Match to Flame 208

Mar 27, 2024

Before Cathy could begin driving me to physical therapy appointments, a therapist came to the house twice a week to work with me. One of the assignments that she gave me to work on was to unscrew a floor-broom handle from its brush and, holding it with both hands, raise it up over my head. I couldn’t do it. Similar things like bouncing a ball off the wall and catching it were, for the moment, beyond my capabilities. I’d had to make comebacks before, and my favored method for doing that was to set a goal separate from the recovery work itself and then do whatever was necessary to get there. Just getting back to being able to function normally was too amorphous a concept. I needed a more romantic project. Actually, I needed a big romantic project. One that would demand that you work as hard as you possibly could. I found my inspiration in my past in a book I’d read as a kid, Tarzan the Untamed. In that book, author Edgar Rice Burroughs has Tarzan fighting German soldiers in Africa during World War II around the base of Kilimanjaro (with apologies to Ernest Hemingway, [fig. 8] I’m afraid the cultural coattails I ride lean more toward over-the-top-picaresque blood and thunder). That was where my romance with climbing Kilimanjaro started. I was enthralled by the idea of starting in the jungle and ending up in the snow nearly four vertical miles later. I was so captivated by this thought that, whenever I would come across an article about Kilimanjaro, I’d save it in a folder that I kept in a filing cabinet in my studio. It was during one of my broom handle exercises that a plan began to emerge. There was a box kept under the sign at the summit of Kilimanjaro where climbers would traditionally place mementos such as photos, keepsakes, or whatever. I decided that I would saw off an inch of that handle, climb Kili, and put the piece of wood in the box. I asked Cathy to go up to my studio to retrieve the Kilimanjaro file. I explained to her what the plan was, to which she replied: “Great! When do we start?” And I fell in love with her all over again.

From The Complete Funky Winkerbean Volume 13

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