My fingers were cold and stiff, covered in mud and growing numb to the increasing wind. I used a stick to dig, uncovering the long metal pieces. Despite it still being early in the day, the sky was losing light quickly. I whipped around at the sound of crashing. A tree not far away had broken at the base and fallen.
A small hurricane was underway. I, being young, stupid, and obsessed with crazy adventures, had no plans on seeking refuge indoors. The creek beside my house was filled with trees, many of which were dead and threatening to fall under the force of strong wind. If I truly valued my safety, I would have already been inside, warming up and sitting on the couch with my sister. However, there was an old sewing machine buried in the bank of the creek and this discovery would lead to riches my small brain had never known. (In reality, I would uncover an old Bartlett Sewing Machine that would be broken in many places and no more valuable than a rusted piece of metal.)
I had to brave the hurricane’s wind and rain to unearth my discovery. I had to face this danger, because the adventure was too good to pass up.
I returned to the metal rod protruding from the ground. I dug the stick around the edges and tugged. It was still too stuck for my weak arms to pull it free.
Another crack, whoosh, and crash. This tree was bigger than the last and landed heavily on the ground. I instantly abandoned the sewing machine and stood up, bracing myself against the wind. I climbed out of the creak, my bare knees sliding against the mud and my face numbing from the freezing rain. The mud squished under my shoes as I ran toward the freshly fallen tree. The many thin branches created a natural cage around the ground and I crawled inside, carefully inspecting every inch of the dead tree.
Sure enough, it had fallen. Why I was so obsessed with this tree and this situation, I still don’t know. It was dangerous, intriguing, and made me feel like an important secret agent. I abandoned this tree as another fell further up the hill. I climbed near it, passing dozens of trees that could have fallen any moment, ending my young life. I was blind to the true danger of this situation, though, too invested in the excitement.
Soon, I found myself standing in front of a large tree closer to my house. I stood in front of it, gently touching the damp bark. I gazed up the tree, listening closely. I heard a soft crack and leaned in, pressing my ear against the rough edge.
Just then, my older sister ran into the backyard, screaming at me.
“Mattie!” she called.
I turned to look at her, tilting my head in a silent question.
“Come inside now!”
After considering ignoring her, the decision that my adventure for the day was done won. I walked away from the tree and took four short steps toward Meg.
Strands of wet hair slapped my face as I whirled around.
The tree, broken at the base, had fallen to the ground exactly where I had been standing just seconds before.
“Blessed are the curious, for they shall have adventure.”
This ‘Near Death Experience’ continues to be one of my best stories to this day. I was young, obsessed with the idea of adventures, careless, and completely blind to the fact that real danger truly existed around me.
As “Hurricane Harvey” devastates the areas sounding me, this, honestly fond, memory comes back as clear as ever. Where I am in Texas, Harvey has effected us negatively, but not disastrously. Many businesses closed yesterday and Sunday, classes were cancelled, and some areas and homes were flooded. But from what I have heard so far, nothing as terrible as deaths or missing persons has happened. Not far from me, though, Harvey caused devastation I’ve not known personally. My friends evacuated their homes and my father was stranded in another country, the Houston airport being flooded. While others feared for their lives, I had a great time staying home all day watching “Psych” and braving the rain to go buy pizza from one of the only open restaurants in town with my idiot roommates. (It’s a hurricane, guys. We shouldn’t have left the house to go to the gym and eat pizza.)
I’m sure many people have been through horrors this past couple of days that have caused them to look at life in a new way. I, however, have just remembered the past. Nothing so horrible has happened that’s gotten me to appreciate life more and live everyday like it is my last. Instead, it’s just reminded me that everyday has the potential to be a great adventure.
I’m not going to pretend that danger can’t touch me or that my adventure filled excitement diminishes the devastation other’s have experienced. I don’t want to say that “Near Death Experience” ten years ago changed my outlook on life. I’m not saying that I’ve experienced horrors that give me a fresh, unique view of life.
No, all I’m saying is that the excitement I found that day ten years ago is one that I want to chase every day.
Each time I wake up in the morning, I have the opportunity to be an ignorant, adventure-obsessed young child I once was. I’m given the chance to live with the ignorance of death every single day.
“Thinking about death every morning makes me want to live.”