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Tag: accident

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Alive Day IV

tree_aliveday4
Four years ago today I smashed myself into a tree.

I'm getting better.

The tree I've illustrated the last three years for these entries means little to me now and its hold over me is fading. A couple years ago, my daughter, Emily joined me for a pilgrimage to the area where I had the accident. I tracked down exactly where we drove our snowmobiles to the scene, hopped a fence and began our search. We'd packed snacks and water for our long hike, but our efforts were fruitless. I'd hoped to make peace, become a tree-hugger, literally. I hugged some other tree instead.

My snowmobiling partner of that evening told me we'd probably never find it, given construction in the area, and the fact that new trails and paths are carved out each Winter. But recently he's told me he thinks he's found it. And I find I have no interest anymore. I've moved on. The tree, the accident are receding, finally, but after effects linger. Linger - HA! They inform my life, each and every day.

So, here I am, coping, living, struggling day to day, like we all do, yeah?

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Alive Day III

It's been three years today since I slid a snowmobile into a tree.

It seems like yesterday...and an eternity. Doctors tell you the trauma will always be with you, but that it will fade. And they're right. For me, that tree becomes less solid, less an immovable object ahead of me I'm going to run into and more something I can leave in the distance. I may not have passed it that night three years back, physically, but I'm passing it emotionally and metaphorically. I dwell less in the icy, windy, frigid darkness of that night, less in the moment in the hospital nine days after when I thought I was checking out for good. More often I strive for the light, the sun, my family, longtime friends and new, for activity and life.


Doctors will also guesstimate how long recovery will take. The say six months, a year, maybe two years. Then after two years pass, they say I'm on track, that a trauma like this can take 4-5 years to overcome. They project because they don't really know. Each person and experience is different. They favor less time for the sake of hope, and 'cause a shorter recovery time may turn out to be true. And maybe not.

My bones are still healing - I'm no spring chicken. I can still hear and feel them click and clack as I move about, and I'm sure I always will. But they don't hurt as often, pain comes less sharply to trigger anxiety. But sleep still bleeds into the sense of dying and panic is not always a thing of the past. In the Summer of 2009 hearing or speaking words about death would send me into a tizzy. I'd have to turn off quickly the baseline of a Michael Jackson song used in an online commercial lest it spark an anxious tingling through my body. I was that sensitive. News of celebrity deaths don't have the same effect now. From a purely selfish perspective: what a relief.

My challenge now is beating bad habits that have formed over time as I ween further off medication. Going to sleep at a regular time each night is something with which I've had little success. I snack too much before bed and don't exercise nearly often enough. I've got to go cold turkey on nervous, twitchy compulsive behaviors. And I don't find those tasks as easy as they may sound. But my path is more clear to me since my accident than ever before. I'm more active and social, interacting and connecting, producing more. Leaning towards the light, making progress.

I'm confident I can get over these next hurdles, and hope it will be sooner than later. And I'm pretty sure a year from now my next Alive Day, I won't feel the need to draw that darned tree again.

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TothPix: Trouble Steering

Though the pilot depicted in this comic book panel is having trouble managing his craft, artist Alex Toth is in full control of his. Toth's line is bold and assured, the from-below angle conveying the drama of a tense situation for his adventure hero. The diagonals of the windows, chair, pilot's leg and arm give us a sense of being off-kilter, out of control. The rough and bold rendering of the folds in clothing add urgency and immediacy - the reader feels what the pilot feels. Bravo!

• • •

We all feel out of control at times and have trouble steering through life. Toth certainly did, in his childhood, dealings with clients/editors and interactions with fans and colleagues. Despite this, he produced an incredible body of work, at the drawing board during and through difficult times. No doubt drawing for himself and on the occasional postcard was for him a solace for many years after he lost his wife. He found comfort in doodling... and died at his drawing board.

I literally had trouble steering more than two years ago now, unable to make a turn, sliding on a snowmobile sideways into a tree, breaking many bones. I was fortunate to have not been hurt worse, lucky to be alive. Still, after 27 months, I'm still having trouble steering sometimes: with work; as a parent and husband; with daily habits and activities of life, with my creativity; even in my car. But like this pilot, like all of us, I hold onto that stick or steering wheel for dear life, zig-zagging and maneuvering as best I can, making a serpentine line for my destination and goal. It may take me a while to get there at times, but I make it. Step by step, action by action. And when I take a bad turn or am going the wrong direction, with a little help from my family and friends, I right the ship and get 'er back on track.

Art like this gives me inspiration and the energy to strive to be better, to go for more.

• • •

If anyone knows the source of this panel, please clue me in - I've no idea. It sure shows a Milt Caniff/Frank Robbins influence. Good stuff, Maynard!

Update - June 2, 2011

In Comments, fellow Toth fan and superb artist, Roberto Zaghi answers my question and clears up some confusion about the panel I originally presented. I should have caught it, but the art I posted was a copy of Toth's panel, and very well done at that - sure fooled me! I let it get past me, even though it didn't have a word balloon - d'oh! That copied/covered panel is now at the bottom of this post.

Everything I wrote about that panel still stands, Toth's original inked panel now at the top of the page, above. As Roberto points out,  that panel is from The Land Unknown (Four Color 845, 1957, Dell Comics), but also reprinted in The Alex Toth Reader (Pure Imagination). Fortunately, I possess a copy of that book, so was able to scan the actual Toth panel for inclusion here. I also have the story in color on disk, so grabbed that and cleaned it up. No doubt the red knock-out color on the pilot is shocking and corresponds to the action depicted, but the coloring here and for the story overall is not very well done. I much prefer the black and white version of The Land Unknown from the book linked to above. I'll do another post about that story in the near future, as it features tons of incredible Toth panels.

Thanks for the correction, Roberto. I should've gotten it right in the first place!

Update 2 - June 17, 2011

I tracked down the source of this image, done as an exercise by superb cartoonist, Tonci Zonjic. I should've done my due diligence from the get-go. Check out ToZo's comics & illustration and/or follow him on Twitter.

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Alive Day

I've written plenty about it here on this blog in previous posts, but it feels important to mark the day, as it's been one year since I slid sideways on a snowmobile into a tree. T'was a life changing event, and while I was aware of that fact mere moments after impact, even while I was trying to begin to breathe again, it's become clear a year later now I didn't really know the full extent of what I was in for. I'm no spring chicken at 46, so my bones are healing a lot more slowly than docs expected and I hoped. On certain days, I still experience sharp pains along my sternum and ribs below my left chest, some days my nerves are raw, feeling nearly exposed on the surface. Now, that may be because I slept in a certain position; or 'cause it's damp or due to the barometric pressure; it may be because I exerted myself during light exercise or picked up a kid when I probably shouldn't have. And sometimes it's just 'cause. At times the physical pain triggers anxiety, or vice versa. I can be panicky whether I got a good night of sleep or not. Even though I'm getting better and am on a general upwards trajectory, there are moments I wish a could take a mulligan, have a do-over. It doesn't happen often and I don't let those thoughts linger - what's the point? But it's apparent the ramifications for me and my family will be felt for a while yet, perhaps for years or the rest of my life. Knowing that, it's a blessing to be reminded by friends and family that they're glad I'm still here. One friend on Facebook pointed out to me that those in the military who've had close calls acknowledge it with what they call Alive Day. Upon reading more about it, I've discovered it extends beyond the military, so there's no reason it can't apply to me. We'll see if it helps me in future years to be that aware, or better to just let it pass and fade. Either way, I try to remember each day my good fortune and blessings. It's good to be alive.