Sunday, 30 December 2012

Snacks Between Meals: Blood on the Ice

In spite of a brutal cold virus that took out most of the city over the holidays, including my family, Christmas was still pretty good this year.  Quite frankly, I'm just grateful to be alive (no, I'm not whining about a runny nose and a dry cough) instead of being a frozen corpse at the bottom of a valley in the wilds of Kananaskis looking like the opening scene to a CSI: Calgary episode.

It all started when someone at work told me how I could buy a $5 license to harvest up to three Christmas trees from natural forests on provincial park land.  My mind instantly switched to Norman Rockwell mode, and I pictured me and my family hiking out into the woods; finding a fresh, perfectly shaped (that's how God grows 'em!) tree; and effortlessly chopping it down to carry home.  Of course, hot chocolate and spontaneous Christmas caroling would abound.  I was going to bring my camera to capture warm memories of precious Kodak moments with my family in an idyllic winter wonderland.

You would think I'd learn: Gregson outings don't usually resemble Norman Rockwell scenes so much as they do Francis Bacon.  Alison has it figured out; she elected to stay home while the "men" went a-hunting.

After a much longer drive than expected (after the second wrong turn, "Are we there yet?" turned into "Isn't the Home Depot a lot closer?"), we pulled off the road and started walking into the woods.  As we worked our way through an obstacle course of criss-crossed fallen tree trunks, I began to notice only two types of evergreens: the forty foot variety that were off limits according to our license, and scrawny five footers starving for light and nourishment under the shadows of their elders.  Having been a Queen's Scout (the Canadian equivalent of an Eagle Scout, and yes, an ironic name from an organization that disallows gays), I decided that we should move our search down into the valley where younger trees might have had better luck along the river. 

At the bottom of the descent, we came across a frozen creek - a small tributary to the main river - and it looked like a perfect photo opportunity.  Only thing was, the angle I wanted couldn't be achieved from shore.  Fortunately (there's our friend irony again), a tree trunk had fallen across the creek, creating a "bridge" about two meters above the mostly ice covered water.

This is where you are probably thinking, "Really?  You tried to walk on it?"

Ha! No, I didn't!  I'm not a complete moron.

I just sat on it.  I held my camera in my right hand, and balanced myself by holding onto the slender trunk of a leafless tree growing on the bank.

Duncan tried to warn me, saying, "I don't think Mom would want you to do that."  Wrong thing to say.  If I had any misgivings before, I cast them aside immediately.  You think your mother knows better than me?  Me, a Queen's Scout?  Ha!  (OK, I know this is a bit of a character flaw that I need to work on.  When Alison errs on the side of caution, I automatically err on the side of recklessness.  If I had been standing in front of a hot waffle iron and Duncan said, "Mom thinks it's a bad idea to put your testicles in there," I probably would have done that too.)

Now you have to realize that, in winter, all trees that are not evergreens look barren and skeleton dry, so there was no way for me to know that the young tree steadying me had tragically passed away the previous summer and was now about as sturdy as a Pringles potato chip.  The trunk snapped apart right above the root and I tumbled backwards.

Time slowed as I fell, and several thoughts passed through my mind.

First: "Really? I broke the whole tree?"

Second: "I hope I don't break my camera."

Third: "I am so glad Alison isn't here."

It also occurred to me that, with the way I was falling, I could tuck my shoulders, round my back, and completely avoid hitting my head.  Of course, for this plan to work, I would  have to be able to accurately assess where my body and all of its parts were in space.  Anyone who has watched me play sports knows that I completely lack this ability, so naturally I broke my fall with my head.  And my camera.

A picture worth dying for?  Don't think so.

I lay still for a moment while visions of sugarplums danced on my head.  The pain gave me a strong sense of deja vu from the time I wiped out waterskiing and the ski tried to beat me to death, starting with a cut to my forehead that required 13 stitches.  (Who knew waterskis carried shivs?)  Lying on the cracked ice of the creek, I gingerly reached for the back of my head.  I expected blood - there was a little - but I was surprised to find a lump so large it completely filled my hand.  You could call it a goose egg, if geese were 5 stories tall and frequently stomped all over Tokyo.

Also, my lens broke, preventing me from capturing any memories for the ol' photo album ('cuz we were having such a good time!). Well, my boys were apparently enjoying themselves; once they realized their father wasn't dead, they started laughing their asses off.

I swore a couple of times (in my defense, Duncan did later report to his mother that I demonstrated great restraint and only let fly with PG rated profanities) and crawled to the bank, careful to not put too much weight on the Darin-shaped cracks in the ice.  I was just grateful I was still conscious.  There's no way my kids have the upper body strength necessary to carry me up a snow-covered hill. 

We cut down the next halfway decent looking tree (decent in a Charlie Brown Christmas kind of way) we could find and got out of there.  Considering fuel costs and the price of a new camera lens, my $5 tree was going to put me back about $250.  It was either that thought - or a mild concussion - that made me pause partway back to the car, drop the tree, and throw up.

Yep, a classic Gregson outing.


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