Driving home today from another community near mine, I could not help but acutely feel how wonderful it is to be alive in this world.
it was late afternoon and the setting sun splashed its peach-colored light on the snow-speckled mountains. The clouds were wisps of pink and blue.
I was listening to one of my currently favorite songs (Cows on the Hill by Jay Unger and Molly Mason), which is a plaintive, lovely tune. I was driving home from a job I love. My favorite job I’ve ever had, and I’m so happy to have it. It was a good day of working. And I, on my commute, passed the site of the fatal car wreck I covered for my newspaper two weeks ago.
Few things make a person appreciate how beautiful it is to be alive like seeing death. I’ll spare you the gruesome details, but I was one of the first people on scene at a nasty, roll-over accident. I hate covering that sort of thing, but it’s part of the profession. It’s the fourth fatal I’ve covered in my career that I was up close to the person killed. It doesn’t get any easier. It’s not something you can unsee. That young man’s face is burned in my brain. Like the body of the utility worker killed by a gas explosion. Like the glasses perched on the roof of the car flattened by a semi unable to stop that belonged to the driver inside. Like the charred upholstery of the pickup truck the elderly farmer tried to take refuge in when the wind turned the fire against him in his field, a field so hot it burned the soles of my feet through my shoes.
I don’t know how emergency personnel deal with the death they see constantly as part of their jobs. All I can assume is they, like me, witness the end of life and realize what a gift it is to be living. To watch splendid sunsets. To feel the sound waves of a beautiful song crash over you. To feel fulfilled by a career.
When I passed the scene of the wreck, I was struck by how it looked as if nothing had happened there. No flattened grasses where the car ripped through the earth, no battered fence line where the car came to a rest. It was just a memory now. Other passers by would never know the tale that hillside could tell, would never see anything out of the ordinary in it.
It’s easy to get caught up in the minutiae of living: washing dishes, folding laundry, putting gas in the car, snipping at one’s husband for no reason. How much better is it to realize that in the minutiae there is so much life, unappreciated: the tenderness of smoothing a sleeping child’s hair, the delightful taste of that first sip of coffee in the morning, the warmth of a purring cat on one’s lap. Beautiful sunsets and stirring melodies.
What a gift, to be reminded of what a gift we receive with every drawn breath!
As Mary Oliver asked in her poem “The Summer Day”: “Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”