skinned knees, fresh cantaloupe, Basic Principles

| August 19, 2013 | 5 Replies

I haven’t skinned my knee in years, so when I stumbled over the extra-high curb at Mark and Cheryl’s three weeks ago, I knew it meant something. It’s a Basic Principle of mine: Everything Means Something. (Not all Basic Principles utilize italics, but this one likes to have them.)

skinned knee (and foot)Well, it was a Basic Principle until a few months ago, when my friend and chiropractor Andrea gently suggested, “Sometimes an injury has a deeper purpose, but sometimes an injury is just an injury.” Her comment led me to revise my Basic Principle: Everything Can Be Used. (See? No italics, though it uses passive voice. Apparently Basic Principles bring out my least sophisticated wordsmithery. But I digress.)

Everything Can Be Used. It’s not always an easy task, but I endeavor to receive life’s minor events as signs or blessings or calls to awakening. So even if an injury is just an injury, I’ll ferret out a use for it.

The skinned knee (and foot) at Mark and Cheryl’s happened just minutes before we drove the last leg (pardon the pun) of the journey to Wichita, so I felt them for the next week of bending and squatting, unpacking boxes, and repairing secondhand furniture.

Gus helps as I repair an old bureauWhen I tackled the old bureau, I cut my finger extracting a twisted staple with a hammer. It was a minor injury; still, it did a number on my adorable-and-astoundingly-inexpensive new gloves. (Needless to say, I was somewhat less astounded by their inexpensiveness afterward.)

cutOver that first week, I worked steadily and gladly sorting out our new life, but not without pain. I decided to let it represent the pain of leaving Massachusetts.

I didn’t cry when we moved. Friends wept farewells into my shoulders, but I couldn’t summon up tears of my own. What is this? I wondered. I can cry over Mad Men episodes, but I can’t cry goodbye?

We are fools if we’re so enamored of the new that we don’t take time to mourn what we leave behind. Grief didn’t make its way to my tear ducts, so my body found a different expression. Again and again I felt the sting in my knee or foot, and I remembered that even though this season is wonderful, it also hurts.

goodbye to GregI haven’t tumbled from my bike since I was twelve. I broke my jaw in an accident at age nine, so after another nasty fall three years later, I bid adieu to two-wheeled bliss. Bikes and me don’t mix, I said. It was a Basic Principle for the next 16 years.

This past Saturday I was headed to the farmer’s market. We’d enjoyed a leisurely morning at home, but outside our windows the day shone like a nectarine I couldn’t wait to taste.

nectarineI even put on make-up for the first time since we arrived in Wichita (in keeping with another Basic Principle: Wear Make-up Only When You Feel Like It).

make-upIt was the silliest fall imaginable. A woman stood power-washing the driveway of our apartment building, and I tried to ride over the hose. The ground was slippery. I was coming at the hose sideways rather than straight-on. It was a rookie’s error. You’d never guess I’ve been biking nearly everywhere for the past four years.

IMG_6233I couldn’t have been moving fast, but I splatted pretty hard. Poor, alarmed, power-washing woman. “I’m fine, I’m fine, totally my own fault,” I said, catching my breath and surveying my blackened tights.

Upstairs, I handed David the camera. “I can’t be that badly hurt if I want you to take my picture before cleaning up, right?”

“I don’t know,” he said. “You take pictures of everything.”

post fallDon’t I ever.

My tights were toast. Small pieces of gravel had lodged themselves in the top of my foot. (Let this be a lesson to you, friends: flip-flops make sub-par cycling gear.)

poor HannahWe washed and neosporined me and bandaged up the mysterious gash in my right calf. The band-aid matched the last remaining flecks of my wedding pedicure. Right there between the three-week-old scars on my knee and foot.

mysterious gashWhy did I need to get back on my bike as soon as the wounds were dressed and my clothes changed? “You don’t have to buy our veggies at the farmer’s market this week,” David said. “Don’t you want to take it easy for a little while?”

