"From this hour I ordain myself loos'd of limits and imaginary lines, going where I list, my own master total and absolute, Listening to others, considering well what they say, Pausing, searching, receiving, contemplating, Gently, but with undeniable will, divesting myself of the holds that would hold me."
Walt Whitman (1819-92)
"When I look back now over my life and call to mind what I might have had simply for taking and did not take, my heart is like to break."
Akhenaton (d. c.1354 BC)
And now, the current weather, from some random person we pulled off the street:
Thursday, December 23, 2004
From One Moment To
The following is a post.
in-stant Function: noun
Etymology: Middle English, from Medieval Latin instant-, instans, from instant-, instans, adjective, instant, from Latin
1 : an infinitesimal space of time; especially : a point in time separating two states
2 : all the time it takes to go from now to forever
As soon as everyone slowed down, I had a bad premonition that it was going to be horrible before it was all over.
I was right.
I was traveling last Sunday northbound on Interstate 95, one of the most traveled north-south arteries in the United States. It was the last weekend before Christmas, and to say that traffic was heavy would be an understatement. We were all flying along at 80 miles per hour (that's 128kmh for you metric types) like some sort of multicolored conveyor belt to holiday joy and ho ho ho.
That is, until about Fayetteville NC. I was north of town a few miles when I saw brake lights in front of me. I slowed down and eventually came to a stop.
"This is not good," I thought.
I rolled down my window, even though the air was brisk and cold. Soon I heard sirens, and we all skittered around so an ambulance could pass us on the narrow shoulder, and it sped on up ahead.
I had a real bad feeling about this one.
A couple of minutes later two highway patrol cars came right up the center line. We all skittered around yet again, making way for them. They were followed shortly by two more. About ten minutes later, two more, but these weren't highway patrol, they might have been sheriff deputies.
Thirty minutes passed. People jockied for position, and some cut across the median and headed back the way we had come. I just sat there, I was in no hurry and really didn't care to try to find a short cut on farm to market roads.
Eventually, traffic began to crawl along. There was a truck a few cars ahead, so I couldn't see very far. It turned out that the accident was only a mile or so ahead of me, on an overpass.
Cars began merging into the right lane. As I changed lanes, I could see that they had the left lane coned off and a man was directing traffic to get everyone in the right lane as we went over the bridge.
There were lots of flashing lights.
The first thing I saw was a forklift on the far side of the road, laying on the shoulder of the bridge. I thought it might have been left by a road crew, but then realised how out of place it was, laying on its side partially in the road.
In the left lane, as I moved forward slowly, I passed two troopers and a deputy. they were walking side by side down the lane, studying the ground intently. Occasionally one would point something out to the others.
And then I was cresting the hill. It felt like it feels when you ride a rollercoaster, and realise too late that you shouldn't have gotten on but now you can't get off and the car is going over the first drop.
Lots of lights. Lots of white things laying around. Ambulance. Stretcher. Rescue worker, not in a hurry. Deputies. Patrolmen. And down the embankment there were lots more. Something had gone over the side, maybe the truck that was carrying that forklift.
There was a sport utility vehicle laying upside down between the two sides of the bridge, like it belonged there and nothing was wrong with the fact that you were looking at its transmission.
As I inched closer, I realized that the white things were cloths...blankets.
One of them, in front of me, was covering a great big lump...a body. Covering it completely. It was not moving, and no one was paying it any special attention.
As I moved closer, I could see the rescue workers peeking under the blanket. Someone came up with a sled that they were going to use to lift the body with.
An officer idly kicked the blanket more firmly under the body.
He walked around, peeked under it, and as I passed, yelled to the other troopers, "Cover your eyes..."
From one moment to the next, lives changed, lives ended. Here marks the spot where that person was riding along just like they had ridden along for so many, many years. And here, only feet away, marks the end of their life. No more from this point forward.
In some way inside of us, we all have the feeling we are the invincible one. Even when we know we are vulnerable, weak, we still feel like we can beat it. After all, haven't we done pretty well so far? Perfect record? No deaths yet on our report card?
But we don't know when that forklift will come barrelling down the interstate out of nowhere and take us over the edge.
Only two nights before, death's wings had also come close. I was staying the night with my father and my stepmother, when my stepmother got a call at 1am. Calls at 1am are almost never good, and this was no exception.
Her brother in law had apparently had a heart attack in rush hour traffic and died at the wheel, subsequently causing a very bad multiple car accident.
As quick as the snap of your fingers, and life comes flying at you. Or death.
In the holiday season, our thoughts center on giving (and getting) and perhaps visiting family and friends. I think we owe it to all our friends and family that we are the best possible people we can be, ready every single day to place the period at the end of our life with calm mind.
We celebrate the infinite. We, are finite.
May you love like there was no other person on Earth, may you sing like every song was a symphony, may you dance like every step was a celebration all in itself. And may you life like every day was your last.
Certainly, travel is more than the seeing of sights; it is a change that goes on, deep and permanent, in the ideas of living.