In the Blink of an Eye

Like everyone, The Mountain Farmgirl gets accustomed to certain routines in her day, and doesn’t think about the fact that life can sometimes change very abruptly, turning our whole worlds upside down. Read about how this happened to her this week, “In the Blink of an Eye” …

My days in summer take on a certain rhythm: BUSY! As an innkeeper in the middle of the 800,000 acre National Forest, we may be a year-round destination, but our busiest time is this season of the year (plus two hectic, non-stop weeks in October).  While every day is full of surprises, which makes life interesting, a ‘typical’ day looks roughly (VERY roughly!) like this: 

• Up before dawn to bake the blueberry muffins, coffeecakes and the other homemade items I serve to my guests on our breakfast buffet
• My morning walk, about 2 miles up to the falls and back

• Interacting with guests and working at the front desk until late morning
• Paperwork, Marketing, “office time”
• Breakfast clean-up
• Cleaning & vacuuming the pool; water chemistry, and a general surveying around our Lodge to see “what need doing”
• A late lunch with my family, and read aloud time with our son Josh, a precious holdover from when our family was young. (Even though the last of our children still in the nest is almost 16 and 6’3”, we still enjoy this special time together every day. Just finished Swiss Family Robinson, and we’ve just begun Two Years Before the Mast);

• Gardening! LOVE it!! I’m happiest when I’m outside…
• Time for my writing (in my ‘outdoor office’ in the nice weather)
• ** Late afternoon Power Nap (very important!)
• Reading, swimming in the river to cool off
• Make and eat dinner
• Family time
• Front desk time until 10 pm
• Read, watch a movie, hang out and unwind with family til bedtime, then COLLAPSE!

As the owners of our inn, who also lives where we work, my husband and I are on call 24/7, so no day is as anywhere as neat and tidy as this list would suggest; far from it!! But the other day it was proceeding as closely to schedule as humanly possible, and I was blissfully enjoying the delicious ‘power nap’ portion of my day, when in the midst of this sweet oblivion  my ever-present cell phone rang. It was my husband who had left to go shopping for our Lodge about an hour before.
Always the master of understatement, Dana said matter-of-factly, “I was wondering if you could bring the truck over Thorn Hill Road for me … we had a little scrape with the Prius and we need a ride.”

“WHAT?!-Are-you-OKAY?-Is-Josh-OK?-What-happened?-Are-you-still-going-shopping?”  I asked in one breath, in my typically excited, overstatement way.
After assuring me that ‘all was well’, I continued firing questions: “How did it happen? Which of you was driving? Was it your fault? Can you drive it? Was anybody else involved? Do you need a tow truck? Should I call the police?”

Whew. Stop it, woman!!  “Everything’s taken care of. Just bring the truck over Thorn Hill, and look for us near the intersection of Route 16. We’ll be standing on the side of the road, waiting for you.”

Thorn Hill Road is one of my very favorite back roads. A small, tremendously scenic short cut that only the locals know about, it’s a winding, hidden gem on which I hardly ever pass another car on its entire 3+ mile length. So my first clue that ‘something was up’ should have been the almost unending stream of cars passing me in the other direction.

“Wow, what’s up with this?” I thought. Our own inn was booked solid, so I chalked it up to the start of a magnificent weekend in mid-August. “Everybody in 3 states must be taking their vacation in the mountains this weekend before school starts,” thought I.

It didn’t dawn on me that all was not well until I got to the end of Thorn Hill Road and looked over the expanse of stopped traffic on the main road.  In each direction, as far as the eye could see, sat lines and lines of cars amidst ambulances, tow trucks, police, EMTs, fire trucks and a general organized form of mayhem. It was then that I realized this was significantly more than “a little scrape with the Prius” as my husband had indicated over the phone, trying to spare me unnecessary worry until it was absolutely necessary. His calm non-chalance had certainly not prepared me for the scene before my eyes.

“HOLY COMPOST,” I remember saying aloud, as it all started to sink in. “What in Thorn Hill is going on here?” 

Suddenly one of the “in-charge”, on-the-scene crew who was obviously involved with traffic control approached me. “Are you Mrs. Belcher?” he asked. I was a pretty easy target to spot, I guess, driving a large pick-up with “Lodge at Jackson Village” painted on the sides. “Please follow me,” he said as he stopped all traffic on the road I was on, escorting me down the middle of the road between dozens and dozens of cars parked on either side. Assuring me that they were going to be all right, he quickly explained, “I am going to take you to your husband and son,” further clarifying that “They need to go to the hospital”. Heart –thumping time …

It all felt like a dream as I surveyed the situation around me, trying to take it all in and process the information in a way that made sense. It was coming at me so fast.
I parked the truck and was escorted to Dana and Joshua, who were standing with a bit of a dazed look, across from three thoroughly wrecked and mangled vehicles, all totaled beyond recognition. “Where is the Prius?” I asked, looking right at it, but not yet comprehending.  The severity of what they had somehow miraculously survived was only beginning to sink in.

