Two weeks ago I fell into a wetland. I slipped on a slimy rock as I snapped a photo of yellow waterlilies. I caught myself, in that acrobatic way that looks cartoon-like (if anyone was watching from afar) more concerned about dropping my camera into the water. Like any good fall, I only fell up to my knee, and managed to keep my flip flop.

ImageThe day drizzled on beautifully after that. I hiked Rattlesnake Mountain with the dog, swam in the lake and joined friends in Portland for dinner at Flatbreads. Then…if by some stroke of dumb luck, I came down with a painful summer flu, but didn’t know it. I thought I’d eaten a bad avocado (I blamed that new “slim low-cal” version at the grocery store, which tasted rancid, worse than my attempts at grad school cupcakes circa 2003) and yet, I was passing blame onto the wrong cause. I had been swimming in a lake where there’d been an algal bloom a couple of weeks prior, so that was a possibility.

Globs of algae the size of human heads floated around like something out of a paranormal dream sequence from MacBeth or one of those B-movies on MST3K. It was unnerving to bump into one of them. “Oh, excuse me,” I’m urged to say half underwater before realizing it was just another alien life-form touching me. “Oh, that.” I can handle swimming with eels, treading water against the current and having the occasional gastropod latch onto one’s foot…but I find it unnerving to swim with severed head-shaped algae pods. All of these images came to mind as I suffered through a fever of 102 degrees for 2 days last week. On Tuesday night, I called 911 and the EMTs came to my house, since I was convinced I was dying of some kind of poison, or tetanus (I can’t honestly recall when I had my last shot) or some other ill fate. It felt like my organs had seized up and everything hurt (like one of those “depression hurts; you don’t have to” commercials, only I wasn’t walking around with a cartoon cloud over my head.) In fact, I could barely walk. I crawled down my stairs to unlock the door for the EMTs. I didn’t want them to have to bust in the door. (I already have a lot of home improvement projects on my to-do list for summer 2012. I didn’t want to add “replace busted door from night I nearly died of Mystery Disease” to the list.) When the EMTs came into my kitchen, including the local doctor and fire marshall, I was reminded of an episode of “Doc Martin,” or a similar British medical comedy. Truly, a high fever can make a person delirious, so I was not of sound mind at the time. My sense of humor had gone out the window. But I didn’t die.

It is possible that I had contracted a disease related to Lyme disease, called anaplasmosis, which is more common in Maine than it was a few years ago. Its symptoms mimic a summer flu with a high fever, painful body aches and headache, etc. It can be serious, even fatal, in people with weakened immune systems.  A few days later, after the fever and the painful flu symptoms had subsided, and I was recovering on a blanket in the backyard, a shady spot in the grass, I looked up at the trees blowing ’round in the breeze. I remembered reading an article about patients who have views of trees recovering faster than those with views of brick walls. I thought, “I’m surrounded by trees. I should recover in no time!” My dog behaved well enough and liked this business of outdoor resting, guarding me closely while I was weak.  Fresh June hot air, hot enough to singe the wingtips of dragonflies, landing again and again on the same grass blade (their checkpoint) a few inches from my face, filled my lungs and all of the hollow spaces that illness creates.  I wrote under the influence of summer flu, and napped in the yard under bird song and a deep impenetrable blue sky.