I am trapped in a hole.
It all started on a brisk fall day. The sun shined, the wind blew, and the birds sang. It was a typical autumn day in Mississippi. Squirrels raced across my yard as I carried my coffee to my rocker. I sipped my coffee and watched as life happened all around me.
Tall trees, oak, sweet gum, pine and spruce stood where God had planted them. All of them were naked, except for a lone oak tree. Clearly this tree was older than everything else on my property.
Its branches jutted out in every direction. North, South, East, West, up, down, and straight out-the limbs went everywhere. On the lowest branch, a growth of clay-colored leaves refused to fall to the earth.
Across the road from my house, saffron colored spruce trees dotted the landscape. It broke up the nakedness of the other trees and gave me something to admire. The natural beauty of autumn is why it is my favorite of the four seasons. A lone crow sat on the branch with the stubborn leaves on it. It opened its mouth and let out a squawk.
The cry of the crow had diminished, and the wind had kicked up. In between bursts of wind, a sparrow chirped. As the wind blew, the leaves rattled like dry bones. “Wind and leaves are Mother Nature’s percussion instruments,” I thought as I sipped my coffee. Perched high in a naked oak, a sharp-eyed hawk watched the pasture. The hunter watched for prey; I watched the hunter.
We’ve had back-to-back killing frosts this week. The acorns that adorned the oaks had fallen to the ground. Winter was not far off. I rocked in my chair and listened to the wind. The frosts have killed the grass, the trees have shed their leaves, and all that remained are the skeletons of the forest.
“Much like my life. All that remained was the ashes after it had been consumed in the rage of yesteryear.” My mind wandered to the war that I’ve been unable to leave, even though it’d been years since I was there.
I sat on the porch for hours listening to the songs of Mother Nature. “It’s harmonious. Everything has a rhyme and reason. Nothing is ever out of place.” I enjoyed the view from my porch so much I decided I would go for a walk. “It’s such a beautiful day it would be a shame to waste it.”
Hindsight would suggest that I should’ve started my walk going down my driveway. Instead, I walked into my grown over pasture. The grass was brown, dead at the icy touch of Old Man Winter. Tall bushes and thick brush covered my pasture. The frost had not completely disappeared from the grass. My trek through the bliss of Mother Nature would carry me through the bottom of my property.
Sparrows sang, squirrels jumped from branch to branch in towering pine trees. Sunlight filtered in through the canopy of trees. It was beautiful. I was so engrossed with the beauty I saw that the hole in front of me went unnoticed.
I fell into a pit of inky darkness and crashed to the ground. There was no light to be seen. “How long did I fall?” In the damp, musty earth my vision was limited. I couldn’t see anything, but I knew I had broken something. I groaned. “Dear God, did I break my leg or my foot?”
Fear wrapped its fingers around my heart and squeezed. In the darkness, I panicked. Several deep breaths later, I was able to gain control of my emotions. In the dark I took stock of my situation.
“Okay. I’m alone with a broken bone or bones. I’ve got to find some way out of here.”
There was no way for me to treat myself or to make a splint for my injured body part. I couldn’t see it; therefore, I couldn’t treat it. The sun was hidden from me. I gazed upward to the hole I had fallen into. Nothing was visible.
“Help!” I yelled for what felt like hours. My voice went hoarse. No one lived near me, and no one knew I had gone for a walk. There was no help coming.
“Fine. There’s got to be a way out.”
On my belly, like a snake, I crawled deeper into the pit. I grunted as I struggled toward what I hoped was freedom. In the distance, I could hear running water.
“God, this is as bad as that idiot kid that kept falling in the well on Lassie.”
I laughed in the darkness. It was important to keep my spirits up. “Sometimes you have to just grin and bear it.” My eyes had adjusted to the inkiness of the pit/well/hole. Renewed with vigorous energy I crawled onward, praying that my effort would not go unrewarded.
I struggled forward an inch at a time. It felt like it took hours to make my way to a crest. “God, I’m so thirsty.” My leg throbbed with pain. In the dark, I heard the scattering of tiny feet.
“Rats. Oh, dear Jesus, don’t let me get eaten by rats.”
I felt around until I touched a stick of some sort. It would serve as a weapon against my unseen antagonists. I swung the stick back and forth in front of me. The patter of tiny feet grew quiet. I took shallow breaths and thought of Iraq. “Here in the dark it’s rats, over there it was rabid dogs. Thank God it’s not dogs.”
