Sunday, February 20, 2011


Today marks a big anniversary for a friend of mine.  In 2001, she was a physics teacher at a private school, teaching equestrian lessons as part of her contract.  She has always been an accomplished rider.  She is one of the smartest and most motivated people I have ever met.

She was kicked in the face by a horse, suffering massive trauma to her jaw, face, eyes, nose, and brain.  For the longest time, her eyes didn't work and for the first six months after the accident she breathed through her mouth.  I can know this intellectually and I can tell it to you, but there is no imagination big enough to fully understand. She lived, lucky for me, because even though our contact is infrequent, she is a touchstone, a link to my past and a good friend. If she was not who she is, I would not be who I am. In 2005, we met for a bite to eat in Dayton, Washington, where we graduated high school together.  She ordered nachos, because she had recently had bone growth enough to allow to eat solid foods - four years after the accident.  She was already back to riding, a feat of mental fortitude that I probably would have foregone, but such is her tenacity and love of riding that she braved her own fears.

Today is ten years.  Ten years of healing, of love and lonliness, of reliance on friends and family, of teaching and learning.  Ten years of resilience.  She earned her master's degree and also got married to another teacher.  Her brain is still healing and her body is still getting used to the idea that things are not what they used to be.  And this year, she swears she will stop thinking that this anniversary is important.

It is probable that I will never know that physical trauma.  I will probably never know what it's like to suffer years of reconstructive surgeries, only to have some succeed and some fail or to depend on a blender for my nutrition.  I will probably not know what it's like to lose a portion of my life to a freak accident, or deal with the years of recovery afterwards, suffering the added humiliation of ignorant people expecting her to just get over it after only a few years.  She was angry.  She is still angry and she has a right to be.

When we met up in our hometown that night, she asked me "Do I look different than I used to?", because people had told her that she looked just the same as she did before.  "Yes, you do look different.  You look like you, and I would know you anywhere."  It's true; she looked slightly different.  Not so different that you'd mistake her for someone else.  Same beautiful young woman, with the same hearty spirit born in the cradle of the Blue Mountains.  Same warm eyes. A bit more cautious, but still.

Why would we want to look the same? It is a good question.  As the years have gone on in my life, my physical appearance has changed too.  People from my hometown don't know me anymore, unless I introduce myself.  I am older, I am wiser and I have suffered my own traumas- some physical, some psychic.  They play across my face, in the sharpness of my look, in my countenance.  It is also natural.  I was a pretty girl once; now I am different and I am glad.

There was nothing wrong with me then and there is nothing wrong with me now.  I wish to God or the universe that this had not happened to my friend.  She is kind and quiet and fun, with a rebel living inside her.  Wherever she is tonight, out in California amongst those who seem to value only physical beauty, I hope she knows how much she inspires me and how I could never carry such a thing off with as much grace as she has shown.  I hope she is gentle with herself because the body may heal, but the spirit has to heal too, and some scars take more time.


  1. i wish blogs had like buttons.

  2. I'm with Fawn. Thanks for sharing such a beautiful story of resilience!