"There's a ca..."
<floating brief eternity>
BLAM! went the front of the oncoming car into ours.
What followed was basic small town post-auto accident protocol:
People rolling vehicles over crunchy glass bits, to move them off of the road and make room for the traffic flow.
A lady in her bathrobe. She lives nearby, heard the crash, and came outside. She says accidents happen all the time at this corner.
Numbly answering "ARE YOU OKAY?" a million times.
Not having air in my lungs to say, "Yes."
So am I okay? Where are my glasses? At my feet. Okay, now I can see.
I'm not bleeding and neither is my husband.
Yes, we're okay.
I want to get out of the car. I need to call my son. Is the other driver okay? How long has it been? 20 minutes?
"More like five! The police are on the way!"
Just writing all of that makes me shake a little. One week later, my mind stays, not in the moment of collision with that quiet dark grill, but in the moment before: when life did not feel like it was careening out of control. Instead, it was floating inexorably toward a smashing outcome. I am surprised at how afraid I didn't feel, as harrowing an experience as it was.
How close I actually came to my close that night, I don't know. Stuff really hurts now. If pain is proof of being alive, my thoracic cavity is a ring of pink-cheeked maidens skipping around the maypole. That may be the case for a month or more, but it could be worse. It could always be so much worse.
The kids were not in the car, and so, were blessedly over this traumatic event the day after it happened. Life shrugs and goes on, expecting dinner every night. Melancholy is mine alone, already looping in my head like a Cure playlist, thanks to autumn. Slather some near-death experience on it, and you have yourself a real reveling in the crispy old sadness that is life after its heyday.
A walk around my long-neglected yard today was a stroll through a gallery of embarrassment. Kids don't play here much anymore. They don't throw as many homemade weapons, dodged by a mom, pushing a full wheelbarrow, tending to unsightly sights and making whimsical planting arrangements.
Bindweed romps through the overgrown grass more than little legs, and the chickens are watched primarily by dogs, who wish there were still four small running shouters, playing hooky from September to June.
What's done is done, and over, and gone. Done well, but over. Good, and gone.
Funny, at this time, to think of seeds, right? Yet, for those who grow, autumn is when our choices and actions imply that we are not going to crash into oblivion on a highway in the night, but oversee another bright green dewy uprising in just six short months.
What made me think of life, springing back in spring, at a time like this? A chance encounter with some lettuce plants.
I saw their light frilly leaves while walking around what is left of the garden at the school where I work, and flashed back to a wet day in late spring, years ago, when we first met. How many years ago? I don't remember. That's how many.
I was helping the late, great, Shelly Bowe quickly home way too many lettuce seedlings in a raised bed. Warm rain was starting to fall on the school garden where we had been working together all afternoon.
She scurried around, picking up tools and brought me one of many over-crowded seedling flats. "We just need to get these in the ground somewhere! We can thin them out and move them later!"
She taught elementary school kids to grow and sell their own lettuce from the school garden. Her Lettuce Grow program was a crucial model for my Food of the Future project. Not only were kids learning to grow and appreciate eating their own lettuce, she was intent on showing them their entrepreneurial potential, as full participants in a food system: food producers for their community.
With muddy fingers, we laughed about something, I'm sure, and tucked little roots into the dark soil, nearly too late, but just in time.
A day and a lady long gone.
Her lettuce, however, endures. Not the exact plants we smiled over that day, but their great great grandplants, tall and putting on the last of late summer blooms, as one season fades into what's next. Most of the flowers, spent, surely hold seeds now. Curled brown petals hug durable shuttles of code. Tiny ovoid-shaped instructions. How to Be Lettuce. just add spring, or a long mild autumn.
I might have to invite some of them come grow in my hoop house.
You know, after I clean it out. You know, after I can move without wincing.
Weeks ago, before the crash, the bolting lettuce presented its own lesson on perspective. Who knows what life is about? But being alive? Well, that's obvious. It is an eventual end and shattered start. The dynamic balance between opposing forces. Youth, surging at the expense of exquisite structures, leaving cracked hulls and aching chests. The duality of it means you may see it how you like, whatever brings you back to the dirt. Maybe it's just about feeding everyone dinner.