Diurnal Crapshoot

“What are you talking about, Martha?”

“Life, Teddy. Life. What a bizarre crapshoot it is after all. I feel a little disoriented.”

“Huh? Uh-oh. I’m sensing another reflective philosophical blog post coming on. I think I’ll go out with Bear and bark at the neighbor dogs.”

“OK, Teddy. Are you done with my coffee cup? It’s your turn for a w-a-l-k today.”


“Never mind. See you later, little guy.”

I was thinking that life is like conglomerate — a big wad of events held together by a more recent geological interval. I choose the local product — Crestone Conglomerate. You have random amazing moments interspersed with all kinds of other stuff, and the random, amazing moments don’t happen twice. I was thinking of that last night when I looked at my FB memories and saw that nine years ago yesterday I woke up, opened my front door, and found a horse essentially in my front yard, and I got to keep it. How often does that happen? Once. It can only happen once.

I look at that rock as a life.

The big mass of it, holding it all together, is time, a life time. And the pretty bits (and maybe ugly bits) all the random stuff that happened to be there in time. I was thinking of attempting to list all of the really incredible moments that make up the rock that is me, but I don’t even know what they all are — just like in the featured photo, we see only one face of the boulder.

I did think, though, that many of the MAJOR MOMENTS we prepare for in our lives turn out to be minor blips or pieces that end up breaking off. I thought of that when I went out to get my mail and saw my neighbor’s Christmas wreath still hanging on their gate. “Wow! Christmas!” fades pretty quickly into a green bit of plastic foliage with a red plastic ribbon. Christmas was no major moment, however much they (newly married) prepared for their “first Christmas together.” What are the major moments? I think they’re often completely unexpected a lot of the time.

I used to tell my students who would insist that their birth was one of the big moments of their lives that it wasn’t; it was big in their PARENT’S lives. They rejected that because, because, because why? Because all their lives someone had celebrated their birthdays. The birthday parties might have been events, but their birth was not. In a way, they weren’t even there for it.

So, my moments, a few. Some are naturally bigger than others — like going to China to teach. That might be the biggest moment. But smaller moments are the main glue in this conglomerate. My 25th birthday, riding in the backseat of my own car with a glass of champagne heading to a disco that turned out to be a lot more (and weirder) than a disco. Getting my MA and having, as I crossed the stage to get the folder, friends who served on the university senate step forward to hug me, then hearing my Aunt Jo and Uncle Hank way in the back yell, “yeee-HAW!” in good Montana style. My grandmother telling me she’s glad I’m not snooty like my cousin who also has a masters degree.My mom in her hospital bed mistaking me for my Aunt Martha and, in the liminal world she inhabited, talking to “me” as if my grandma were still alive, and she and my aunt were young “Are you going down to Mother’s?” she asked me. My brother and me on top of a mountain outside Manitou Springs, eating oranges and singing. Walking in the Swiss forest with Pietro and Daisy (golden retriever) communicating in our own bizarre language on a December morning. Langlauf at Devils Thumb Ranch with a friend, and falling forward in deep snow, arms buried up to my shoulders, poles parallel to my arms; friend skis past, sees me, laughs, loses focus, falls across the trail. My Aunt Dickie writing me, “I’m so proud of your writing.” Running with my friend Kris on a short, narrow bit of the Pacific Crest Trail in the old snow, trying to get back to the car before the trail iced over and then seeing the brilliant red sunset over the Pacific Ocean, 50 miles away. Seeing La Ultima Cena and realizing I really had never seen it before however thousands of times reproductions of it had passed before my eyes, seeing that it’s a force of nature — or something. Reading Italian Journey. Walking into my classroom and seeing my students stand up on their chairs and say, “O Captain! My Captain!” Running on a slick-rock trail in Arches with a friend as dusk turned to dark. Watching hawks hover in the wind as they hunt. And last week, a birthday party with cheesecake and socks. Some of it’s just weird, like my recent experience interviewing a friend for an article and then having him die only a month or so later. I still shudder thinking of that. That’s the crapshoot aspect, I guess.

These things don’t “change” your life. They make it.

Happy the man, and happy he alone
He who can call today his own:
He who, secure within, can say,
Tomorrow do thy worst, for I have lived today. John Dryden

17 thoughts on “Diurnal Crapshoot

  1. This is a wonderful personal essay, Martha. Must admit I teared up on the “Captain, My Captain” bit. I think perhaps I’d like to see the movie again. Have you told the details of the horse story? If so, furnish a link. If not, why not do so?

  2. Lovely post, Martha.

    Makes me think our lives are like necklaces of beads that we keep adding to over the years. Some beads are beautiful and memorable, others not so much, but without all of them, the necklace would fail to encompass our being, our life.

  3. It is all the little bits that hold life together that are the most important. All the I love yous, the band-aids and the dinners around the table together. Always together…

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