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Archive for June, 2009

I turn 30 a month from today. I’m not sure how I feel about it; I’ve been preparing for it for long enough…and it’s better than the alternative…

I once heard my aunt Susan say that every decade has been better than the last, and I’ve already seen that in my own life, with no reason for it not to continue. I like having the experience of living longer, but I’m still absolutely terrified of not existing any more (which every birthday brings me closer to) — not like I’m going to know about it, but when you don’t believe that there’s anything after death, this tiny little life becomes indescribably precious.

That might seem like a good reason to go and do whatever you want every second of every day, but that kind of thinking doesn’t produce real happiness. Real happiness comes from knowing you can take care of yourself, from connecting with other people and making strong relationships, from understanding of self and others, and (for me at least) from understanding how the world works. And it takes work to develop these things. If you just run away every time you feel something unpleasant, you’ll end up with a general unhappiness that you won’t be able to shake. But if you face your problems and overcome them, you develop the sense of self and strength of character that are absolutely necessary for good relationships and a good life.

I’ve been trying to describe this for years now and I still don’t feel like I’ve ever managed to express it.

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Correction

Several people have expressed concern about the van rolling during the accident. It didn’t. I was trying to explain how the whole thing went from my perspective, how in my head I was fully expecting the van to roll, so much so that I was already preparing for it, but I wasn’t explicit enough about how the van hadn’t actually rolled. To me it seems miraculous, but C says that given the weight distribution in the van, it’s not surprising at all.

I fixed the story so it should be more clear now.

I still keep thinking about how lucky we were that we slid directly onto the shoulder instead of stopping in the right lane, directly in front of the pickup and semi. I’m getting over it — it’s not in my head all the time — but I’d really like this memory to fade soon.

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We’re home!

I’ve never heard Patch meow so much. We’ve been home for about 20 minutes now and he’s still pacing the apartment near us, meowing constantly. I pick him up but he won’t stay. I think he’s being reproachful but C thinks he’s excited.

I’m gonna go sleep…after I chase the cat around the apartment, petting him constantly to reassure him. He’s going to freak out when we move in 6 weeks; I swear he knows by the packing when we’re about to leave for an extended period of time.

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Deer.

I had just taken the wheel at about 4:30 am, maybe 5. Charles had been driving but was getting a little sleepy, so I was going to drive while he took a little 20-minute nap to refresh himself till the sun came up. We got back on Interstate 80 with a pickup in front of and a semi behind us. The pickup was just under the limit so I passed in the left lane, and if I’d been looking in front rather than in my rearview as I was getting back in the right lane, I’d’ve seen the deer just a quarter-second sooner…not that it would have mattered.

I saw it just as Charles shouted; took in the adolescent size, the lack of antlers, the direction of motion. Horror filled me as I stood on the brake, every cell in my body screaming denial of the impending impact I could not avoid; it sent us just enough to the left to begin a skid. My hands reacted on the steering wheel before I consciously knew what was happening, trying to hold it straight against the pull (I realized I was screaming) — but seeing that the van was about to go into the median, instinct took over: cars must stay on the road! I over-corrected just slightly and the van suddenly magnified the turn a hundredfold, pulling hard to the right. Still screaming, harder now, in my mind I saw the world turning upside down, felt and heard the ground on the top of the van above our heads, wondered how badly we’d be hurt…but the van stayed upright. My hands continued to straighten the wheel as my eyes and body fed reality into my brain, bringing the van almost to a stop right on the shoulder of the road, facing the wrong direction. We were not quite on the shoulder; I let my foot off the brake to get the rear of the van out of the lane — and jumped as the pickup and semi shrieked past us, missing us by mere feet.

I was no longer screaming, but still crying out in horror and absolute terror, a part of me still rejecting the possibility of what had just happened and what had almost happened. Charles’s arms were around me the best he could reach, pulling me toward him. He reached over and turned off the engine. One of us, maybe both of us, pressed the button to turn on the hazards. We sat close together for a moment, Charles repeating that it was over, that we were okay. But I was agitated, twitchy, my mind churning with what should be done now. I pulled away and tried to open my door, thinking of the deer, the van, as if I could do anything to help either one; but Charles pulled me back, took my face in his hands, forcing me to look at him. “Say it! ‘We’re okay’!”

I located the words deep within me. “We’re okay,” I said, so that he would let me go and I could go do…what? I didn’t reach for the door again. He pulled me to him across the armrests and the gap between the seats, and we sat together for a moment, quieting. I began to grasp that the immediate danger had passed. We were okay. We were not hurt. At 75 mph (that’s the interstate speed limit in Nebraska, a speed I will never go at night ever again), the deer had to be dead, but it was quick. There was nothing to be done for it. There was nothing that had to be done right now for the van, or for us, except we should take a few moments to calm down.

I don’t remember many specifics after that — really after the pickup and semi passed us, very obviously going the opposite direction, most of it is blurry. He waited for no traffic coming and tried to get out the passenger side to look at the damage, but the door would open only enough to get an arm out.

