Every year, Mary and I take part in the bi-annual pedestrian and bike count for Allen County.
Mary takes care of getting us signed up. So, on Saturday morning, when I woke up, she announced that she signed me up to count today. Mary only remembered to get us signed up the night before after I was already in bed.
“All right.” I wasn’t happy about this disruption of my morning plans. I had to sit out on the bike path for two hours sometime between 7:00 AM and 12:00 Noon. So, I waited until the last moment and made it to my spot on the bike path at 9:50. My assigned place was near the pedestrian bridge across the Ottawa River at Faurot Park. It was a beautiful morning, and I grizzled to myself, “I could be riding on this path rather than sitting on it.”
As soon as I sat down, a group of cyclists passed, and I noted their gender and number on my clipboard. "Is the bike path open that way," I yelled?
“Yes. It’s open all the way to Ottawa Metro Park.”
Now I was feeling sorry for myself; the bike path was wide open. In the first twenty minutes, there were at least 20 people who passed me on bicycles. I was feeling glum.
I stuck a sketch pad in my bag before I left home, “At least I can try to do some sketching while I’m stuck here,” I muttered to myself. So, I started trying to figure out how to draw the pedestrian bridge on my little sketch pad.
A few people I knew stopped to chat, and others just waved and shouted greetings to me. I became more engrossed in my sketch while keeping one eye on the bike path to make sure I was counting anyone who passed me. As I sketched, I noticed an “old guy” standing on the path in front of me. When I say “an old guy,” I mean someone about my age. He wore shorts and a tee-shirt with a light jacket slung over his shoulder. His bald head gleamed in the sun. “How are you coping with this situation?” he asked me.
I was trying to figure out if I knew him. “Well, when I retired last year, I planned to do a lot of traveling. I am supposed to be In Idaho right now. Plans change.”
“What did you retire from?”
“I worked in mental health,” I said.
"I am a psychologist," he told me, "and I was a Catholic priest for five years."
“I am a social worker, and I was a Catholic priest for eleven years.”
For the next hour, Dr. Jack Miller, who grew up in Lima, told me about his work in grief and creativity. He conducts workshops and seminars all over the world, helping people to learn to cope with and recover from trauma and grief through creativity. It’s called The Phoenix Project. He told me how he came to do the work, including his study at the Jung Institute in Zurich, Switzerland.
Hmm! If it hadn’t been for Mary’s forgetting to sign us up until the last moment, I might have done my counting shift earlier in the week. If it hadn’t been for my grumbling, I might have shown up earlier that day to do my count. If it hadn't been for the C-virus, I would be out traveling. But instead, I met this fascinating guy and got started on my sketching.
I came back from the encounter, feeling like I was where I needed to be.
Sometimes my plans get put aside
– a tandem ride, a National Park trip, a disrupted schedule.
Something shows up.
Somewhere I am supposed to be.
Someone I am supposed to meet.
Something I am supposed to learn.
Sometimes my plans get put aside.
If I am open, I can learn something.
If I can set aside my ego and let go of “my way” for an instant, something magical might happen.
If I’m open -- If I’m accepting -- If I’m just a bit humble --
That’s a lot of “If’s.”
Oh yes, I also finished the sketch of the bridge, which turned out to be pure crap, but it inspired me to go back and keep trying.
Stay curious. Stay flexible. Stay loose.
This moment is fleeting and so interesting. I don’t want to miss it.