Today I’m feeling a little somber. It’s something to do with the economy, and how lives—including mine—might need to change pretty dramatically because of it. That’s unknown right now, but possible.
It’s also about recent events in the news. How quickly what’s precious can be lost.
Last Sunday, my family and I went downhill skiing for the first and last time this season. While we used to recreate almost whenever we wanted in winters past, this year we’re being very careful with money. I was thinking of Natasha Richardson. I made H. rent a helmet—her own was outgrown—but I didn’t get one for myself. I’d already spent too much money.
We returned home that day tired but glad to have gone. It wasn’t until Monday that we learned about the plane crash in Butte that killed fourteen people—a couple mountain passes over from where we were enjoying our last ride up the chairlift.
I know the cemetery where they crashed. My sister and I drive by it when we go vintage clothes shopping in Butte. It’s on a dirty commercialized road that could be anywhere in America, punctuated by a Walmart, McDonalds, and strip malls. A friend and I stopped there at a gas station by the cemetery three summers ago, too. We were on our way home from taking our daughters camping. I remember the warm breeze that came in our open car windows from the cemetery.
Now I have to wonder why they had so many people in that plane. Were those little kids allowed to move around on it, maybe throwing the balance off? And was it merciful that the families died together?
And thinking of the plane, the organization I work for hires small planes to fly over the mountains and forests in our mission area, several times a winter. I went on one of these flights about a month ago. I scouted the mountain lakes beneath us and tried to match them to names on the map. I was nervous. I thought about my daughter.
Shortly after that I offered a special friend of our organization a seat on one of our flights. She said maybe she’d come, “if the conditions are really right.” But today I called her back and said, “I don’t think I want to offer you that, after all.”
I need to stop from time to time to acknowledge that life is about loss as much as joy. Loss of a way of life, a loved one, a dream. Because that’s real, and the real is all we have. This helps me move on to the real joy that’s there, too.
Tonight I’m drinking in these feelings expressed by the 18th century poet, William Collins. I like them. They’re real.
“But tomorrow, dawn will come the way I picture her,
barefoot and disheveled, standing outside my window
in one of the fragile cotton dresses of the poor.
She will look in at me with her thin arms extended,
offering a handful of birdsong and a small cup of light.”
Turbulence, by Jean Albus