My home is in the clouds, ever metaphorically, but on occasion quite literally, suspended betwixt the heavens and the earth, between the realms of angels and of demons.
I dwell peaceably, happy to be so removed from the temptations of the carnal and the spiritual, those jointly dark engulfing mires of addiction for body and mind, entirely similar yet utterly different, the opposing poles of attraction.
Purely for reasons of safety I am inclined when my location is engulfed in cloud or mist to refrain from venturing out onto the highways and byways, not wishing to suffer either foolish injury from my own bravado or to place responsible for my welfare upon another’s shoulders.
I am certain some individuals perceive habitual wending in proximity with the hullabaloo of the twenty first century to be an anachronism, consider my walking an unnecessary and irritating echo from an age when perambulation was a wholly common and necessary means of travel. This is a point of view I find easy to ignore, overlook, a conversation best left alone, enjoined with politics, religion and bigotry as passé in polite society.
My life has on numerous occasions turned upon a sixpence. The unheralded and violent deterioration of my congenital heart condition is a prime example. Within a few hours I was reduced from a super strong athletic individual to an agonized near corpse writhing in the emergency room. I survived, thanks to the wonders of medical science, the diagnostic skill of a cardio-vascular specialist who had no business being in casualty, it was close to Christmas and she was helping out, the perseverance of a surgeon who on two occasions refused to admit defeat when I straight lined, and with the kindness and consideration of a league of nurses and orderlies too numerous to mention.
My intention upon arriving on Orcas was to join a gymnasium of some kind, both to offset my indulgence of good living, virtually guaranteeing weight gain and bad conditioning, but far more necessarily to combat and hopefully eventually negate my need to continue using rather debilitating heart medicants, prescribed to combat the ongoing complications arising from my shiny new Saint Jude’s mechanical heart valve. Naturally, being human and therefore unquestionably weak, I allowed this highly sensible notion to dissolve away and over the next couple of years managed consistently to pile on pounds in the manner perfectly suited to a literary couch potato.
Some four or five years into my residency on this enchanted isle I began to note a decided slowing of my metabolism, a lack of energy physical and spiritual, a fogginess of the mind, the beginnings of confusion, of memory loss, in entirety an upsurge in those symptoms and recognizable effects we all associate with aging. Being British and an unapologetic sceptic I quite naturally persevered in those same habits and activities, ignoring, nay willfully casting aside, the signs that quite thoughtfully were being manifested to forewarn me of an impending crisis.
That Monday morning I awoke at the usual time, fully rested and recuperated, feeling more my old self than I had for some considerable time. This was the first warning.
Immediately recalling I had an appointment to meet a friend for coffee, a liaison that was casual and of no particular consequence, I suddenly was filled me with the desire, nay the obligation, to look, dress and to present my very best. This was the second warning.
Making coffee as I do each morning, I chose not to drink breakfast at my desk as per usual but instead stood in the kitchen glancing about with a bizarre feeling of impending disaster, much as a beast does before an impending earth tremor. The third warning.
Suddenly and most disconcertingly I found myself overtaken by the most intense sickness, the feelings amplified surreally and quite unforgettably by the complete absence of sensation or pain of any kind, a seeming total disassociation between the physical effects racking my body and the brains ability to process the manifestations. This is the fourth and gravest warning.
Staggering to the day bed I crumpled into a ball and tried to relax. My face was awash with sweat, my eyes focusing even less than usual, so like a regular scared rabbit I closed my eye lids and vainly attempted to quieten the flow of larva that was attempting to escape through the top of my skull. This was the fifth and last warning.
I awoke laying flat on my back, a position I usually find most uncomfortable, staring fixedly at a blemish on the ceiling I had to that point been totally oblivious about. Several minutes past in this studious observation before I came to the realization that this fascination was simply a stratagem my mind was using to momentarily prevent me from focusing upon, or reacting to less arbitrary, but more stressful issues. The synapses needed to take the time to commence their necessary realignment. This is the first stage of healing.
The realization that the right side of my body had lost all sense of feeling dawned upon me intriguingly slowly. Lack of sensation is not a condition the human is designed to recognize, yes, we are tactile, programmed to react positively or negatively to touch, but lacking actual direct contact, pressure, without feel, that very most basic of animalistic sense is blind. My mind reached out to grasp the metal bars of the day bed three times, my hand, my arm, my shoulder failed to react in any way thrice. I pondered the situation momentarily and then began with sudden chill and measured seriousness to measure the total area suffering this new and concerning paralysis. I quickly noted my right foot, lower and upper leg were comatose, as was my right hand, arm and shoulder. My neck and head seemed quite as normal, although I was later to realize that the right side of my face including the right side of the mouth and tongue were also affected. Far from being disconcerted I found the process of investigation strangely fascinating. I have often caught myself looking at my own physical being from the abstract perspective, sportsmen and women tend to have the capacity to do so without embarrassment or difficulty. Here at last was the perfect opportunity for me to test and practice my abilities in the most pristine of laboratory conditions.
Having completed my cerebral examination I utilized my left hand to move my right arm towards the day beds side and with surprising lack of difficulty managed to wrap my right hands fingers around one of the bars. Gripping the right hand firmly in my left I squeezed with some force and put all my concentration into attempting to recognize the slightest reaction in skin cell, nerve ending, sinew or muscle that that might indicate the suggestion of reawakening. It took perhaps a quarter of an hour of squeezing and concerted concentration before the vaguest glimmer of a recognizable feeling emerged. This is the second stage of healing.
Two hours later I telephoned my friend to apologize for missing our appointment. In explaining the reasoning for my most unusual absence I quite inadvertently named for her the demon who had so suddenly and wickedly afflicted me. I had of course suffered a cerebrovascular accident, a stroke. The naming and facing of the enemy in the third stage of healing.
I walk because I wish to live. I walk because I have tasted death three times, and each time have had the good fortune to spit him out. He is not glorious, not desirable and no friend to me. That is my fourth and final stage of healing.