It’s late. I have been working at my computer all day. Writing. Editing. But, not the kind of writing and editing that stirs my creative soul or stimulates the right side of my brain. It’s the kind of writing I do all day at my job. You know, the job that pays the bills. The job where I edit legal documents, draft factual crime summaries, and write affidavits for the victims whose lives are traumatized by crime. So, now my work day is over, dinner is done, dishes are washed and kids are asleep; and as part of November’s daily blog post challenge, I am supposed to blog. I am supposed to write about something. Anything. Or not. I got nothing.
So, instead of writing about something that came to me in the middle of a giant brainstorm, I turn to a tool I have never used before, the writer’s prompt. I need it today, I spent the entire day working on documents for a murder case. A prompt is supposed to stir an idea, and in this case, it’s offerred to bloggers who are participating in November’s post a day challenge. The prompt changes daily and is posted at the web site hosting the National Blog Posting Month challenge. I clicked on the site and scrolled down to today’s prompt:
“Has anything traumatic ever happened to you? Describe the scene surrounding a particular event.”
Didn’t I say I was tapped out? Didn’t I write about enough trauma today?
I thought about the traumatic events of my life. Certainly, nothing could compare to some of the trauma crime victims experience. But, still there must be something? I could talk about the traumatic birth experience I had with Nico. No, I’ve dealt with enough graphic scenes today. I could write about the trauma of my divorce, but that is just exhausting and I don’t want to delve into that emotional abyss. So, how about a little light-hearted trauma? Is there even such a thing?
The closest thing I can recall to a light-hearted traumatic event is the experience I had when I was a child, camping with my family in Mammoth Lakes and fishing along the Owens Valley River. My dad loved to stream fish. My brother did too. As for me and my sister, we liked it okay until we became too frustrated by the lost bait and tangled lines, and when we grew too bored waiting for the “big one.” We would often end up abandoning our poles and create games to play along the water’s edge, like catching minnows in the marshy banks.
After I discovered a large school of baby fish, I left my pole with my father, who was still fishing along the bank and asked my mother for a paper cup so that I could scoop up the fish. I returned to the riverbank and found an area along the marshy bank where the tall grass provided a natural pool for the fish. Here the water seemed still, even though all around the river moved swiftly. My father was still fishing upstream, about 15 feet away. I bent down to scoop up the fish, and fell in the cold water. I found myself sinking under the cold, cloudy water. I did not feel panic, rather I felt surprise to be underwater. I looked up and could see the clear blue sky and the deep green marsh grass along the riverbank. That must have been the moment I realized where I was. I was disoriented but I managed to surface enough to grab a hold of the tall grass, and pull my head above the water. I could see my father drop his fishing pole and begin running towards me. I saw a flash of red from his jacket and a blur of brown from his shoes, as he approached me. The panicked expression on my father’s face as he stood above me made me realize the seriousness of the situation. I became aware of the current moving swiftly around me and under me. I felt the grass begin to give way, its roots loosening from the muddy bank, and I felt the panic set in me. I don’t know if my father jumped in or reached in to grab me, but suddenly I felt myself being lifted out of the water. Being lifted out of the water, shocked to me as much as the cold water temperature did when I fell in. The fear in my father’s eyes sent me into a greater shock and I gasped for air, coughing up the water I did not realize I swallowed, and choking on my great, heaving sobs, which appeared from nowhere. I was cold, wet and scared. My mother came from the car with a blanket. The rest is a blur. But, to hear my dad’s version of the story, the current was swift and if not for his fast action, I would have been swept away
My father has told this story before. I don’t know now if my own memory of this incident has blurred with his re-telling of it, but, I have a strong sense that my initial reaction was not panic. Rather my initial reaction was disorientation, and then realization, followed by my natural instinct to save myself. It was not until I experienced the reaction of those around me that I began to panic. Looking back at this incident, and other traumatic events in my life, I think that I probably have experienced these events the same way, with my survival instinct helping me to surface from disorientation, and my family pulling me to safety.