Through the tears

 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 an 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 or some poetry, 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 home working. I had my friends Brian and Brittney in town, so I vowed to have a “very Durango weekend.” I just didn’t know what that would entail.

That night we stayed up until 1 a.m. watching Seinfeld, and then in the morning headed over to my favorite breakfast joint, the College Drive Café. 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 that’s when 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 an old friend. 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 say 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 Evan in my thoughts as we continued our tour of Durango. A mountain bike ride through Test Tracks and Horse Gulch, a quick stop at 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 local storytellers, and the theme for this series was “baggage.” Things 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. Needless to say, I cried. A lot. 

The next 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 cried, “Thank you, I love you guys.” 

We told him we loved him, too. His parents were by his side, and there was a deep feeling of intimacy, seeing our friend at his lowest. Yet, his spirit was strong. 

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 harrowing tale, a nurse came in and performed a Reiki-like therapy, whereby touch is used to facilitate the healing process. She asked us to help, gently putting our hands on his leg. Sometimes, we forget how much we rely on our friends and family for support. 

When the nurse left, she put on a recording of positive mantras, and after a few rounds, Evan slowly moved his hand up and turned it off. We talked a bit longer before the doctor came in and discussed 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 hospital bed hug. I was 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 – we are nothing without the people in our lives.

When I was younger and friends got hurt – or even worse, killed – I contemplated discontinuing these risky activities. These days, I don’t go through that. Everything in life has a certain risk, and we have to accept that. I won’t quit adventuring in the wild, and I doubt Evan will either.

Later that day, we went climbing. Even then, 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 last few days were. I thought it was just going to be a chill weekend, but through all the tears, I saw things in a different light. And I feel closer than ever to this community, and the people who also call it home. 

Luke Mehall