“OMG!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  Is THAT our car?” I managed to squeak …suddenly at a loss for words. Our car was on the back of a flatbed, and the entire front end was almost gone! The doors were dented (later I learned that my boys had to be pried out because the doors would not open). For some reason the windshield wipers were wildly flapping back and forth, giving almost comic relief to the horrifying scene before me. I wanted to ask if anyone was killed, but couldn’t.  From the looks of the vehicles involved, it was as likely as not.

What happened, briefly, is this: My husband was driving in the southbound lane when a truck came flying out of the Dunkin Donuts on his right. The driver of this vehicle said at the scene that he had some sort of seizure and floored the gas pedal. This happened just as my husband drove by, and the truck took off the front end of our car.  But as it did so, it pushed our Prius across the road into oncoming traffic where he had a head-on with a 3rd car, an SUV. Basically my husband ws then sandwiched between the two.

When I arrived on the scene, my husband and son were clearly in shock. Adrenaline is a funny (and sometimes wonderful) thing, and was able to mask the pain that my husband especially would shortly be feeling. Since all the ambulances had already left with the other people involved, and the next wouldn’t be there for 30 minutes, Dana felt I could take them to the hospital myself in half the time. Sound thinking in theory, but very wrong in practice, and I’ll explain why in a minute. The police gave us an escort from the scene of the accident, which did save some time, however. As Dana got into the front seat of our pickup, he winced, then he groaned until it was almost loud enough to be considered a scream. Oh my … this was not a good sign coming from my master of understatement.


We learned a lesson about emergency rooms: if you arrive in an ambulance, you get seen quickly; if you don’t, you don’t!!  That half-hour wait for the next ambulance would have been nothing compared to the 3+ hours it took for them to even get seen for the first time. I tried my best to be a good advocate for my ailing men, but all in vain. The waiting was interminable. We would spend the next 9 hours there, mostly waiting in between tests.

Josh, my son, had surface abrasions and bruises from the airbags and seatbelt. Thank God for them; they saved his life. He was mostly banged up and shaken up. Dana, who had the worst injuries of any of the victims, underwent scores of tests from blood work to x-rays to CT scans. They suspected broken ribs and possible internal bleeding and liver damage, but we thank God none of that was found. However, his ribs were badly bruised and he has 4 broken vertebrae and a badly sprained wrist.
Needless to say this is all very sad. On the other hand, we are all so VERY thankful because it could have been so much worse. Their Guardian angels were doing double duty that day.  It didn’t sink in until the following day just how close they came to dying. Had they been just two feet further along on the road they were travelling, our son Josh would have been directly hit in the passenger seat and would most likely not have survived the impact of that truck. That thought was especially sobering and we all spent the day in deep reflection and gratitude for God’s mercies.

We tend to forget that as we bop through our lives day after day, we are only a hairsbreadth away from our lives being turned upside down. We can’t take anything for granted. We need to live life fully, with gratitude, awareness and love.  We need to let everyone we care about know that we love and appreciate them. This has been a wake-up call for us, an important lesson to be learned!
Until next time,
Mountain Bounty, Mountain Blessings from
Cathi, The Mountain Farmgirl


By: Adrienne
On: 08/20/2012 12:07:54

I'm so glad everyone will heal from this accident and I hope the others involved did not suffer more than they could handle. Prayers of gratitude are on the way.

Thank you so much Adrienne. Your prayres are most appreciated. xoxo cathi

By: Heather :) :) :)
On: 08/20/2012 12:36:39

Oh my...I'm so glad that your family is okay!!! Wow, that is so scary...and your husband is just like my father in terms of how he describes stuff, especially scary stuff like that!!!

A really good friend of mine and her hubby were driving down the road in their Jeep a few dayas ago, when they got rear-ended by a woman who was driving under the influence. It totaled their Jeep...and they ended rear-ending a white SUV in front of them from the impact of the impaired driver. As it happens, that white SUV turned out to be an undercover deputy sheriff...which turned out to be a huge blessing in disguise for my friend and her husband. He made sure they were okay and was a witness against the lady driving under the influence. Another blessing was that their two young children were not with them, otherwise, they probably would not have survived the accident.

Oh wow, I'm so thankful that your precious family is okay!!!! Extra special love and hugs from the ocean shores of California, Heather :) :) :)

Dear Heather, Your hugs were extra welcome today!! They made it all the way to the east coast loud and clear!  Thanks so much; it means a lot to me. xoxo cathi

By: Mary Rauch
On: 08/20/2012 12:58:01

May I just offer prayers and support to you and your dear family and sincere appreciation for their lives being spared.

