Last week I spoke to medical students in Portland, Oregon and then drove to the central Oregon coast that evening to address the Oregon Rural Health Association. That drive usually takes a couple hours, but it took me twice that long because there was a torrential storm with pelting rain and strong winds. The windshield wipers were slapping time (more to the rhythm of Mussorgsky’s Night on Bald Mountain, than to Me and Bobby McGee). I was on a dark, two-lane country road hunched over the wheel, gripping it with white-knuckled intensity. When I arrived at the lovely Salishan Lodge, I celebrated my death-defying carnival ride with a glass of champagne and twin lobster tails (my preferred Last Supper meal).
The next morning it was still raining when I addressed the group, and began my remarks by telling them how delighted I was to be with them, having survived last nights incredible ride. Over the next 2 days I continued to bear witness to the awesome power of nature. The rain continued almost unabated, interspersed with moments of sunshine and one hailstorm with pellets the size of ping pong balls. The most extraordinary sight were the 30′ waves, rarely seen here. The pounding surf so intense it left a three foot layer of foam on the shoreline.
I holed-up in a pub that looked directly out on the ocean, where I wrote, sipped, and was mesmerized by the waves that carried a huge tree trunk, in and out from the shore, as if it were a toothpick. There is something about being surrounded by the awesome power of nature that always tames the ego. In the midst of such displays we recognize our mortal insignificance, our presence on the planet, we are like a buffalo fart in a blizzard.
That’s the state of awareness I was in when I arrived at my nephews home in Portland. He’s a soccer aficionado and was watching a soccer game with a friend. It was a Saturday afternoon party watching the pre-recorded games from the world’s premier leagues. It’s also my favorite game; played soccer as a boy with my father. He was a great player, and he was graciously tolerant of my hopeless mediocrity. As I am talking about him, I remember that day is the 32nd anniversary of my fathers death.
On top of my already reflective mood, comes this awesome synchronicity. Talking soccer with the boys, I am filled with such warm nostalgia. I described Sunday afternoons in Van Cortland Park, with soccer leagues representing every country in Europe, and refugees speaking German, Italian, Hungarian, and Gaelic, smelling the picnics on the grass. My father was a good, kind, and gentle man.
What a weekend it was, filled with potent serendipitous events that made me think about the existential questions and ponder about what it all means. And what new awareness came to me? Maybe just new reminders…. Enjoy every supper as if it were your last; spend time kicking balls with someone you love; walk in the rain more often; love the ones you live with because they will tell your stories and smile.