After I created enough racket to scare off the rats, I crossed over the crest. I could hear the bubbling of water. “I won’t die of thirst at least.” I reached into the water and cupped a handful. It was cool and refreshing. I gulped it greedily. Then, I continued to make my way to what I hoped was freedom.
It wasn’t freedom. In the darkness, I sobbed. My leg ached; my whole body hurt. I’d survived far worse situations, but apart from nearly drowning in the Euphrates River in an overturned vehicle, I’d never been trapped. “I survived all that only to die in a hole at home. What a crappy way to go.”
At the end of the pit/cavern/well was a solid wall of rock. There was a crack in it that light filtered through. I could breathe clean oxygen from it as well. In the dark, I felt around until I found a rock. It was solid and hefty. I smashed it into the wall. A piece of the wall chipped off (I hoped.) I continued to smash it into the wall. Small pieces at first fell off, gradually bigger pieces began to come down.
“Jesus. I’m over 200 pounds. That crack would have to be massive for me to get through, I’ll be down here forever.”
I banged my rock against the wall in a furious rage. I screamed out my anger as the rock crashed into the wall repeatedly. Exhausted, I slumped against the wall, my fingers and hands bled from the cuts I had received.
“I deserved it. I shouldn’t have given in to my rage.”
My thoughts turned to my life. I’d been married and fathered two children. I had retired early. After my retirement, I attended college and earned my degree. I had put away enough money to never work again. While I wasn’t rich, I managed to get by.
Then my thoughts twisted around, and I focused on what I had never been able to do since my life had imploded. I never found love after my divorce. I was unable to sustain any type of relationship. I became bitter. I had severed all personal ties with everyone; I became a hermit.
Now, I’m down here in this hole all alone. “This is it. Every bad decision I ever made has followed me into this hole. I always feared dying alone, now it’s become my reality.”
With my troubled thoughts at the forefront of my mind, exhaustion set in. My eyes closed, and I dozed off into disturbed sleep. I woke to the pattering of tiny feet. I grabbed my stick and swept it in front of me. “Not again! Get on you freaking rats,” I yelled in the darkness. The strain of shouting hurt my throat.
“Freaking rats! I’ve always hated rats! Dirty beasts.”
My ‘nap’, whether minutes or hours, had caused me to miss the going down of the sun. Darkness had descended on the hole; the inky blackness was smothering.
I felt around until I touched my rock. Sharp, jagged edges cut my fingers, but I gripped it and smashed it into the wall. Between the moisture of the wall and my continual bashing, the hole enlarged.
“Come on. Freedom could be just over the crest.”
My foot ached, but the thought of freedom was enough to keep me going. The hole had enlarged enough for me to get through due to my constant bashing. I crawled up to it and pushed with my good foot. It was slow going, but I made it into the hole. Minute by minute, I inched forward. I could smell clean air.
“Come on. You’ve almost made it out.”
Time had vanished in the hole. I had no idea what time it was, or if it was close to sunrise. I continued to push myself toward what I hoped was freedom.
I rested on my belly and looked around. My ‘hole’ was narrow. I would have to lie on my side to make further headway. Taking care not to bang my injured limb, I turned to my left side. I pushed on. Dirt particles flew into my eyes. As I crawled further into the hole, I wiped at my eyes. In the dark I could make out a twinkle.
“What is that?”
I climbed a little further. Pain filled my whole being, so I rested. I watched the twinkle. It was stationary and continued to blink. “It’s a star,” I grumbled. My exhaustion had muddled my mind.
“Wait a minute! It’s a star!”
I shouted with excitement and pushed toward the twinkle. My heart pounded with the thought of freedom. It took some time, but I was finally able to pull myself out of the hole.
In the wet grass, I gazed upon the heavens. It was full of stars, each twinkled, and I smiled. I lay in the wet grass and laughed. The star-filled sky reminded me of Iraq. On a night like no other night, I had stood under such a sky and wondered if God would forgive me for what I had done. At that time, I wasn’t sure if I deserved His forgiveness. I’m still not sure. However, I was thrilled to be out of the hole.
I stayed on my back and watched the stars while I gathered my strength. In time, I rolled onto my belly and crawled toward home.
“Thank God, I’ve made it out. I wasn’t eaten by rats, and I didn’t die in either hole.”
My freedom from the hole wasn’t guaranteed, nor was it free. It required hard work on my part, but I had survived. I was given a second chance; it was up to me to make the most of it.