Thank you for your prayers, Mary; they mean a lot!  Have a wonderful day, Cathi

By: Debbi
On: 08/20/2012 13:01:36

Thank the Lord that Dana and Josh were as hurt as they were. Prayers for a speedy recovery for them both.

Thank you so much, Debbi. We are very lucky!!!  Hugs to you, cathi

By: trudy
On: 08/20/2012 14:16:21

Oh my goodness! So glad they are "okay." Truly a blessing.

Thank you, Trudy.  Have a great day. - cathi

By: bonnie ellis
On: 08/20/2012 14:38:29

Cathi: Oh Cathy, my prayers are with your whole family as this tragedy unfolds. I am so thankful they are still alive and can recover. If I was closer I could inn sit for you. Life is indeed precious.

Thank you, Bonnie.  That is SO sweet! -Cathi

By: Debbie
On: 08/20/2012 15:19:14

Holy Cow Cathi! I am speechless after reading about your families close call and so very greatful that they ( and you ) are alright... Count your blessings each and every day!
Amen to that sister!
love ya and big healing hugs to all..
xo Your sis in the east!

Dearest Deb, Yes, it has been a wild ride here this week.  Can't believe it was a whole week ago today. And I do count my many blessings every day (especially  for friends like you!).  Thanks for your constant support! xoxo cathi

By: KimberlyD
On: 08/20/2012 16:50:08

WOW! You husband and son was lucky. My best friend's brother was driving to work and a car hit him spun him into another car and he was "sandwhiched" inbetween both vehicles where one hit him in the drivers door and the other in the front passanger door and killed him. I have known the whole family since grade school and it tore the family apart one brother didn't like the decisions the others made and would not talk to them for over 5 years. So hug your husband and son. And thank God they are only bruised and banged up.

We are all very, very thankful for our blessings.  Thank you, Kimberly. - Cathi

By: Charlie
On: 08/20/2012 17:11:34

Often we take each day for granted, until we get a tragic wake up call. Sadly, our family has lost three wonderful people in four years. It made me sit up and take notice of how quickly life changes, as you say, in a blink of an eye. So thankful you have another day (and many more to come) with your family! May all recover quickly and thank you for the reminder - love, hug and help those we hold dear. Every day!

Dear Charlie, Wake up calls, painful as they are, have long-lasting benefits for the good.  This is one we won't forget for a long time.  Thanks so much for writing. - cathi 

By: Nicole Christensen
On: 08/21/2012 16:03:01

Oh, Cathi, this took my breath away. I am so very glad to hear that everyone is okay, but how scary, for them and for you! They were so blessed that their injuries were not worse. I hope everyone is feeling better. Life is precious and so fragile. Thanks for the reminder. Big hugs to you!
Nicole, (Suburban Farmgirl)

Dear Nicole, Thank you so much. Yes, it was very shocking.  Dana will be mighty uncomfortable for quite a while, but we are all aware of how lucky we are. Thanks so much for your kind thoughts. --cathi

By: Ruth
On: 08/22/2012 08:48:00

So very relieved that your family is all right! A car can be replaced! We have endless reasons to be thankful - this is yet another one! SO enjoy reading your blog! :)Ruth

Dear Ruth, Thank you very much! My sentiments exactly ... things are so iunimportant in the greater scheme of things.  Thanks for writing.

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Cathi Belcher

Cathi Belcher,
an old-fashioned farmgirl with a pioneer spirit, lives in the White Mountains of New Hampshire. As a “lifelong learner” in the “Live-Free-or-Die” state, she fiercely values self-reliance, independence, freedom, and fresh mountain air. Married to her childhood sweetheart of 40+ years (a few of them “uphill climbs”), she’s had plenty of time to reinvent herself. From museum curator, restaurant owner, homeschool mom/conference speaker, to post-and-beam house builder and entrepreneur, she’s also a multi-media artist, with an obsession for off-grid living and alternative housing. Cathi owns and operates a 32-room mountain lodge. Her specialty has evolved to include “hermit hospitality” at her rustic cabin in the mountains, where she offers weekend workshops of special interest to women.

“Mountains speak to my soul, and farming is an important part of my heritage. I want to pass on my love of these things to others through my writing. Living in the mountains has its own particular challenges, but I delight in turning them into opportunities from which we can all learn and grow.”

Column content copyright © 2010– Cathi Belcher. All rights reserved.

Mountain Bounty

“Keep close to Nature’s heart ... and break clear away once in awhile to climb a mountain or spend a week in the woods, to wash your spirit clean.”
– John Muir