A while back I had the pleasure of interviewing Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Maxine Kumin, who spoke not only about her writing but of her idyllic-sounding life on nearly 200 acres of farmland in New Hampshire with her husband, their sheep, dogs, and horses. Their utopia was shattered, however, on July 21, 1998, when an accident nearly killed Kumin. She was preparing for a horse show when her beloved horse bolted, dragging her along in a carriage, and in the end, breaking her vertebrae and causing other severe injuries. Ninety-five percent of such victims die before they reach the emergency room; of those who make it, 95 percent are paralyzed. Kumin was amazingly spared, mainly due to the on-the-spot efforts of her friend, an emergency room nurse.
Despite her luck, the writer's recovery was long and torturous. Thankfully, Kumin's gift for words hasn't faltered. She recounts her excruciating recovery in Inside the Halo: The Anatomy of a Recovery (the halo is the device that kept her head immobile as the broken vertebrae healed).
Inside the Halo is short and fast-paced. Kumin manages to be frank without ever getting lost in self-pity. She was obviously brave, but never makes herself out to be a hero.
Kumin draws strength to keep going from friends and family, especially her daughter, Judith, who took a leave from her position as a United Nations press officer. She is also bolstered by other rehabilitation patients, primarily her roommate, 21-one-year old Nicole, who fell off a ladder and lost the use of her legs. Though age separates them by decades, Kumin and Nicole find themselves to be kindred spirits.
One of Kumin's doctors pronounces her a walking miracle and suggests she consider her recovery a rebirth. Kumin confesses that Getting better was such an ordeal; by contrast, death looked so easy. But by the spring after her accident, life on the farm is starting to spring forth, and Kumin feels ready to rejoin her world. She remounts the horse that nearly killed her, saying, I am letting myself believe I will heal. Alice Cary writes from her home in Groton, Massachusetts.