Looking out our Airstream’s panoramic windows and pondering on this languorously hot July day how life experiences diverge so quickly from their moment of creation. We often ask ourselves how things would have been so different if we had only…let’s say bought that house in that other neighborhood, which led to not meeting some of our closest friends, which led to many incredible experiences, and on and on in an infinite chain of events. It is like a multidimensional cone expanding out in time and space. Each moment is like this. Every choice. Every decision pregnant with opportunity and a different life. Whew! Looking backwards brings smiles and sadness, cringing and cackling.
In the book, The Once and Future King by T.H. White, Merlin mentored the young Arthur and gave him the experience of transference into other beings. I am attempting to learn this lesson now, watching hawks being harassed away from nests by much smaller, fearless birds. I spy dozens of ground squirrels jumping out of their burrows and scurrying to another cool entrance, touching noses with one another, exchanging some form of communication, followed by chases, then back down into the darkness below the relentless heat. Slowing down to awaken the senses and become aware of the micro and macrocosm is the exercise of the moment. Monarch butterflies shimmer in the sunlight as their wings flutter in counterpoint to the wind-tufted leaves, movements like visual musical notes.
This benchmark in life, retirement, is bringing up questions and musings on my work and careers, as there have been so many chapters to this encyclopedia of experiences. Teaching has been the Elysian Fields throughout my careers, surrounded by a semi-permeable electric fence to keep bureaucratic machinations, confusion, and the numbing roar of the mass mind out yet admit the rejuvenation of change. Speaking of electric fences: just recently, I was hiking up a deserted country road along a pasture fenced with nylon twine. A horse within and I spied each other simultaneously and it approached me but kept at arm’s length from the fence and my reach. I stretched my arm as far as I could between the twine rungs to come within just a couple inches of the horse’s nose for polite recognition, but it wouldn’t accept my touch. Looking more carefully at the twine I recognized the cause of the horse’s reticence. Within each strand of nylon there was a very thin spiral wire, almost invisible to the eye but most definitely not to the touch, which carried an electrical admonition to stay away. The definition of horse sense came to mind and I thanked my lucky stars that I didn’t have to relearn my lesson again from childhood.
That electric fence kept that horse from wandering, safe from interlopers. My mental fence is a barrier against mediocrity and to safely contain within the remembrance to swim upstream, climb the waterfall, to paint clown faces on the stern, black and white portraits of those who dictate, “It must be done this way!”
Slowing down and seeing. This is the clarion call of this chapter of change. To see a galaxy twinkling in the Milky Way, perhaps now millions of years dead, the light from which traveled through space at 186,000 miles per second since before life on earth, impacting the nerves, creating memories. Is this light now within, from that distant source, reincarnation?
Humanity is broadcasting itself through the electromagnetic spectrum into space at a significantly lower speed than light. I Love Lucy TV shows from the 60s are radiating out of our solar system as a gift to future travelers. If we could travel fast enough, we could relive our broadcast history “live.”
There may come a time when we realize that our search for extraterrestrial life as we know it has been futile. We may someday decode some as yet unknown electromagnetic spectrum or subset, perhaps light itself, continually bombarding earth with, “Welcome to the Universe!” greetings.