Grace Kelly

– by Albert Berkshire

My knee stings. My shoulder aches. My head is still ringing.

I imagine Grace Kelly was aptly named. Certainly in her professional career she exuded flawless execution. She didn’t walk as much as glide. She was loved and she was known for many things, including her beauty.  And she was graceful.

I, am not.

The modern day Grace Kelly, I suspect, is equally graceful, and equally loved. The modern day Grace Kelly, likely, is flawless in her professional career, and perhaps the most graceful person you’ll meet. I suspect she can, as did Princess Grace – the evolution of the original Grace Kelly – manage children, staff and a room. Probably a room full of hearts, too. It is grace, after all, that makes presence known.

The Grace Kellys of the world command attention, often without seeking it. They draw the eyes of the room to them no matter what they do. They are sought out, respected, and almost always in control. Almost always. And I suspect that even when they let themselves go to the moment, they are in control of their uncontrolled release, like a flood gate opening gone wrong on the Red River in May of any given year.

In my musings, I see the modern day Grace Kelly sitting on a lawn chair watching kids play on a field. A simple light blue and grey scarf on her head. Auburn hair and tanned olive skin.  A cleverly disguised cocktail-in-a-coffee-mug in hand, she is the envy of the neighbourhood. Beauty has befallen her without requesting permission, and she is no longer free to be anonymous. “Look at her”, they must say with envy from across the field. She’s escaping the world, only everyone is looking at her. That’s what happens to Grace Kellys.

Graceful as the Grace Kellys are, I think they have their frailties. In their own protected ways, they have moments when they are in complete disarray. A broken dinner plate could set them off, if they handle such commoner items. Spying the bottom of a wine bottle could be equally disappointing and unnerving. Or a stumble off a curb might even cause a momentary sensory meltdown. But, still, they handle the most difficult situations, or stumbles, with carefree grace.

They are, after all, Grace Kellys. Modern, or otherwise.

Grace Kelly, had she lived, would have been 82 today. I think sometimes I feel that old, in my overdramatic, flaky writer kind of way. Mostly, though, when I hurt myself…like last week.

I crashed riding in Oregon. I have’t crashed riding mountain bike in years. In fact, four years ago was the last time I crashed. I was 25km in the backcountry mountain biking when I went over the handlebars, into some rock and then the trees…and broke my arm. That one hurt.

I should point out at this moment that I have been banned from any more mountain biking vacations. Not in so much that my partner feels the need to tell me what to do; that’s neither the issue nor the intent. But in the sense that the inevitability of my self-injure (crash, not slash) is enough to suggest that a) others know that there will be a temporary invalid in tow and will be unwilling to travel with us partly out of fear of having to life-save-assist and partly from the perspective of not wanting to be the person asked to pay for the ambulance ride should there be one conveniently placed near my moment of over dramatized near-to-death-did-you-see-that crash; and b) there is the potential for the riding to be cut short and she, the partner, would have to do all the driving as I am incapacitated. For the record, four years ago when I broke my arm riding, she made me, hopped up on T3s with a casted arm in a sling, drive two hours over logging roads and tertiary highways to get us back to our lodge because she was tired. I think I’ll remind her of that soon…or now.

Onward. This ship needs to sail before Princess Grace haunts me for taking so long to make a point.

This crash hurt, too. And it, too, hurt my pride. It was on a simple section of a climb and it was not even remotely difficult. I’ve climbed and descended much more technical trail many times. Often a couple times a week. But time, circumstance, and a pedal cleat that had a secret side-deal with Karma took me down. Well, not all the way down. I never made it to the ground. Just a part of the ground. My knee hit one boulder, my should the next, and on the third, and biggest boulder, my head broke the fall for my body.

About eight months ago I was asked if I was interested contributing my time and professional knowledge to the local board of directors for Brain Trust Canada. They focus on head injury prevention. One of their most common campaigns is “Wear a Helmet”. I do, for the record. And it saved my ass, and head, and career today. (Yeah, I use my head to work. Difficult to imagine, I’m sure.) Advil is still helping a little, too. I should probably follow up on that invitation.

Even a week later, I’m pretty certain that isn’t the phone I hear ringing, but I’m going to go check…just in case.

Let’s hope this is a graceful exit.

While it does look like the injury is smiling, I can assure you I was not. (Apologies to the cleaning staff at AmeriTel Inn, Bend Oregon. I didn't mean to get blood on the towel.)