November 27, 2008

There is a thunderstorm shaking the cottage. It’s the end of a long summer here. In the last few days we’ve said goodbye to each member of our family as they made their way back to the busy world beyond this refuge. A lump developed in my throat during the farewells that took hours to disappear. I know it’s due to realising that time is passing, that we are growing older, and that once we go out into that busy world we never seem to find enough time to see our family as much as we’d like to.

Lightning is filling the sky and sharp cracks feel as if they are striking just outside the cottage. The cat, Kibo, has run to hide under a bed in one of the back rooms. After each sharp crack, a quiet is filled only by the rain pattering gently on the roof and music from the stereo. The sky over the lake is flashing heat and bolt lightning. I’ve just noticed that the music seems to be dancing about the room in unison with the storm. It’s Beethoven, Symphony NO . 6, the thunderstorm/tempest part. We’ve had the stereo on almost every evening for most of the summer. It’s set on random to play various songs, but we’ve listened to nothing but Neil Young and the Beatles, thanks to a determined nine-year-old with a good ear for music. Tonight we changed the playlist to George Winston, Van Morrison, Eric Satie and Beethoven. Music with few words.

We set the cd player on random to select different tracks. At the exact time the thunderstorm swept in, Beethoven’s symphony, composed to imitate and honour the very nature of the storm, randomly played on the stereo. I don’t believe in predetermination; but I do think that everything in the world is connected — although knowing exactly how it is linked could be beyond our comprehension. Perhaps similar things are somehow pulled towards each other, like attracting like. Who knows? Maybe the thunderstorm was toying with randomness, it coerced chance in order to dance with Beethoven’s music. Perhaps it was a performance given for us to watch; perhaps the love in the air attracted them both. This is the stuff legends and myths are made of.

Coincidental things seems to happen so often, in such an orderly way, that I wonder if they are part of the physical world rather than simply in my head. I never took notice of them until my early twenties. The first time occurred on a hot afternoon in Texas. I drove to a well- known deli to buy sandwiches for a group of friends. When I got back to them I received tearful hugs — a gunman had shot over 20 twenty people in the deli I had left within five minutes after my departure.

My father used to say we all have a certain amount of luck in our lives; the trick is to make the most of the good luck and hang on through the bad. Luck, chance, and randomness are all part of the condition we face as conscious beings. All I know for certain is that all living things die and that change will always occur. Everything else, religion, the ideologies warring today and even most of the sciences are based on belief without absolute certainty. My last column on spirituality had some readers encouraging me to believe in their gods; they didn’t understand that my spirituality praises the physical world in all its grandeur.

Our wedding is only weeks away. I’ve got the silly white dress; it isn’t me but it’s the only thing that seemed to fit the occasion. I’m determined to wear running shoes underneath it because a part of me loathes tradition —the part that doesn’t fully understand it. We’ve created our vows and spent a few hours rehearsing them. Every time I try to say the lines my eyes fill with tears. I think I’m hard-wired to respond to deep emotional events with tears. Beginnings and endings — why are they so emotional?

The thunderstorm has come to an end. It was short this evening and the night seems so still now, the music and crackle from the fire the only sound. It’s quiet in this cottage without the kids. I’ve watched them learn and grow all summer. I can see their parents in them. It’s comforting to know that even though we grow old and die a part of us lives on in our children.

It is almost a year since that tragic day on September 11, 2001. Has anything drastically changed? We go about our lives. We rebuild, we go forward a little less than we once were but a little wiser as well. “It is life, more than death, that has no limits.” — Gabriel Garcia Marquez


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