|All you need is hugs|
“I almost started crying,” my friend Brittney told me after last weekend’s Raven Narratives storytelling event at the Durango Arts Center.
Shit, I cried tears during most of those stories, I thought to myself.
I’ll admit, I tend to cry a lot in certain situations. You could say I’m cry-y. That doesn’t read that well, but you get it, there are times when I just know I’m going to cry. Oftentimes it’s alone in my car listening to some epic Bob Dylan love song but it also happens in the form of stories, real stories. I rarely cry in the movies, but read me a touching true story, some poetry or a love song, and there I go.
This last weekend I cried a lot.
This was the first weekend this spring that I wasn’t in the desert or in Durango working. I had my friends Brian and Brittney in town so I vowed we would have a very Durango weekend. I just didn’t exactly know what that would entail.
Brian and I both love Seinfeld, so when he walked into my work on Friday and got in line to get some food, I immediately told him, “No soup for you!”
That night we stayed up until one in the morning watching Seinfeld, and then in the morning we headed over to my favorite breakfast joint, the College Drive Café. It was predictably tasty and the wait staff friendly. The day was off to a good start. Naturally, we headed over to the farmer’s market afterward, to see who we could see and pick up some fresh greens.
Then I got a text from Brittney’s husband Dave: Bunt got hurt kayaking and broke his femur in five spots. (For those who keep up on the FB or the paper, yes, he was that kayaker. The one who was rescued from Vallecito on Friday.)
Evan Bunt is a friend from a long time ago. I met him when he was a young crusher in his high school days up in Gunnison. He is a very Colorado kinda guy, a badass in so many outdoor activities it’s hard to put him into a category of what he is best at – whether it be skiing, biking, climbing or kayaking. He’s also one of the most polite, friendly human beings you’ll ever meet.
These kinds of messages delivering news of an accident are too routine for us lovers of outdoor sports. They are part of the deal. Going big in wild places usually provides us with the best days of our lives, but occasionally they deliver the worst days as well.
A broken femur is way better than a lost life though. I held thoughts of Evan close to my heart that day as we continued our tour of Durango. A mountain bike ride through Test Tracks, over to Horse Gulch, a quick stop into Ska, and a nice dinner led up to The Raven Narratives at the Arts Center.
I’d been excited about this ever since I first met the charming and passionate Sarah Syverson, who along with Tom Yoder created the storytelling event. It was made up of all local storytellers, and the theme for this series was “baggage.” Needless to say, it got deep. There were stories of love lost, parents lost, hearts found, identities rediscovered, addiction, bribery and even a tale of two lambs rescued on the side of a highway. To say I was impressed would be a major understatement. I cried a lot.
The following morning, Brittney rallied me to visit Evan in the hospital. He’d just had surgery, complete with a titanium rod. The minute we walked in, Evan looked at us, said our names and started crying. “Thank you, I love you guys,” he said.
We told him we loved him, too. His parents were there by his side. There was a deep feeling of intimacy, seeing our friend at his lowest. Yet, his spirit was strong; there was a feeling of power coming from his third eye, and his soul.
He told us what happened, he wasn’t even in his boat; he’d slipped off a cliff and landed on a rock in the water. His kayaking partner cared for him in the cold water for five hours until help arrived and got him out of there.
When he was done telling us his story, a nurse came in and performed a Reiki-like ceremony. She asked us to help, gently putting our hands on his leg and sending him healing energy. Sometimes, we forget how much we rely on the energy of our friends and family and how essential that support is.
When the nurse left, she put on a recording with some positive mantras, and we all sat there absorbing the words, and sending Evan healing energy. Then after a few rounds, Evan slowly moved up and turned it off. We talked a bit longer before the doctor came in and we learned of the milestones for the day: getting the catheter out, peeing on his own, and perhaps taking a shower. In a couple days, he’d be released. The mood seemed heavy, but Evan was optimistic.
Then, just as we were getting ready to leave, his buddy Dan and his family showed up. Right away Dan lightened the mood, “So … I hear you’re getting back into kayaking.”
We left with a logistically awkward but important hospital bed hug. I felt deeply moved by Evan’s spirit and humility. My day was changed for the better, and for the second time in as many days, I was moved to tears. But beyond that, I felt a connectedness to Evan, his parents, my friends and family – the realization we are nothing without the people in our lives who love us.
When I was younger and friends got get hurt, or even worse, killed, I contemplated if I would continue these risky activities. These days, I don’t go through that anymore. Everything in life has a certain risk to it, and we just have to accept that. I won’t quit adventuring in the wild, and I doubt Evan will either. Some of us just have it wired into who we are.
Later that day we went climbing. Even there, I realized the gift Evan had given me – to appreciate the moment and my surroundings. And, on the rock, at one point I closed my eyes and saw Evan’s face: positive, strong and encouraging. I felt his energy, and I hope he felt mine.
Then I thought about how powerful the weekend was, I thought it was just going to be a chill weekend at home, but through the tears that I cried I realized I’d seen things in a different light. And I feel closer than every to this community, and the people who also call it home.
This piece was originally published in today's Durango Telegraph.