I couldn’t explain myself. I kissed my husband and promised to be careful. I changed my shoes. And while I was out, the Whys streamed before me the way the world does when I’m on my bike.

There was the Shakespeare mural on 1st street.

Shakespeare muralThere was the farmer’s market, where I reveled in produce and folk musicians and Other People’s Children racing between the booths.

farmer's marketThe fall had rattled me, but don’t we need to be rattled sometimes? Amidst strangers and sunshine, I bowed my head to the balm of fresh cantaloupe.

fresh cantaloupeOn the way home, I remembered a bike ride I took last August. We’d just returned from a long vacation, and I coasted down Lovett Street toward a friend’s house, wondering if it would be my last year in Beverly. I inhaled the salt air and gazed upon the fading hydrangea, thinking of how we’re always in the process of losing something.

All year long I took pictures like a shutter-happy parent: partly for my newborn blog and partly because I wanted to keep seeing my life as though I’d never seen it before.

a tree that I loveThousands of photos of the trees that I love, the students I adore, the sun setting over Isabelle and Charlie’s house.

sun settingI photographed the beach in late autumn.

beach in late autumnI captured sunlight haloing dirty dishes.

sunlight streamingOn the way home from the farmer’s market Saturday afternoon, I realized that I spent an entire year saying goodbye. Maybe I didn’t cry when we left town because I was finally ready to say hello.

Hello to the bricks of Mosley Street.

Mosley StreetHello to hibiscus everywhere, in every color, like Hawaii, like my childhood.

hibiscusHello to Mead’s Corner. You can’t be the Atomic Café, but I’ll bet I can love you anyway.

Mead's cornerHello to statues up and down Douglas Avenue. Who could have guessed how winsome Wichita would be?

statuesI’ve mothered myself over the past 72 hours, repeatedly applying ice to the lump on my hip. I wrap the blue gel pack in a pretty dishcloth Sarah and Andrew gave us and think of how friends heal us even when they don’t know it.

towel and ice packI sit in the comfy chair with a glass of cucumber-mint water and a chunk of the peanut butter bar I bought at the farmer’s market.

mothering myselfMy Monday morning legs might as well belong to a child. They’re the legs of a person still learning to keep her balance in an unfamiliar world. They’ve never felt more beautiful.Monday morning legsThe glove won’t ever be the same, but my finger’s good as new.

glove and fingerGoodbye gives way to hello. Wounds give way to healing. Sometimes an injury is just an injury, but if it slows you down it might open you up. Which sounds like the seed of a stellar Basic Principle.

Category: beauty, body, death, journey, outside, pain, remaining calm, yoga

Hannah Lynn Mell

About the Author ()

Hannah Lynn Mell grew up a missionary kid in Kailua-Kona, Hawaii. Now she lives in Rowley, Massachusetts with her exquisitely kind husband David, their plucky three-legged cat Thomas, and a needy-yet-lovable dachshund named Birdie. She's worked with singers since 1998 and loves to help people of all ages free their voices.

Comments (5)

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  1. Mum says:

    Slowing You Down seems to be the way of things with God in yourself, dearest Hanner ;o)
    So glad you are finding meaning in all these things!
    Enjoyed the visit to your Farmer’s Market… and seeing the things you see!
    I will try to put a few meager photos of the Philly Folk Fest out to you soon.
    Missin ya… let’s FaceTime!!

  2. Catherine says:

    I like your newest Basic Principle, Hannah. And I guess you will just have to take me to Mead’s Corner sometime 🙂

  3. Jade says:

    Why are you using dish gloves as work gloves, silly girl! Also, lovely post.

  4. Doug Bowker says:

    So glad to have another does of our weekly Hannah musings! But maybe some knee-pads are in order for your early explorations? 😉
    Be well, and it’s nice to hear you are enjoying your new surroundings.

  5. Lisa says:

    Lovely catching up on all things Hannah (and David). Wichita does, indeed, look winsome through your eyes and words. Miss you, but glad you’re having a wonderful new adventure!

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