Saturday, February 27, 2021

Down for the Count and "Frilufsliv"

 It was just another February day around our Foothills homestead. On my daily bikeride, I was cycling along, enjoying the sunshine, the beauty of snow on the hills, the crisp winter air, when Bam

The snowy vista from our garden

I slammed onto the pavement, my bike skidding sideways, pain shooting up my thigh into my back. It was the kind of pain I can’t remember feeling before, outside of childbirth.

My whole body shaking, I managed to get to my feet, pick my bike off the road. I could walk—well, limp, just barely. I had hit the ground on the side of my thigh, no head impact. And by leaning on my bike, I was able to move, so nothing appeared to be broken. No head or bone injury seemed to be the good news. 

The bad news was, I knew in one split second my life had changed…

Just the day before, I was doing my usual winter routine. Ever since we’d moved to our little homestead, I’d learned to embrace being outdoors all year long. This, I recently discovered, is what the Norwegians call frilufsliv, “open air living." The Norwegians are all about celebrating time outside, no matter what the weather. And given all the winter chores at our place, you either have to get on board with being outside, every day, or give up and move to town.

Every winter day, I would bundle up and ride my bike, unless it was pouring rain, or there was snow on the road. After that, it was exchanging my bike gear for more layers, to feed the chickens and haul their water, or clean the coop, then chop firewood. If the weather was somewhat dry, maybe haul some brush or stack firewood with my husband John, or find some winter garden tasks like mulching some beds, or pulling weeds if the ground wasn’t frozen. After coming inside, I'd do a half hour of yoga to work out the kinks.

I happily whizzed through my intensely physical life, confident I could accomplish whatever I set my mind to. I’m a small woman, no weightlifter, but I prided myself on being able to carry a 40 lb. sack of chicken feed, lift a big box of firewood and take it into the house.

That day before everything changed, the forecast was looking…unusual for February. Apparently a Northeaster, and a very cold one, was on the way. There would be extra wood to chop and bring inside, getting the hens organized with a different watering routine. So we had even more outdoor work than usual…but heck, we were up for it. I loved getting fresh air, needing the physical and spiritual boost I got from the great outdoors. I was game for whatever Mother Nature had in store.

But I could never have predicted that bike spill, on a patch of black ice I hadn’t seen. After I'd painstakingly gotten to my feet, I retrieved the keys that had flown out of the pocket of my windbreaker, and the helmet visor that had skittering away, I turned and limped toward home. I was upright, sure, but my entire being throbbed with pain. And the way I was shuddering uncontrollably, I knew I was in shock. 

I also realized that the pain I felt now would only get worse once the shock subsided. I was one and a half miles from home. How would I ever make it?

As angels often do, just then, one showed up. A Good Samaritan stopped—a young lady whom I’d never met, but lived down the road less than I mile from our house—and offered me a ride. I’m an independent kind of person, not accustomed to accepting help. Especially from a stranger. But that day, I gratefully accepted her kindness. As she drove me home, I felt more helpless than I ever had before.

It’s been a slow recovery. Days of icing, resting, and using a cane. Despite my discomfort, and my limited mobility, I know I've been lucky. Even blessed. I'd escaped this spill with minimal damage: no head injury, broken bones, or even torn ligaments. I'd been wearing winter layers, so although I was bruised, I hadn't scraped up my hip and thigh. And I was extremely fortunate that no double-trailed gravel truck--a common vehicle on the main road--was barreling around the blind curve just ahead of where I fell.

The biggest blessing, though, has been John. When I could hardly move, he helped me put on my socks (who knew donning socks involved so many muscles?), picked up my cane when I invariably dropped it several times a day, and helped with housework. And most importantly, cheerfully taken care of all the winter chores by himself. And that Northeaster that hit the week after my accident was a big one--howling winds for 4 long days with temps near the single-digits, then a snowstorm and more sub-freezing weather. So he was the one suiting up for solo chicken tending and wood hauling in the frigid gale.

February snowstorm

It's been 3 and a half weeks, and I can walk a little more easily--but I still need to ice my sore spots, and need a cane to get around. Although it's nice to think Spring is just around the corner, 3 weeks away, here in the Foothills, winters can be long. 

In fact, we've had snow and freezing temperatures at the end of April--so I'm pretty confident, as I get a little bit stronger every day, that I'm sure to have many more opportunities for Frilufsliv!

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