broken bones

Bone Cruncher (The Final Shot)

It’s been three and a half months now since the incident, and today was kind of a rollercoaster of emotions. The most intense physiotherapy session yet, which left me with what looked like half a can of warpaint smudged down my cheeks; a performance at an open mic which somehow, after this long out of practice, led to compliments from accomplished musicians; and an arrival home to what follows, after I’d dug up the final images from the photoshoot where it all went down (sorry, couldn’t help it!).

I spent an hour or so Frankensteining my way around a couple of the final images my friend Jen shot before I fell and snapped my arm into pieces, trying my hand at editing, and ended up with something I rather liked. I had to ask if it was okay if I shared it – poor Jen was as traumatised by the whole thing as I was, and I wasn’t sure if seeing the final image would resurrect bad memories – but she gave me her blessing, and then wrote this. My heart is full of appreciation for this wonderful woman, and my eyes full of tears. Not only did she offer to pay for my ambulance, but she rode with me, stayed with me, made sure my then-boyfriend arrived, bought my prescriptions, and food…  It’s been such a lonely struggle at times, and this written piece, as well as this girl, is far too full of kindness for me to accept. ❤

Here’s the story through the eyes of the friend who shared this life-changing moment with me. It went viral within an hour of being posted.

“I want to share with you an image, and a story, one that hurts my heart to tell. The image that you are about to see followed a disastrous shoot and ended tragically. 

In early August, Emily Wood and I had our hearts set of doing a shoot that was based around the concept of a young woman who was suffering mentally. We wanted to base the shoot as if we were seeing in through her eyes, in a very dark, creepy manner. It started out great – we had wonderful hair and makeup, and of course, Emily, the lovely model. We had a hospital gown, black “blood”, and a box. And abandoned houses. Yay!

It all went downhill from there.

Barely into the shoot, having barely scraped the images we were wanting to get, my camera batteries unexpectedly died (despite having left them charging the night before). That’s what I get for using no name batteries. 

We were over an hour out of the city with no access to another DSLR and another battery. Lesson learned for me. I felt horrible about the entire thing, I had let the team down. I very much dislike being the weak link in a situation and was beating myself up pretty good for it. But we decided to try to make the best of things, head back to the city, grab Emily’s camera, and make our way to see if we could pull something off in the exchange district. 

We were making levitation shots, and Emily was balancing high up. And then she fell. She fell hard about nine feet, on her shoulder, onto the concrete. There was at first surprise, then shock, then screaming. Emily was in excruciating pain, and I called the ambulance. 

I’d like to take this moment to just reflect on what a brave and amazing woman Emily is. She broke her shoulder/arm in four places, and still manages to keep a smile on her face. She’s been unable to work, has been forced to move out of her apartment since, and yet sees through it all to take something positive out of it. One of the first things she asked me out of the hospital was if I still wanted to edit those images (she really wanted to see them). She does not hide from problems, she takes them head on. 

I’d also like to take this moment to talk about her boyfriend at the time, who did not cease to amaze me. He met us at the hospital, he quit his job so he could help look after her, he also had to move as a result of this unfortunate event, and he too keeps a positive attitude and a smile on his face. He deserves all the credit in the world for his actions.

Months after this event, Emily’s bones are finally starting to show signs of healing, though very slowly. Emily has a job to go back to in the new year, and she is on the way to getting back onto more stable ground. I’m still astounded by the way she handled everything with such grace.

Now that that’s been said (and it needed to be said first, seriously, these people are amazing), I want to talk to you as a photographer. As a photographer, this is one of my worst nightmares come true. I never, never want to see someone get hurt as a result of a shoot I take them on. And normally, I’m on the ball about it. You can sure as hell bet that I was the one making sure that any place Emily stepped in those building were safe, and I knew because I stepped there first. But one wrong thing set off a chain of events that led me to stop thinking clearly, to think that, hey, maybe this shot in this particular location isn’t really a great idea.

We can’t afford to lose our heads this way. We can’t afford to not be diligent. First and foremost, safety has to come first, in everything that we do. Don’t let something that goes wrong in the beginning cloud your judgement. 

Story isn’t over yet. Earlier this evening, Emily blew my mind. She took the images from her camera (the ones right before she fell, the ones I didn’t have the heart to look at), and made something incredible out of them (one handed, no less). Not only does she have some fantastic technical skill, but her bravery to look back onto a moment that had a pretty terrible memory attached to it didn’t stop her.

Emily, you are absolutely one of the best people I know. I hope that one day I can achieve your level of awesome.”

I love you, Jen, and I don’t know what I would’ve done without you. Despite everything, I’m so glad we got to make this together. ❤

Before and after. I didn't want the image to go to waste!

Before and after. I didn’t want the image to go to waste!

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“Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a harder battle.”


Tonight was a night not too unlike any other. I often find myself in tears, still navigating my way up the emotional spectrum trying to find a way to tame them, but I don’t seem able to help it. Things can be terribly beautiful or beautifully terrible. Things can be so incredibly wonderful, there are in actuality sometimes no words in existence to describe how strongly I feel, so they come out in the form of tears instead. Or I can be reminded of something that happened in my past, something I’ve fought desperately to shelve away and hide from the present I’m working so hard to create. Or I can get swallowed up in loneliness and feel forever unworthy of love or attention, or even being remembered. These past two months with the injury have been bad ones for that. But tonight, the tears came for a rather more traditional reason.

