Thursday, February 28, 2008

The yellow line

It's snowing. The air temperature is in the high 20s, and it's rush hour here in other words, excellent conditions for wretched driving. I've never been happier to get home and hug my wife. I could easily have died about 30 minutes ago, or at least had my life changed in a Very Big Way.

I didn't. It wasn't. And I'm feeling very much like the guy in "Monty Python and the Holy Grail" who, at the approach of the undertaker's wooden cart, hollers "I'm not dead yet!"

Of course, he then gets it in the back of the head with a frying pan...

I was on a busy street. I wasn't going very fast, but I hit a patch of ice. I'm a cautious, experienced driver with a healthy respect for the weather, but I'm not sure any of that mattered at all, in the moment. It was pretty much out of my hands. I have to say, it's unnerving to look directly into the grilles of oncoming cars. I turned the wheel, ever so slightly, intuiting that even being broadsided by the folks on my side of the dotted line would be preferable to running into opposing traffic face-first. There were cars behind me, but they were in the other lane, which apparently was not as icy. After swirling around a bit, I ended up perpendicular to traffic, with both of my front tires kissing the curb. There was a queue of rather surprised drivers on either side of me, waiting for me to right myself, and my mortality was giving me a gleeful raspberry from the passenger seat.

And now, I'm awed.

At how much could have changed for me and mine in the space of 10 heartbeats.
At the richness of being in this world.
At how deeply grateful I am to still be here.

We spend a lot of time defining what side of the "line" we're on...politically, theologically, in any number of ways. I could easily have been wiped out today by someone on either side of the yellow line. And everyone involved seemed to cooperate in the moment of crisis, conspiring to keep all of us as safe (!) and whole as we'd been before our almost-incident. Maybe, just maybe, at the bottom of it all, we're better at being a human family, more instinctively inclined to look out for each other, than Conventional Wisdom would have us believe.

Was self-preservation involved here, on the part of all the drivers? Undoubtedly. But tonight was also an illustration of the premise that we all do better when we all do better. And that, without more than a fraction of a second to react, we do try to look out for one another when it really matters.

Boundaries are necessary. They help us to locate ourselves and one another, keep us from most collisions, and help to point us in the right direction when we need it. But I'm sure not seeing boundaries right now; instead of what separates us, I see what we hold in common. Instead of the terror I'd have expected, considering how close that really was (and my propensity for hyperbole), I'm weirdly calm and even a bit joyful. Actually, I was sort of amazed not to have that "omigodomigodomigod" adrenaline rush that often accompanies situations like that, despite the fact that The Big Unknown got (literally) all up in my grille tonight.

I'm just grateful for the other drivers on the road (which I'll earnestly try to remember at tomorrow's rush hour when I want to swear at them again). I'm grateful to be looking out my kitchen window at the snow, smelling dinner cooking, looking forward to a mundane "snuggle on the couch and watch TV" evening with my lovely wife. I'm grateful for all the love in my life.

I'm grateful that, even though I really crossed the line in the most basic way today, I'll get to see what tomorrow has in store.

Got to go now. I'm home, and I'm so glad to be here tonight.

Peace, friends. Take care of each other.

P.S. Got to give a shout-out to my friend Milton for a particularly wonderful post today. Go & see. :-)

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