The town I live in is becoming well-known for several attributes simultaneously. There are several micro brews that have gained national attention, earning us the title “beer town”. ArtPrize and, more notably with great gratitude to the philanthropic spirit of a few key families, Grand Rapids has become a medical hub of pioneering medical research and healing. There is a location on the crest of a ridge that banks the east side of downtown, now know as the miracle mile.
The most recent addition to the gathering of healing and hope is the Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital. Included in this structure is a bridge that spans the major traffic artery to the complex. At first glance the bridge looks like just another effort on the architects behalf to celebrate the architecture for the sake of architecture… a funky looking twisted piece of blue bubble-gum, stretched between the two buildings as some final definitive statement that must have haunted the engineers.
However…during my most recent monthly check up at Lemmon-Holton (an adjoining building), my wife and I had some time in-between procedures. So we wandered through the maze of corridors until we found the bridge. My opinion instantly switched from “why” to “whoa”.
Proceeding through the structure diverted my thoughts from test results and maintaining hope, to wonder and fascination about the view, curiosity and intrigue on how they created this island of diversion and whose initial intention must have been to get people across Michigan Street safely but in doing so allow people to cross over from introspection and fear to sun load and being in the moment, right here, right now.
There was even a few parents with their kids sitting in the structure, collecting their thoughts and having quite conversations. Somewhere in the chaos of this structure there is a deep and solidifying moment of peace. Ether by intention or by defacto… it doesn’t really matter. It’s a place you want to return to. As any parent knows, being at a children’s hospital is a challenge that tests your strengths, what you know about yourself, your spouse, and your faith. That fact that you are there creates enough anxiety to find any place you can escape… if only to cross a few bridges from here… to there… and back again.
On a recent visit to Ann Arbor we stopped at the local landmark Zingerman’s for dinner. Afterwards we continued our constant search for chemical free foods. A quest that is getting easier and easier to address thankfully, with the exception of deli meat.
However, they offer two bacon options that are nitrate free. I was thrilled and bought some. When the dude behind the counter said “we typically cut it 3 mm thick” he included a look as if to say “I bet this balding trunk slammer doesn’t have a clue what 3 mm’s thick is!”
But… being the seasoned furniture junky that I am, and after designing perhaps 10,000 work surfaces in my days… 90% of which have a 3 mm edge band on them, I called his bluff. In heigh-in-sight I should have said “naaaa… how about 3.5 instead?”
It’s there. I know it is. I but it’s funny that I have forgotten enough and experienced it enough to never forget. A pot hole the size of a utility sink. Hidden in the “darkness on the edge of town”. Waiting like a concealed bear trap. Formed from neglect, and easily rectified with a little attention. This… thing… is not picky. It will lay pray and perform for anyone.
It along with several others, are tollgates on my morning commute, when the morning winter sun is still somewhere just off the eastern seaboard and not yet woven through the atmosphere and trees in our mid-continent flat lands. Not yet bouncing off the homes and the buildings and spreading over our vista with ambient light.
I know “the sink” is coming as I roll west, I slow down as I approach it and wait to see if those in the progression know of it too. Most do and they swerve to the right, correct and come back to lane middle.
Today was nothing different… here it comes, swerve, correct… roll on… prepare for the stop light. But today for some reason I noticed a massive pile of slush and snow just past the sink. Road crap that had been knocked off of cars that had not made the self-preserving avoidance maneuver. Cars (people really) that didn’t see it or worse forgot.
And it struck me. This event is reminiscent of our lives. We roll along in a routine. Striving to grow, meet our commitments, do our best, pursue our passions and find some reward in it all. We get to focused on the task and little things from the journey start to stick to us. Pollution in our blood stream. Fat on our hips. Guilt from time we should have spent with the ones we love but let slide… slush and ice on our mud flaps. Our bigger broader vision narrows on a single target.
And then we don’t see the sink, we forget it is there and we slam through it. Jarring our bones, bending a rim, knocking out our alignment. It is sobering and we seek to blame others but really it is our fault. We failed to pay attention.
An illness that could have been avoided. An event that slaps us and wakes us up. Some catastrophic event happens to a friend and suddenly you wish you had spent more time with them. You get a threatening diagnosis and your future is challenged… you hit a sink in the road.
The good news is… really good news… is that we have the ability to proactively address this. We always have the best intentions. We can steer past the uncharted reefs if we keep the big picture in mind and stay in the moment. Humans are wonderful creatures. It’s within our power to not lose sight and live a life that is full enough and balanced enough to contend with the pot holes when they try to swallow us up.
And it’s also good news that we are not steel belted radial tires for a living.
The other night after dinner there was a lull in all the action at our house. With two teenagers that is a moment as rare as a blue moon. In all honesty I didn’t know what to do with myself so I took my camera outside with the intention of finding something, some new way of looking at things that would revel something fascinating. If I looked at a world that I have looked at through so many other filters, through the eyes of a camera, what would I see?
I have looked at this yard through the eyes of a mower, at this house through the eyes of a painter, at the garden through the eyes of watering can. But seldom through the lens of my Nikon. Other than a mass of mosquito bites, here is the brief result.
Lightening bug just before takeoff.
Same bug at takeoff.
Not sure how this picture showed up…it was just there when I downloaded the shots…those sneaky gnomes.
Another lighting bug just before flight.
Same bug in flight. This became fairly fascinating and difficult to capture on with its tail lights on.
Shasta Daisies that evening.
Same flowers the next morning.
I have often found that it takes some effort to get the snowball rolling but once it does, the effort to initiate is forgotten. The hassle of loading kayaks on a car, the hassle of washing a bike, the effort to a hand-made cake, sitting still long enough to read a book like Last of the Mohicans. Peeling back the layers revels the real fruit.