I have been racking my brain all morning trying to figure out how to follow up the Freddie Mercury post as honestly, the bar was raised pretty high with that one. My first inclination was to write about blogging or maybe a post on branding as they are both topics I want to touch on at some point. However, neither of them felt right and I realized that I was becoming lost in my search for the perfect topic. Being lost is not a fun place for a blogger unless being lost in itself turns out to be the answer. I have been lost before in a more literal sense and I would like to share that with you all in this blog post.
It was a very warm day for March when I decided to go for a long hike into a part of the forest I was not very familiar with. This did not seem like a bad idea at the time so I headed out into the forest wearing shorts and a tee shirt which seemed appropriate for the current weather. Getting lost or running into any sort of trouble did not cross my mind as I grew practically living in that forest behind my grandparent’s house. In fact, I didn’t even tell my grandfather or anyone else where I was going.
The hiking actually went fine and I moved into a new part of the forest that was on the other side of a section of the woods that had been burned down in a forest fire at least five years previous. It was very difficult hiking due to the twisted remains of dead trees that tried to hinder your every little advancement. Of course, once I made it to the forest on the other side of this tree graveyard, I was absolutely exhausted. I did not stop though and I pushed on towards a Lake I had once seen on a map of the area. I then spent a few hours circling the lake until I found a clearing where I decided it was a good place to eat. I had brought with me a sandwich and a can of soda which I enjoyed as the afternoon pushed on and I listened to the radio on my Walkman for a while.
It was time to begin the hike back home and I knew exactly how to get there but it was a really long walk and I really didn’t look forward to it. In fact, I became convinced that there had to be a shortcut and that was the moment I had chosen to become lost even if I was unaware of it. I set off in a new direction looking for that shortcut and thinking that I was getting closer to home. I walked for hours and soon began to realize that I was going in circles because everything at that point began to look the same. I knew that I was lost and still refused to admit it or to take any precautions against the rapidly approaching darkness.
I was in a really bad pickle because the temperature was falling very fast as the sun lowered below the tree line. I listened to the weather on the Walkman and knew that the temperature was due to just slip below freezing and they were also calling for freezing rain. It was getting too dark to continue looking for a way out and I knew that no one was looking for me. Quite honestly, I didn’t expect to survive and sadly enough I was too tired to do anything other than just lie down on the forest floor and cry while I waited for the end to come.
I listened to the radio as the night closed in and it continued to get colder. I was constantly shivering by the time the rain began and each drop was so cold and chilled me to a level I didn’t even know was possible. I had recalled some films that had shown my class at school about hypothermia and in those the person usually fell unconscious then died. I expected that to happen to me because the shivering stopped just like in the film. However, I was about to experience something that they didn’t show in the film.
The first convulsion hit me around midnight and seemed to be localized below the waist. The convulsions ravaged my legs and the muscle contractions almost made my legs look like a fish’s tail in quick time flapping about when it is hauled out of a lake with a fishing pole. The convulsions lasted for about five minutes and then would subside until they returned anywhere from ten to fifteen minutes later. I had no idea what was happening to me and tried my best to focus on the sounds coming from the Walkman because otherwise I was going to give in to more tears and I didn’t think I had any left.
It was after 5AM in the morning when I realized I had made it through the night and that maybe I still had a chance to survive. I waited for the first traces of daylight and then tried to stand up which was unsuccessful as my legs were worse than Jell-O thanks to a night of convulsions. I knew that I had to get them working because I still knew that no one knew I was missing otherwise I would have heard about it on the radio. On my fifth attempt I was able to stand and enough light had finally filtered into the forest that I could see the tree branches all coated in ice and knew that if I didn’t get out of there soon I was not going to make it.
I started off in the easiest direction to go and began looking for anything that would help me get out of the forest. I had no idea where I was so I was pretty well relying on dumb luck. As it turns out, dumb luck was with me as I found some power lines zipping through the forest. Normally, following power lines is a 50/50 proposition as they can just as easily be taking you deeper into the forest. Luckily, for me I choose the right direction and ended up coming out of the forest near an industrial park. I made it to a house and a woman took me in and gave me dry clothes and some hot soup and then she called my family.
I was lucky because I lived and the minor damage done to my legs healed over time. I learned so many life lessons from my ordeal about everything from survival to courage. I thought it was over, but my subconscious had other ideas and I found within, strength I never even knew I had. I try today to apply this strength to everything I do and quite frankly never surrender despite the odds. It is this strength that I wrote into the character of Nora from The Daughter of Man. She, more than any other character in the book, has to endure trials that take her beyond death itself. I do not know if I could have written her as well without the lessons I gained from being lost.