Blogger’s Note: This is the first in a new series of posts that I’ll be doing occasionally recounting some small bit of a miracle that comes along in my life. You see, I happen to believe in divine intervention… how the universe sometimes steps in and makes a micro-adjustment to your life in a way that is startling and unexpected and leaves you feeling cared for and comforted. You might think of these moments as quaint coincidences, or maybe as a collision of free wills, or maybe the literal hand of God, and I’m okay with any of that; you needn’t believe what I believe to take something that you need from these stories. I simply know that these perfect little miracles give me hope and inspiration and faith that things are just as they should be and will turn out okay. I hope you enjoy them, too.
On Monday, I was late going into work after a doctor appointment. It was an overcast, rainy day, unusual for Colorado, and all I really wanted was to go home and crawl back into bed with my sweet little dog and listen to the rain on the roof. But instead, I steered my car toward the canyon for my 20 mile “drive up the hill” to my job.
Most days, I love my drive through the canyon. The meandering twists and turns of the road are very soothing to me, and I know them so well I can nearly do it without thinking. The 3,000 foot elevation gain means that I can sometimes pass from one weather system to another, which is pretty amazing to behold, and the seasons happen at different rates at the top and bottom of the canyon, too. The quiet meditative drive through that canyon has been my constant companion for two years now. No cell phone reception and minimal radio reception means isolation and contemplation. Sometimes I put on my iPhone and sing along at the top of my lungs, but just as often I allow my thoughts to wander like the road before me. That car time is like my re-set button going to and from work….
The canyon I drive each day hugs a creek the whole way up the mountain, and in some parts it’s open to high mountain meadows with wildflowers in the summer and elk in the fall. Other parts of it — aptly nicknamed “The Narrows” — are closed in by sheer mountain cliffs, where souls braver than me scale nearly vertical rocks just because they can. At the top of my drive, the road opens onto a beautiful reservoir with snowy tops of the Indian Peaks far in the distance.
On Monday morning, my peaceful drive was interrupted shortly after I entered the canyon. My car started making a funny noise, a loud squealing sound that was like nails on a chalkboard, amplified 100-fold. It was horrible and I had no idea what it was. It sounded like it was emanating from one or both of my back wheels. It didn’t sound like the car was breaking down, and I was already so late for work that I decided to push on. If it was still having problems at the top of the mountain, I reasoned, I would take it to one of the local mechanics there. I turned my music on, trying to drown out the nightmarish sound and ploughed forward.
As I squealed along, I noticed that when I stepped on the gas, the noise subsided. Hmmm…. But when I eased off, it resumed. So, I did what any reasonable person who is averse to nails-on-the-chalkboard does: I gunned it. All the way up the canyon. On a road slick from our first rain in many, many weeks. I know the road and I know my sturdy, all-wheel-drive Volvo, and I went just fast enough to keep the God-awful sound at bay. Fortunately I encountered nary a soul on the road that morning, and no one at all in my lane. Nonetheless, it was fairly ridiculous to be careening up the canyon at 50mph in a rainstorm. But there I was.
I passed through the Narrows, and as I was reaching the end of it, where the road opens wide again, I heard a sound — above my music even! — that at first I thought was coming from my car again. It was a terrific scraping sound… but it ended with a boom. I kept driving, grateful that it wasn’t my car, and dismissing it immediately with the assumption that someone, somewhere in the mountains was dynamiting. I turned my focus back to keep my speeding car on the narrow mountain road.
By the time I eased off my accelerator and pulled into the mountain town where I work, the noise in my car was gone. Amazed and relieved, I parked and went inside, fixed myself a cup of tea and logged onto my computer.
And what I saw gave me chills.
The Twitter feed was blowing up with breaking news of a rock slide in the canyon — the same canyon I had just traveled through. Emergency dispatch was describing the largest rock as “as big as VW bus” (its weight was later estimated at 15 tons). It had sheered off one of the cliffs in the Narrows and crashed to the road below, pulling dozens of smaller (relatively) rocks with it and blocking one lane of traffic (the lane in which I’d been traveling). Emergency personnel were racing to the scene but were already crediting the poor weather for the light traffic in the canyon and the absence of any vehicular damage or casualties.
I sat for a moment, the steam from my tea warming my face, and wondered…. what if I hadn’t had the car trouble that caused me to speed up? How far back might I have been if I’d been traveling at a normal speed? Far enough to have been caught in the rock slide? Or what would have happened if I had hit the canyon a few minutes later and come flying around that blind bend at 50 or 60 mph and encountered 15-ton rock in my lane and the creek on the other side of my car? What then?
Intellectually I know that life is about little hits and little misses and they probably happen all the time. But sometimes, the miss is so huge and so unmistakable that it gives me a moment’s pause. And in that moment, I appreciate whatever set of circumstances caused me to be the lucky recipient of that miss. So I said a little prayer of gratitude, just in case someone is listening, and then I stood up and went to meet with my boss. And my life went on as if there’d never been a rock slide in the canyon that morning.
Just as it should.
Just as it’s meant to.