I had an adventure this weekend. I went out to do some “off-trail battlefielding” to find some earthworks and follow the footsteps of a division I’ve been researching. Don’t climb on the earthworks, don’t get lost, and follow all National Park rules and then it’s okay to do some more in-the-field research and really get those boots muddy on the battlefield.
I wanted to cross a big open field at Spotsylvania battlefield in a straight line. Since I didn’t have a line of battle to help, I used a compass and set it to ensure I walked right across. The brush and small oak trees were about waist high, but I could push through. There was one muddy creek that I managed to jump and push across.
Next, came a fallen log in my path. No problem! Climb up, pause, and look for the landing spot. JUMP! And I caught the toe of my boot and face planted. And that was one of the best moments of the whole day…well, after I knew I hadn’t broken anything and no one had actually seen me make a fool of myself.
What does it feel like to be slammed into the ground? Unexpectedly? It’s good to remember the feeling once in a while.
The surprise came first, then “what on earth just happened?”, then pain shooting through hip, low back, and wrist. Then, wondering if an injury was serious. Checking to see if I could move. Okay, fine. Now, laugh at my stupidity in falling. Get up. Make sure keys are still in jacket pocket. Reset the compass and keep moving forward.
I have laid down on battlefields to see the perspective from the prone position, but it’s a little different to go from standing to flat. And unintentionally. But that was the experience of many soldiers who fell wounded. Upright one moment and unintentionally falling the next. Having the suddenness of the experience and not actually being seriously injured counts as a valuable learning moment for me.
Also, it doesn’t hurt to have those “face-plant” moments occasionally to keep pride in check. They don’t usually happen as literally as this adventure, but how often do we find ourselves accidentally face-down in the mud with a mistake of our own or caused by something outside of our control. In those moments, it’s worth taking time to see how and why this happened and what’s going to prevent it next time as we get ready to keep moving forward.
I hope you don’t literally or figuratively fall flat off a long, but if you do, just remember – life is a battlefield and what matters most is the decisions and responses that we make in the difficult moments.
P.S. Have you had an injury or misadventure while trekking on a historic battlefield?