Out of the corner of my eye I see a small flutter of brown. I turn my head to see a bald eagle just off the tip of my wing turning back towards the mountains. I lean hard, bank my glider and follow his lead. Moments later we are met with dynamic rising air, pushing us upwards. With wing tips locked together we rapidly climb upwards, with each circle leaving the snow covered landscape below. This is not an uncommon occurrence in my life, it seems to happen all the time, but in this particuarly intimate moment with nature, I take a deep breath and realize how lucky I truly am.
Back in October of last year my legs and feet suddenly began to hurt. At first it felt like really sore muscles. No big deal, so I kept pushing harder and harder, but as the days passed my condition rapidly deteriorated. I remember stepping out of a truck on a high mountain launch site, barely able to walk. That flight was breathtaking, beautiful, rugged, and memorable in so many ways. The next morning, I could no longer walk. The pain and inflammation in my feet, legs and back was so overwhelming that my body could no longer stand upright, let alone push itself forward.
After countless doctor visits, I was still nowhere. Things spiraled out of control and I soon found myself in the Emergency Room fighting this mysterious illness. That led to several days in the hospital, along with every possible test known to mankind. I had my fair share of needles, blood tests, MRI machines, and head scratching doctors. From back specialists to orthopedic doctors, oncology to infectious disease specialists; nobody could determine the root cause. Eventually I ended up in the Rheumatology department. It was here I finally had some real answers, some actual proof, and more importantly a pathway to moving forward. Unfortunately, there was so much damage in the tendons and soft tissues of my feet that healing was going to be a slow process.
There were many dark days in pain sector 9, but I found hope and healing in the kindness of my friends. So many were eager to lend a kind hand, a listening ear, or just a few minutes of distraction. Even with all the help around me, I knew I had to do my part too. So, each day I would try and walk just a little. I remember how excited I was when I walked 150 steps in a single day. Each day I continued to walk, step by step, looking, hoping, and praying for the opportunity to someday hike and fly above the mountains again.
As I circle wing tip to wing tip with this majestic bald eagle I realize how lucky I truly am. Blessed for the opportunity to fly once again. I am not fully recovered as I will never be fully rid of this disease. Hard as it may seem, it is just something I must now learn to live with each day. I may be hiking a little slower these days, but I am hiking again, flying again, and trying to enjoy the simple sensations that this amazing life on this amazing earth provides.
(For better or worst, I film stuff. This short video captures a few scenes during my recovery process. Not a great film, but a journal entry)