Monday, November 13, 2006

Right on Time

Wouldn't it be funny if we left the house and said out loud, "If we leave right now, when we get down to the creek we will see a seal for just a moment." Of course, we can't say that, but that's exactly how it happens. Had we left a minute later, there would be no seal to see. This is no cosmic leap of consciousness, but a simple recognition of how much of life is about being in the right place at the right time. Seeing a seal is very cool this far up Chimacum Creek. We've been walking the creek for a while now, getting to know its tides and seasons, and this was our first seal sighting. Had we not arrived at that moment, we simply would not have seen it. As it was, it only stayed visible for a minute, before it dove under. We never saw it again, in the half mile we hiked along the creek's edge to the bay.

I've always been intrigued by life's intersections, the ones that stop you in your tracks, and make you think about all the steps you've taken to get to this place at just this moment. They don't happen often, but when they do it's always, always memorable.

In 1991, Roger and I had one of those moments. We had flown back east to be with my cousin who had just lost her 48 year old husband to non-hodgkins lymphoma. It was a sad journey, and actually the only time we have ever been back east together. We spent a week in southern Virginia at my cousin's house, rented a car, drove up to DC, spent two days exploring the city, and then flew home to the bay area. While we were in DC, we had arranged to sit in the Senate gallery to hear whatever was being discussed that day, went to the Vietnam Memorial, the Smithsonian. We indulged in all those sights and sounds of our nation's capitol. It was fantastic.

I remembered that I had once come to Washington with my ex-husband Greg (we lived in Rhode Island) and we'd gone to the Old Post Office for lunch. There were lots of little restaurants and shops in the pavilion, and it seemed like a good place to grab a bite to eat. So, Roger and I found our way there, but when we arrived the place was absolutely packed. It's been years, so my memory might be faulty, but it seems to me there were hundreds of little tables everywhere, all full of people eating and talking at once. Chairs scraped against the floor, people moved all over, leaving tables, finding tables. It was utter chaos. We waited a bit, until a table opened and we grabbed it.

We had only been there a few minutes before the diners at the table next ours got up and left, and a new couple sat down right away. I looked up to make eye contact with the person who was seated next to Roger, and for a moment thought that I was seeing the face of the young woman who my ex-husband had started to date while he was still very much married to me. It was a face I thought I'd seen a million times, right after my ex and I had split. Katie's face was everywhere, on a flight attendant on the plane, a bike-rider zooming past me on some trail, a shopper in the local supermarket, the driver in the car next to mine at the red light. It was the face I had seen in my angriest dreams. Here it was again. Roger turned to look at the woman who had just sat down next to him, after following my gaze and the ensuing alarm in my eyes. I turned to look at the man who was now seated right next to me. Was this just one more of those trick sightings like all the others had been? No, it really wasn't! There he was, my ex-husband, sitting as close to me as if we had planned this very crazy and cozy rendezvous. He looked over at Roger and said, "So you must be Roger." Of course, I already knew who Katie was.

Ah yes, that was one of life's memorable intersections. We four sat and had lunch together, very civilly. Greg and Katie were in DC for some work that weekend, and Greg had also remembered the Old Post Office for lunch. So, we inquired about each other's families, talked about why we had come east. We laughed about the absurdity of the moment. Greg and I had only talked to each other quite briefly in the three years since I'd moved to California, and we'd gotten divorced.

Roger and I had taken an extra moment at the Vietnam Memorial, one lingering look at a name. Add the time it takes to figure out how to get from one place to another on the Metro. A table opened up in the food pavilion, and we sat down.
Harbor Seal in Chimacum Creek
Just before we walked out the door, we realized we needed one more layer of clothing to protect from the wind. We talked about a button that needed to be sewn on. We stopped and checked the mailbox. Then we headed down to the creek.

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