, listening to him work the hounds, watching them work in harmony. It was so cold my knees hurt--I had several layers on my upper body, and good warm socks, but only regular breeches covering my legs--but my asthmatic lungs were doing just fine, and it was a bright clear morning, and I was so glad to be out. "I'm fieldmaster," I said, laughing. "It's my first time."

I was in charge of the field because I was the field. And then I was laying in a field, unconscious, and our anachronistic huntsman was calling 911 on his thoroughly modern cell phone, and the ambulance wouldn't come without a proper street address. "I know exactly where we are," the huntsman protested, "just listen," but the ambulance wouldn't budge, so he rode out to the nearest mailbox and read them that address.

Eventually I started to come to. I was cold, and the whip took off her own coat and draped it over my legs. When the ambulance showed up it was an hour since I'd fallen. They couldn't pull the ambulance into the soggy field, and they didn't have a stretcher, so I walked across the field and climbed inside. The ambulance men weren't sure I needed to go to the hospital. The whip and the huntsman were insistent. I would have been insistent, if I hadn't been concentrating so hard on walking. I was chilled through. Across the field, the huntsman's horse waited patiently in a puddle of hounds. "Where's Sarah?" Sarah is my mare.

"We've got her," the huntsman said. "She's fine."

The ambulance men may have been more or less useless but they drove me to the hospital in my hometown, an hour from the hunt, down the road from my husband's office. I called my husband on the way. He arrived just as I was coming back from my CT scan--no brain bleeds--shivering, and he got more blankets out of the cupboard and tucked them around me.

It's not good. It's my third concussion, second loss of consciousness, in less than three years. My husband said we'll never know exactly how hard I hit the ground, but I know it wasn't a very severe fall. (And of course I was wearing a helmet. I always ride in a helmet.) I should have bounced. It seems ominous to me that I did not.

My children came home from college that night, watched me snore on the couch. The next morning they drove back to the hunt kennels, and my daughter drove my rig and horse home. I went along, but the effort of being awake wore me out; I napped the afternoon away. It's been like that. This is the first long thing I've typed, nearly a week later, and it's with the brightness down and the font size increased on my computer, and it's tiring.

I can't ride for a month and I won't go to Florida this year. I can't do strenuous yoga; can't exercise at all until I can go about a normal day without needing several naps. Reading is challenging.

"How do you feel about not going to Florida?" my husband asked last night.

"Sad," I said. "I'll miss it." There are worse things than not riding. Taking away reading and writing would be like taking away breathing--I can't imagine. I've got a million places I want to go, a million things I haven't done--

Offers of help pour in, but I don't need them right now. My children are home, my husband is home, and all is as well as it can be. I'm writing this. The mare waits in the field. It's nearly Christmas. These are holy days.