Now I find myself in late August, with the nights cool and the crickets thick in the fields. Already the first blighted leaves glow scarlet on the red maples. It’s a season of fullness and sweet longings made sweeter now by the fact that I can’t be sure I’ll see this time of the year again....
— from Learning to Fall
Philip Simmons was just thirty-five years old in 1993 when he learned that he had ALS, or Lou Gehrig’s disease, and was told he had less than five years to live. As a young husband and father, and at the start of a promising literary career, he suddenly had to learn the art of dying. Nine years later, he has succeeded, against the odds, in learning the art of living.
Now, in this surprisingly joyous and spirit-renewing book, he chronicles his search for peace and his deepening relationship with the mystery of everyday life.
Set amid the rugged New Hampshire mountains he once climbed, and filled with the bustle of family life against the quiet progression of illness, Learning to Fall illuminates the journey we all must take — “the work of learning to live richly in the face of loss.”
From our first faltering steps, Simmons says, we may fall into disappointment or grief, fall into or out of love, fall from youth or health. And though we have little choice as to the timing or means of our descent, we may, as he affirms, “fall with grace, to grace.”
With humor, hard-earned wisdom and a keen eye for life’s lessons — whether drawn from great poetry or visits to the town dump — Simmons shares his discovery that even at times of great sorrow we may find profound freedom. And by sharing the wonder of his daily life, he offers us the gift of connecting more deeply and joyously with our own.
From the Hardcover edition.
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|Title of Fantasy eBook: Learning to Fall|
|Release Date: 04-29-2003|
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Learning to Fall
Learning to Fall
Because I've spent the happier parts of my life at the southern edge of New Hampshire's White Mountains, two peaks rule my imagination: Mount Washington for its sheer size, its record winds and killing weather, and Mount Chocorua for its noble profile and for the legend of the defiant Pequawket Indian chief who leaped to his death from its summit, cursing the white men who had pursued him there.
I climbed Chocorua many times as a boy, and from the time of our courtship, my wife and I counted a hike to its summit as one of our annual rituals. On one such hike we made the romantic and wildly impractical decision to build a seasonal home here in New Hampshire, the place of my boyhood summers, over a thousand miles away from the Midwestern flatlands where we live and work most of the year.
On the same hike, incidentally, I talked a teenage boy out of jumping off the large angular boulder that perches just a few yards down from the summit on the east side. The boy had climbed atop the rock, about the size of a one-car garage, and then could not quite bring himself to climb down again. As he was on the point of leaping, encouraged by his friends below, I summoned my best classroom voice and said, "Don't do that." I then talked him down the way he had come up. In the back of my mind I was thinking that this young man was not cut out for Chief Chocorua's fate.
Barring a miracle, I'll not climb Chocorua again. It's been almost four years since I was diagnosed with Lou Gehrig's disease, a degenerative and ultimately fatal neurological condition with no effective treatment and no cure. In that time, I've managed to finish climbing all forty-eight of the New ...