That was our first indication of the damage done to the van.

Then we saw the smoke rising up from…where? I assumed at the time it was the engine, because I’ve never seen anything but the engine smoke on a vehicle, but now I’m sure it was the tires (and possibly the brakes?). The engine wouldn’t have been doing any more work than usual, but the tires laid down a fair amount of tread. The smoke did stop eventually, and I never noticed a smell, but then I wasn’t trying to.

We called 911 to get a sheriff out to us (trying to figure out how to tell them where we were — GPS coordinates were not useful to them), and waited on hold for freaking ever with Verizon’s roadside assistance, finally giving up. We looked at the damage, took pictures. With us in the car — the bugs were overwhelming so he let us sit in his car — the sheriff backed up along the shoulder to measure the distance from the mile marker to the site of the accident, which is when I noticed the track of the poor deer’s body from the shoulder far into the (blessedly un-mowed) grass. The sheriff got out and confirmed that the deer was dead (he’d’ve put it out of its misery if it wasn’t), though it took him a minute or two to find it in the grass. Neither of us went to look.

The body shop that the tow truck took us to got a radiator, fan, blinker, and headlight from a Town & Country in the salvage yard down the street from them, and informed us that it could be today or it might be Monday when they’d have it done. At around 2:30 pm, they called to let us know that the van has been repaired enough to get us home (they’ve been working overtime on Saturdays to begin with, but they still put us ahead of local customers to get us back on the road — we are very grateful). They even pounded out the major dents in the body, and the passenger door seems to move just fine. We’re resting up tonight, and we’ll head home tomorrow morning, driving considerably under the 75-mph speed limit, watching carefully for deer. Barring any further incidents, we should be home in the evening.

I feel terrible about it. There was nothing we could have done, with the knowledge we had, to avoid the accident, except possibly going under the speed limit (many, many vehicles in Nebraska go 5 or 10 under the limit on the Interstates). But I didn’t know what a vehicle that hit a deer might do — call me stupid, but it never occurred to me that it might send the vehicle into skids like that. And they tell you in driver’s ed not to overdrive your headlights, but then you go and drive the Interstates for 13 years without hitting any animals, and you forget.

It’s unlikely that you’ll hit an animal at any given time, or even on any given trip. But when you add up all your highway miles, it’s pretty much bound to happen sometime. I look at unlikely incidents like that after they happen (odds are it would happen to somebody…) but I should look at it like that before they happen, so that I’ll take precautions like an intelligent adult.

We have both agreed that, for our next vacation, we’re going to fly somewhere and stay there for the whole trip. No driving.

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This happens often, and it has been happening for the last two years or so. Sometimes I just can’t believe this is real. I want to ask him: “Are you sure you love me?” and then I want to ask myself: “Am I sure I love him?” Because it doesn’t seem possible that …I can have this? No, that’s not it. We can have it? No. It can exist? That’s it.

Did you see that movie Return to Me with Minnie Driver and David Duchovny? That first part where his wife dies in a car crash? I know movies have to have a conflict, so of course nobody can just have this great relationship and not have something Happen, so every great relationship in a movie gets messed up somehow…and I recognize that my perception of relationships has been shaped much more by movies than I would like. But it just doesn’t seem like something like this can exist. Like it’s out of balance somehow.

I know exactly how lucky I am.

I expect it’s the same for everyone, with nagging worries that never really go away. Everybody has fears. You take reasonable precautions and go about your days. Like Zoe said in Firefly, “I ain’t so afraid of losing something that I ain’t gonna try to have it.”

But that doesn’t change the fact that having it, and being so vulnerable to the possibility of losing it, is damned scary.

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Day 18

Not a very interesting day, though we went through some nice country and got some good photos. We’re in Boise, Idaho for the night, spending less money than most people do on a Hampton, because we are on our honeymoon, but much more than I intended to spend now that it’s past 11 pm local time and the Hilton website insists that it’s no longer the 18th of June at this hotel.

I have many more points than I intended to have at the end of this trip….I am also now a Gold member because I’ve paid for so many damn stays. We’ll have to plan a weekend somewhere and pay for it with points.

Anyway. I haven’t gone through any more photos since we were in Oakland…maybe I’ll do some tomorrow on the road.

Maybe.

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Day 17

Spent entirely too much money at Twisted, one of the yarn stores in Portland, yesterday when my aunt took me there. Very pleasant store, making it very easy to spend money, though I did continue to resist buying the lace shawls book that I’ve been wanting forever but am not yet ready to actually use. My current project is the largest one I’ve attempted yet and since there’s a time limit on it, I’m working on it almost exclusively. But I have a million other projects I want to do….I need more knitting needles.

We never did get to that hike in the Columbia River Gorge, but we’re going through it today on the way home and depending on how things are labeled (and how willing C is to stop) we may end up at a waterfall or two. If we were to drive 12 hours a day we’d get home in the evening on Saturday, so I’m not worried about the time, but I guess we should get going being that it’s already 11:30 local time…

But first, I’m going to try and upload a couple of photos to my facebook.

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