This I Believe

Cheryl - Lincoln City 97367, Oregon
Entered on June 1, 2006

The Earth Rearranger

I nearly died today, but nothing happened.

While traveling from New Mexico to Oregon, I drove down a rural road on a fine, sunny morning. Ahead of me a farmer steered a fantastic farm implement with massive rotating blades designed to seriously rearrange the earth.

The road was straight, and I eased into the other lane to pass. I was almost even with this behemoth of whirling metal parts when the farmer turned his head and saw me at his left flank. He flinched, bobbled the steering wheel, and abruptly slowed down. In my mirror I saw him turn left through a farm gate.

Two bits of information instantly came to me. First, the driver had glanced back expecting no traffic. Second, if he had made that turn without looking, the earth-altering machine would have chopped through the top half of my car and the top third of me.

This happened so fast, I did not have time to react.

Only later did it dawn on me what a close call I’d had. I had driven halfway across the country to visit my sister, and I was nearly a traffic fatality a mile from her door. How I should feel about this non-event? Part of me said, “Forget it. Nothing happened.” Another part said, “But something catastrophic almost happened.” This seemed too important to simply let it go.

A stranger’s glance had preserved my life. Should I feel grateful to him for sparing my life? Should I be angry at him because he almost took it?

But nothing had happened. The farmer did spot me. I had arrived without being chopped up.

This was not my first near-miss. There were close calls rock climbing, kicks and falls off various horses, the many automobile accidents that almost, but did not, happen. How strong and tenacious is our grip on life, yet how fragile is the thread that connects our todays to our tomorrows.

We humans are the only species that can contemplate our own end. Logic would suggest that we live our lives nervous or depressed, but we mostly assume when we arise in the morning that we will be alive at bedtime. How we maintain this optimism varies by individual. Some people put their trust in supreme beings to keep them safe. Others, I call them the thunderbolt people, believe their fate is predetermined—when their time is up, it’s up.

I believe I fall into a third decidedly smaller group. I take comfort in the randomness of our affairs. No big plan or planner. Stuff–good, bad, and indifferent–simply happens. I don’t consider myself charmed, protected by angels, or overflowing with good karma. I’m here for awhile, then I’m not. I’ll live on awhile in the memories of living family and relatives, then I’ll fade away.

I don’t know which system true. For today, I’m simply glad that that farmer turned his head and hadn’t turned his earth rearranger into my path. That today, nothing had happened.