Sunday, July 30, 2006
Well, I started writing a brief autobiography to start off this blog, but autobiographies are difficult, because you wind up reflecting on the past and before you know it, lots of time has gone by and you are adrift in your thoughts. At least that is what has happened to me. And I don’t want this blog to be a self-indulgent, self-absorbed, whining review of past grievances. I’ve done plenty of that and while looking in the rear view mirror certainly has its cathartic benefits, I am tired of it and ready to move forward. I want this blog to be about exploration, present and future. But still, I do want to define the point of departure, so I shall continue to work on my autobiography.
So I am training for the Tucson Marathon and I am ramping up my weekly mileage and I am exhausted. It is bloody hot and humid in Honopupu, so I have been running around the Ala Wai canal at night after swim practice. One of these nights I am going to take my camera down to the canal and photograph the reflections of the building lights in the water. I can’t take the camera when I run because I am soggy with sweat. When I get back to my apartment, sweat literally runs off my visor in a stream, not in drops. Anyway, running at night is nice because the sun is not beating down on you and traffic is much lighter. However, you can’t really see the ground so you can’t run in the grass for fear of twisting an ankle on a tree root or a utility pull box. So one night last week I was coming around the golf course, turning onto Date Street, and there are fire engines, ambulances, police cars and a throng of people standing around. I continued my run and as I got closer, I could see that there had been an accident and one car was on its side, up on the curb, a few feet from the bike path. It looked like it had been on fire. There was broken glass all over the bike path. As I jogged through the chaos, it occurred to me that if I had been 15 minutes earlier, I could have been squashed by the car as it came over the curb. And that reminded me of another story.
Maybe 2 years ago, LAG was in Phoenix on business, so I got on my motorcycle and I rode up to Phoenix to have dinner with her. I was on I-10, doing about 80 mph behind a semi in the right lane. A U-Haul pulling an old Opal GT on a trailer went flying by me in the left lane. They must have been doing close to 100 mph. I was far enough behind the semi that I could see the U-Haul even as it was well ahead of the semi. Suddenly, the hood of the Opal GT flipped up and was ripped off the car. I immediately started to drift to the right toward the shoulder of the road to get as far away from the flying hood as I could, but I saw it hit the driver’s side of the semi, then get sucked down under the semi and flattened by the driver’s side rear wheels of the semi. I was on the white line at the shoulder of the road when I went by the hood. There was no more than 4 feet between my wheels and the hood, but at least the hood was on the ground. If the hood had hit my body, it would have cut me in half. If it had hit my motorcycle, I surely would have crashed (at 80 mph).
Later that night when I was returning to Tucson, traffic suddenly went from 80 mph to zero. I sat on my motorcycle for a few minutes and when the helicopters, fire engines, ambulances and police cars started coming from all directions, I put the kickstand down and turned the engine off. We sat there for 2 hours before the police detoured us across the grass median and through a nearby town. It turns out that there had been a huge accident about half a mile in front of me. Eleven people died. At 80 mph, half a mile goes by in 23 seconds. Had I been 23 seconds earlier, I probably would be dead.
And these dreadful accidents go on all the time all around us. Of course, the same is true for the good things, synchronistic blessings that sometimes fall in our lap. The difference between a synchronistic event and an unnoticed event is simply whether or not we are open and receptive and paying attention.
The first day of summer, I was at the homeless shelter working with the children. I asked them if they knew why it was the first day of summer. They did not, so I took the globe and showed them how the earth tilts and sometimes the northern hemisphere gets more sunshine and sometime the southern hemisphere gets more. Well, I have some software that does beautiful graphics of the solar system so I took my laptop in last week and showed the kids the solar system and how the earth wobbles. They loved it, but one little girl in particular was just mesmerized. She kept asking questions and wanted to see everything. It was very encouraging, yet simultaneously heartbreaking. To see her wonder and awe, reflections of my own experience of the universe, was very satisfying, but I know that she has very little support structure, no one to encourage her to explore her interests, to follow her bliss. I wanted to nurture her curiosity, to encourage her to explore. I wanted to tell her she could become a great astronomer or an astronaut; by the time she was an adult humans might be traveling to mars and maybe she, a little homeless Micronesian girl, could go. But I did not say these things. I printed out some photographs of nebula 1 2 3 etc. that I will give her next week.
A few years ago, I helped a friend who was in law school at the U of A get a job at TEP. She was very grateful. I told her it was no big deal, all I did was connect the dots and it was her qualifications that got her the job. But she said there was more to it than that. She made this observation: “When people tell you what their dreams are, you try and help them achieve their dreams, and I think you do this because you want someone to help you pursue your own dreams.”
So I ran 10 miles this morning and had a hankering for bread, which I don’t keep in the apartment, so I went down the street to Subway. A homeless woman, an islander, came in and sat down at the next table and laid out all of her money. She counted her coins and then reviewed the menu to see what she could afford. I could see that she was not going to be able buy much of anything. I waited until the other customers were out of ear shot and I said, “Auntie, can I buy you a sandwich?”
Very meekly she said, “That would be nice.”
So I told her to go ahead and order a sandwich. When she got to the cashier, I stepped up and handed him my credit card. He was a young kid, also an islander, and at first he was confused, but when he realized what was happening, he got the most pleasant smile on his face, and he said, “Right on Brah. Mahalo.”
I sat back down to read my gritty book, but somehow everyone in the Subway was aware that something had happened or was happening and everyone was craning their heads around trying to figure out what they had missed. It felt uncomfortable, so I quickly changed my mind and got up and departed. The homeless woman was outside on the sidewalk with her cart of junk.