A soul passing away is always cause for sadness, but when you’ve known it for a matter of hours, find it thoroughly traumatised, so paralysed with terror it can’t even shake the spiderwebs that have formed on its body, and then you take it inside, build it a home, warm it, feed it, and make it a bed, see it begin to move… to take nourishment… to build a nest… you feel such joy. And when you wake in the morning to find it in the grip of rigor mortis, you can’t help but sob.

Yes, I found a mouse last night. Some of you may remember the pigeon:

Pigeon rescue

He was in the middle of the road, about to get run over, trying to flap his one working wing and struggling. I remember the strange looks I got as I took him through the underground shopping centre on my arm all the way to where I’d parked, and the comments I got from my coworkers, clearly dumbfounded, judging me for taking time off to help something “they’d give to their cat to kill.” I heard about it for weeks, but it didn’t matter. The bird had been patched up, taken home, and even named by the vets.

So I found a mouse. Something terrible had clearly happened, as he was sitting there frozen with cobwebs on his head, but his eyes were open, and he was breathing… albeit oddly. He looked like he’d sustained some kind of awful injury, or fright, or both, and it broke my heart to think of leaving him. So AC and I brought him in, did some quick scouring of the internet, and made him a little home in one of the boxes not yet unpacked. I gave him a heating pad beneath half the box, some kitchen roll, a corner of cotton balls for nesting, a lid with some water, and some tinily cut up pieces of cucumber and apple. I cleaned him off, but he remained frozen in fear, breathing sharply, and turned on a dim light, leaving the room so as not to cause any further terror. Within the hour, we found him nibbling on a piece of apple, and shortly after, making himself a little bed in the cotton balls. I was overjoyed – anyone who knows me will know that even the thought of animals suffering is enough to send me into a sobfest, and I don’t care if it’s a cat you’d take inside and adopt as your own or a rat most would consider vermin and call an exterminator on; if it has a brain, a body, and a little heart, it needs taking care of.

photo (2)

So you can imagine how happy I was to see him recovering. The next morning, however, things didn’t look so good. I called out desperately hoping he was just sleeping, but my head was telling me it definitely didn’t look like sleeping. The sharp breathing had stopped, but it seemed so had any other kind of breathing. I held onto the hope that mice do indeed play dead when feeling threatened and hoped for the best, but by the end of an entire day, he was in the same position, definitely no longer with us. I had a good cry, and AC (thank the stars for another NF) suggested we give him a little burial. After being ridiculed for helping a pigeon, the act of kindness and mutual understanding meant the absolute world, and we headed out into the night, his little home in the back seat.

We’d intended to drive down to the river – our new place isn’t far from the water (the full story on how I kind of lost my home to come soon) – but with his eyes on the road and mine on Google maps, I noticed we were within walking distance of an actual cemetery. Not one to ignore a coincidence, we parked and journeyed through the cold to the big iron gates. I’d wanted to leave him somewhere he’d have company (Neil Gaiman’s Graveyard Book may or may not have been on my mind), and we soon found a small tree midway through the clasp Autumn takes on all things green. There were a pile of crisp leaves at its base, and I noticed a single star to the north, and a big yellow half-moon hung low in the sky to the south. We lay him down under some leaves where the base met the grass, a cotton ball to mark the spot, and I managed to say a few words through a torrent of tears. You’re probably thinking how ridiculous this all sounds, but I can’t describe how or why I was so sad to lose a little creature I’d known only a few hours.

pebbles

Until AC pointed something out on the car ride home. I was mid-way through apologizing when he hugged me, and told me it probably had something to do with recognizing suffering in others having gone to the depths of it myself. (Of course this didn’t help with the crying, but the thought hadn’t occurred to me before.) I think part of being an NF involves desperately wanting all to be well in the world, and when things aren’t, whether in our personal one or the planet at large, it causes far more upset than in other MBTI types. And I think I’m (and have definitely been described more than once as) also classified as a HSP – something I’ve written about before – and I maintain that every day still is like “living with fifty fingers as opposed to ten.” I wrote that post over a year ago, and my words hold true to this day:

“I don’t like overanalyzing and reading into things that aren’t there, and I don’t like catastrophising every little event in a day. I love that my sensitivity allows me to be incredibly in tune with others’ emotions, or that I read a piece of beautiful prose or hear a great song and want to jump up and down because somebody’s just been an awesome human being. I love being overly enthusiastic about things like simple existence and celebrating creativity and taking the time to see small beauties of nature and spend two hours in the cold photographing them because nature is just so stunning. I love that there may very well be a biological explanation for being extremely sensitive, and I love that just because I cry a lot doesn’t have to mean I’m a giant baby – it just means I care a lot and feel things more extremely. But I don’t like being a slave to its tendency to send me crashing down faster than an IQ after an episode of the Kardashians.”

I think I’m hard-wired this way, and over time I just have to learn to embrace it – if perhaps, too, control it a little better. Someone who means the world to me once told me a long time ago that I was “the Caretaker of Lost Souls” – the biggest compliment I think I could ever receive in a lifetime. That to have plunged the deepest of depths and to have resurfaced and flown is to know what it’s like. To know loneliness and despair inside and out, to know how awful it is to feel forgotten. And that perhaps that was why I had had to do something for that little mouse. I’ve felt twangs of all of the above now and again since I broke my arm, and yes, it is awful.

There were two happy turns to the story after all was said and done – I’d tweeted about being sad before heading out to the river, and had received a message back:

tweet

AC also pointed out something rather lovely: that we laid him down at the base of a young tree, and that within a few weeks he’d start to decompose, and go directly into the ground through which that tree would absorb its nutrients. That life has a wonderful way of recycling itself, and that perhaps one day, we might take a visit to that tree, and know that in some way, our little mouse was a part of it.