I sit here, willing words to wend their way onto the page,
Shaking the fall-stripped branches of experience for one bright memory
To press between the pages of gilt-edged books,
But the “so much” that has happened dances away on tendrilled winds.
The “and yet so little” stills my fingers.
What is one more dead leaf in a forest of trees?
My mind’s sap runs slow in these chilly-ing days of fall,
I find much to do and little to say.
Many moons ago, one of my college roommates brought a case of canned food to our apartment to supplement our collective pantry. The kicker—the cans did not have labels. I don’t remember where she’d procured the food, but I do know we only had two ways to know what was in each can—open it or decipher its stamped, computer-generated code. She knew what the codes were, so as long as we asked her, we avoided pot-luck dinners.
I used to wish that the paths of life had clear labels like the rows and rows of products in the local supermarket. When I was starting out, the array of life choices was overwhelming. As a budding perfectionist, I imagined only one route through life was correct for me, and I could find it if only I could decipher the clues. So I set out on a quest to “do” life as perfectly as possible by cracking its “codes.”
Utilizing the experience of others whenever possible, I avoided unwanted waste and surprise when opening up life’s cans, but I found that life often gives us uncoded cans that no expertise or X-ray vision can penetrate. You simply have to open them up and figure out what to do if you wanted cherry pie filling and ended up with garbanzo beans.
Four decades into the journey, I can’t say I always enjoy opening an unknown life ingredient, but maybe I’m infinitesimally closer to accepting life’s little and big surprises. So instead of cherry pie, what would you say to a Deep Dish Garbanzo Bean Chocolate Chip Cookie?
(And just to prevent a heated discussion about life being au naturel—not frozen or canned—may I say all metaphors break down. I’d bet my can opener on it.)
A couple of weeks ago, my husband and I returned from a trip to the state of Washington to celebrate our daughter’s graduation from college. We drove there over the course of four days taking the northernmost U.S. route–Route 2–from the Upper Peninsula of Michigan all the way to Montana before dropping down to Interstate 90 to cross Washington.
The trip required traversing the Rocky and Cascade mountain ranges. I knew from our last trip that I did not want to drive through one of the highest mountain passes in Washington, so I agreed to drive across the plains of eastern Washington. My husband rested, promising to take over for me when we got into the foothills of the Cascades.
We were zipping along a sunny, flat expanse when the road started winding long before I expected it. Then the wind began gusting and whipping around though the sky was bright blue. Traffic forced me to clip along at a brisk pace, and we hurtled up and around a curve only to see the one thing worse than driving through a mountain pass in my book–a long, long, long bridge over the Columbia River.
I’d forgotten about the bridge.
Since I was busy avoiding rappelling down a mountain in a mini-van rather than snapping photos, I’ll have to direct you to another site to see a picture of this most terrifying feat of architecture. The winding, hilly road leading to the bridge gave us ample opportunity for sneak peeks of what was to come but provided no place to pull off and change drivers. I missed all of the turn-offs. I was going to have to cross the bridge going around 70 miles per hour with a gusting cross wind capriciously trying to flip us into the Columbia.
I thought that bridge would never end. I won’t even attempt to convey the terror I felt in those few short moments of my life. Suffice it to say, I pulled off at the first possible spot once we made it to dry, solid land. Unlike that safe place, my face was not dry and my constitution was about as solid as a half-chilled Jell-O Jiggler.
For some reason this story came to mind as I was contemplating the fact that 2014 is now half over. How has 2014 gone for you so far? Are you zipping along through the plains of life? Or are you climbing a mountain or broken down on the side of the road?
Whatever the case, this halfway point is a good time to pull into a rest stop and consider how the journey is going. Here comes the rest of 2014, and ready or not, we’re crossing that bridge.
This post’s picture features another bridge we crossed on our journeys–the Mackinac Bridge in Michigan.