A few days ago, I drove home from the grocery store in a torrential downpour typical of Southwest Florida during a rainy season afternoon. The same conditions up north would strike fear and a strong hibernation instinct in most drivers; here, the development of white-knuckled nerves of steel is essential, else we’d be hibernating about six months out of the year.
As I approached a major intersection close to home, I saw a hawk sitting high upon a utility pole. He stood stark against the rumbling skies, seemingly impervious to the pelting rain. Immediately after I saw the hawk, things happened fast; the light turned yellow, I applied the brake, and the car hydroplaned. The light turned red, and the car slid perilously closer to the intersection, seeming to gain momentum rather than lose it. I released the brake and turned the wheel. The car slid sideways. The intersection drew closer. I spun the wheel the other way, and the back end fish-tailed into the turning lane, sending me into a complete 360*. I landed nose first into the turning lane – not where I’d intended to be, but I went with it because you don’t back up on Highway 41 during rush hour.
Or do you? I looked behind me and all around me. Miraculously, both 41 and Gladiolus were devoid of vehicles. There was one car just arriving in the left lane heading south on 41 (the direction in which I’d intended to go), and that was it. Still, the path of least resistance – not to mention where Fate had landed me – was to proceed on Gladiolus toward Lakes Park, and turn around at the first opportunity.
As I sat at the light waiting to make the turn to get me back on 41, I felt I’d done something wrong by looking at the hawk. I’d taken my eyes off the road, allowed something interesting to distract me from the task at hand. But now I have to wonder about that. Even if I had not seen the hawk, I still would have been proceeding at the same rate, the light still would have turned yellow, I still would have applied the brake. The rain would still have been pelting down and pooling on the road like it was, so it’s likely I still would have hydroplaned toward the intersection. And yes, the roads would still have been just as deserted as they were at the time of the incident. In all likelihood, sighting the hawk had no impact on what was to follow. I believe it still would have happened.
All of that now leads me to wonder what the incident was all about. I know that every sighting of a hawk for the rest of my life is not going to equal a Memo. I know that. But if I think about it a bit more, the incident is rife with symbolism.
* Sometimes, we allow a goal to distract us from the journey. A hawk is a hunter, and hunters lead goal-oriented lives. In days of yore, I was really guilty of this. It’s what led to success, to a certain degree of fortune. I’m grateful for those days, but no longer cut out for that mode of operation.
* Sometimes life sets us on a different path than we intended, in a rather forcible way. Oh yes, I know this one keenly. Divorce, illness, loss of job, loss of home, all of this leads to transformation – whether one likes it or not, there one is.
* Just because there are no witnesses, that doesn’t mean it didn’t happen. The proverbial tree falling in the woods. Of course it still makes a sound. The laws of physics do not cease to operate in the absence of human observation (and how typical of human arrogance it would be to think so!). Shit happens all the time, much of which we are blissfully unaware. Shit that happens in private still counts, even though nobody else knows about it.
* No matter how good you think you’ve gotten at something, there is still the possibility of screwing up spectacularly. You can control everything to the nth degree, but when the Universe wants to have its way with you, it’s gonna have its way with you. Don’t get me wrong – I still believe in risk management as a form of wisdom, as a way of achieving survival, but sometimes, shit just happens. Choose to concentrate on that which you CAN control, not that which you can’t.
* You can still just get back on the horse. Just because I was headed down Gladiolus against my will, that didn’t mean I had to go with it permanently and never go home ever again. Ridiculous. Curve balls can be dealt with. Choices can still be made. I wanted to go home. I tolerated the little three minute detour, but still exerted my will in achieving the goal.
Despite all of the above, there is still one more possibility, one more message to add to the pile of candidates. It has to do with the hawk being Nahtamemo –
* Sometimes, a cigar is just a cigar. Or maybe, it’s a Memo for someone else. Maybe I’ve turned into some sort of Memo conduit. However, that would assume that this blog has readers!