In a Moment. Serendipity. Robert Frost’s “The Road Not Taken.” Crash. Seven Pounds. How fast can our lives change in just a moment?
Today I reflect on what we are given and what can be taken away in an instant. Albert and I were involved in a four car accident this afternoon much less than a mile from our house. The statistics are true. Yes, we are going to be alright, mostly banged up and bruised. The hospitals have C-T scans of our heads and multiple x-rays of my spine and leg, then they sent us home with scrip for vast quantities of expensive drugs. No, it was not our fault. We, along with three other cars, were sitting patiently waiting our turn at the four-way stop when a teenager with his dad in the car rammed into the brand new Mustang behind us, forcing our tiny two-seater aluminum Honda hybrid Insight into and under the Kia SUV in front of us. What could have happened in that moment? We all walked and drove away.
I was thrilled to have a half day off from school and was looking forward to a peaceful lunch with Albert. It’s six o’clock and what with stress, nausea and several hours at the hospital, I still haven’t had that lunch. What if we had decided to eat downtown instead of turning West? What if I hadn’t changed lanes? Then someone else would have been the car between the Kia and the Mustang. What if I had stayed to clean my classroom? I didn’t. I thought about my poem that some of you have read. Every choice we make; every action has a reaction. We indeed are all connected.
You might ask what does this have to do with a nature blog? I’ll tell you. We have no idea how long our time will be. When my son first started driving, I worried every time he walked out of the door. What if the next phone call was that dreaded phone call that so many parents receive. But we get complacent. We forget that it could happen to us. Christians believe in a life after death. Muslims believe that what will happen is already written. Native Americans see spirits live on in the trees, the animals and the earth. Buddhists meditate and work toward enlightenment. I don’t know. You don’t either. Maybe they are all correct. Nature is and we are all part of the natural world. Sometimes we have a choice. Sometimes things happen in an instant. In a moment.
It’s been said before, but if you knew that today or tomorrow would be your last day on earth, what would you do? What would you say? Some of my classmates and I have dealt with death or disease in both our lives and our writing. My mother had what she saw as the gift of time. With terminal cancer, she took it as a blessing that she could say everything she had always wanted to say to the people she loved most. But what about those whose life ends in a single heartbeat? What is their message? What is the legacy that each of us leaves behind?
I thought about all my words that are on paper and in this computer. I thought about my son. I thought about my life. When we are struck with catastrophe, everything is stripped away. You figure out very quickly what is most important. My son and his girlfriend saw us on the street and saw my car. They stopped. They drove us to the hospital. I sat on the curb watching the policemen, looking at Albert, at Thomas and Ciara, and I knew what is most important. My car was a great car. I say, to hell with the car. The people I love most in life were there beside me. You want a definition of nature? Of the natural world? It is who we are fundamentally when all the stuff is erased. We are nature and so is everyone else. Everything that is alive matters right now, in this moment. And when we’re gone? Well, who knows? None of us do. But today, I am alive. My family is with me. And I am thankful for that.
6:17 p.m. Mountain Time, 9 April 2009