Monday, April 27, 2009

Failure and Success, Lost and Found

A huge amount of living and giving can happen in two hours.

We pack our lunch (celery and peanut butter, radishes, cookies and
Coke) hop on our bikes and head out to explore a scraggly beach
across the way. We head down the bike path, divert a brief distance
into the woods then spill out to the sea.

Allen is so taken by the man vs nature competition he sees (the sun
bleached, wind blow trees leaning away from the jumble of broken
concrete pieces assembled into a sea wall), that we stay here for lunch.

While we eat, I hear a noise out on the road about 100 yards away. It
sounds like thin metal crunching. We shrug and continue to eat.

A family of four stops by, pushing their bikes through the sand. The
mom looks out to the road and asks, "What's happening?"

I stand up, turn around and am shocked by what I see. Firetrucks.
Rescue vehicles. Ambulances. Policemen. This is a small island. I've
never even seen a cop car.

I volunteer to go snooping (the reporter in me). In addition to all
the rescue personnel and onlookers (me included), I see a motor
scooter on its side, next to a white truck with a crumbled left rear
fender. (Ah. The "crunch" I heard). And I hear cries of pain.

A woman, a sprite of a thing, about 55 years old, is on the pavement,
her head and spine in a neck brace and men, about six of them, trying,
gently, to roll her over onto a litter. Each time they touch her, she
cries, horrible cries. They shy way, and try to calm her. At least
she's living.

I hear a witness tell police the woman was speeding down the road
and lost control of her scooter. She whammed into the truck, then was
flung head over heels about 10 feet away. She was wearing no helmet.

I go back to report my findings to Allen and the awaiting family, who,
like the woman, were riding bikes without helmets. I warn them of the
obvious dangers.

When we ride our bikes past the crash scene after the ambulance
left, I see bubbly red ooze on the road where the woman's head was.
I think it was part of her brain.

I shudder.

And, I wince. I should have gone to investigate the sound when I heard
it. Perhaps I could have been of comfort to the woman as she waited
for help. Perhaps. Perhaps.

Later, I get another chance to offer aid, in a minor way. But I felt,
well, forgiven for failing the earlier Good Samaritan test.

We take a shortcut through the woods, only to discover ourselves
winding aimlessly about on fireroads, laden with sand, leaves and pine
cones. I learn something about the deep woods. The wind doesn't blow
in here. There is no sound but us. It's so still, I can hear
mosquitoes discuss their attack strategy before they take flight. And
it's so hot and humid, my brow perspires like a spigot, flushing my
glasses right off my nose.

Up ahead, I see a gaggle of kids slogging through on their bikes. A
boy, about 10, topples off his, rights himself, then just stands
there. Everyone else keeps going.

As I pass, I look back and say, "Are you OK?" He cocks his head and
lowers his eyes. "I'm OK." He murmurs. He sounds very sad.

"Want some water?"

"Yeah!" The offer perks him up. I can tell he's overheated. He
swallows enough to regain his composure, then pedals off to catch up
with his crew. I feel better, too. I passed this test.

We keep pedaling, too. It seems like we've been here for hours, lost
in the deep woods (see the pic) on sandy, rutted roads. Somehow, my
legs hold up under this abuse and keep moving me forward. Twice we
dismount to carry our bikes over trees and other debris.

Finally, I hear a sound. A hammer. Soon, we see houses. And,
eventually, I hear, what, wind? The sea? Traffic? At least I know were
are close enough to a space open enough to generate sound.

It was all three. We spill out to a side street, which leads to the
main road and our campground is just three miles away. There's the
sea, traffic and I feel the wind.

But the time we arrive, we're exhausted.

And I discover we've been gone not six hours, not five or even three.
Barely two hours.

We did a lot of living in that two hours.

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