Sunday, November 23, 2014

Transformation and the Ephemeral

Transformation does not exactly capture the concept I have in my mind. Maybe it’s reversal or shift. Maybe it’s simply change. But the other word that keeps coming into my mind is ephemeral, which the dictionary defines as transient. Fleeting. Gone in a flash. But I am thinking more about how things change in a flash. Could be gone. Could be different. Could be not what we had thought at all in the first place. Unexpected or unfair or miraculous. Our reality is how we perceive the world and it can change in an instant. Things that are not what they seemed have forever fascinated me.

Yesterday I ran out on what I thought would be a quick errand at the end of the day. Even though it was chilly, overcast, and threatening rain, I just slipped into my flip-flops. I had been working in the yard and was hot so my feet were warm. I would only be gone a few minutes. I did my errand, returned to my car, turned my key in the ignition and my engine did not start. I turned the key a second time while calculating in my head how long it would take AAA to come, or how long for me to find someone to come get me; and how quickly my feet would freeze in those flip-flops. I don’t think I sat in the car more than 60 seconds before there was a knock at my window. “Do you need a jump start?” a man asked. He and his two friends pulled their truck over. I had jumper cables. They started my car like superheroes, and I drove home. Don’t you love it when people are nice, are human, are considerate and thoughtful and helpful? What could have been a pain-in-the-ass situation (involving frozen feet), turned around that fast.

Another dead battery story. Once, about ten years ago, our family spent a lovely day in Mendocino by the ocean; and late in the afternoon, as it was getting dark, we prepared to drive back home. We were in the Odyssey van and the battery was dead. I called AAA and they gave me the number of the only shop in Mendocino that provided emergency road service for AAA. I called the shop and the mechanic who answered said he couldn’t help us out for another 45 minutes. But then I realized that we were actually parked right in front of his shop. I could see him in his office talking on the phone with me. I pointed this out to him and waved. He waved back, and repeated that he couldn’t help me for 45 minutes! But I have jumper cables, I said. Just come out for a few minutes with your truck and help us out. No, he wouldn’t do that. He said he’d come out in 45 minutes. What? So I left the hood of the van up and stood next to it with the jumper cables in my hand and waved at passing cars. Before long, a thoughtful person stopped and gave us a jump start. I was wearing a Raiders sweatshirt that day and the person who stopped said he couldn’t leave a fellow Raiders fan in distress. I wonder if my Raiders sweatshirt would prove as useful these days (although they did win their first game in over a year on Thursday – Go Raiders).

What is my point, huh? I’m pondering how ephemeral life is, and how changeable. I’m pondering the swiftness of transformation. I’m pondering how quickly a situation can change. I’m pondering circumstances. Permutations. Separate realities.

Moving on from car batteries to life and death…. Ron has a friend who was diagnosed with cancer eight years ago. At the time he smoked and was a negative-thinking person. He was resigned to dying of cancer and had no fight in him. But somewhere along the way he changed, and he also got lucky. His cancer went into remission. He quit smoking. He chose to have a positive attitude. He transformed. Nowadays he’s sort of a different person. Things went well for him. So then I think about my friend who died of cancer three weeks ago. Why didn’t things go well for him? He fought hard, was determined not to surrender to the disease, kept a positive attitude, and lost his life. I have friends who died of cancer and friends who recovered from cancer. How does it go one way for one person and the other way for another?

How often have I thought something was gone only to have it return? A lost ring, found miraculously in the most unlikely place. A Native friend who lost his seat on the Tribal Council in the recent election, but this week the tribal judge overturned the election because a candidate was cheating and the election will be held again and perhaps my friend will retain his seat after all. A person I thought I would never see again and then our paths cross. A loved one dying who survives. A plant that was declared extinct and then, a hundred years later, it is discovered growing on a remote hillside.

The permutations of direction that any given situation can take amaze me. Is this the famous Schrodinger’s cat? At any given point in time we do not know what is in the box so we must assume that everything is in the box until we open the box. Life is fleeting and full of surprises and it turns on a dime. All the more reason to take a moment to pause and give thanks for the good things and the people we love and the times we have cherished. I believe that Thanksgiving has evolved and that Thanksgiving is no longer about pilgrims and Indians and survival and genocide. It’s not even about turkey, corn, and pumpkins. It’s about giving thanks. So, dear reader, thanks for reading my weekly ponder once again. I am honored to touch your life with my words. 

Transformation happens. Carry on.

A joke I swiped from Facebook that is pertinent to today's blog:

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