Weather or Not
Lately, I’ve been composing primarily personal blogs, the sort which I rarely indulge in. Oddly enough, I get more comments and e-mails for these hastily written, sentimental posts than I do for the ones over which I labor and toil and craft for days. Hmmmm. lf you would indulge me one more time...
It’s as if nature itself is conspiring to keep me in Colorado.
At the Colorado Springs airport, a violent thunderstorm rolls in just as our plane is preparing to get underway. We sit, grounded, waiting for the storm to pass. Outside, water falls in great, gushing torrents. Inside, it falls from my eyes as well.
I am confronted with the realization that, though I saw the end coming for months, I packed those months so full of friends and fellowship that I never made time for myself; never gave myself time to rest, to reflect, to be alone with the quiet and contemplation; never gave myself time to grieve. Why is it that I finally make this realization when it is too late to do anything about it?
What an odd quirk of human nature that, even in the midst of watching the dreams of our future fall into place, we regret abandoning a past that was not capable of containing or encompassing them.
Odder still that the things that elicit those emotions are very often not flesh and blood, but the composites of far baser materials--wood, glass and steel.
Why is it that tears so quickly sprung to my eyes as I closed and locked the door to my apartment for the last time? Why is that I paused in each room of the place that has sheltered me for the last two years, recalling fondly the events to which those walls have borne witness? Why it it that I cursed my rushed state, always mindful of the ravenous clock, when more time to pause and reflect would have probably made an already melancholy situation that much more difficult?
It’s not the structure that dredges up these feelings, I know, but the memories contained within it. It’s the cumulative recall of a life, or at least a minute sliver cut out of a larger whole and looked at individually. Our first apartment as a married couple. Now lost to me.
When we are finally aloft, I find my eyes glued to the window. The rain has stopped, the sun has punctured the clouds and brilliant shafts of light play softly across the sodden landscape. I am transfixed to the geography of my old life--the urban sprawl abutting wide plains, the play of the rolling hills, the swathes of green, the rise of buildings declaring the proud presence of downtown, the monolithic sentinel that is Pikes Peak watching protectively from more then 14,000 feet above. I take it all in like a famished man who has one last chance at a meal before facing absolute starvation. All too quickly the great plane speeds past and the view is taken from me.
I land in Denver for my connecting flight only to find it delayed for several hours. Waiting for the belated aircraft, I watch the fiery disk of the sun slip beneath the hungry horizon, become swallowed by the mountains and all turn to black.
I am alone. With my thoughts. And more time than I had hoped to find myself with.
I don’t leave Colorado for New York directly. I have a stop to make first. In Cape Canaveral, Florida.
My wife, who has been at Kennedy Space Center assisting with media for several days already, has conjured a VIP ticket for me to attend the launch of Space Shuttle Atlantis. This, however, is not to happen.
It’s as if nature itself is conspiring to thwart my plans.
While the weather in Colorado was making for a soggy takeoff, similar weather was pelting the Florida coast. About the same time I was getting airborne, a massive lightening bolt collided with the orbiter’s gantry superstructure. The lightening rod absorbed the impact as designed, but monitoring equipment recorded the amplitude of the strike at 100,000 amperes, over four times the normal and expected charge. NASA had never had a strike of such magnitude get anywhere near that close to the shuttle and wanted to ensure that no systems had been affected. It was decided to postpone the launch for several days.
This, unfortunately, put the launch window square in the middle of tropical storm Ernesto’s rampage. Officials and engineers I had the pleasure of meeting at various launch functions debated safety procedures back and forth for days, finally deciding to roll the shuttle back into the VAB and try again later in September. Even if I had the time to stay several extra days, it would do no good. New York called. I would have to content myself with a relaxing Florida vacation, swimming off Cocoa Beach and gorging myself on more crab, shrimp, mussels and scallops than a land-lubber like myself should be allowed to consume.
I’ve been so obsessed with all that moving to New York entails that the prospect of actually doing so isn’t even on my radar screen. And perhaps that is OK. It will be real enough, soon enough. Perhaps, right now, I simply need to enjoy this watered down Mojito, the sun on my back and the beautiful wife I won’t see for the next month and rejoice in the fact that, for this weekend at least, I have nothing whatsoever to do but rest, reflect, be alone with the quiet and contemplation; and even grieve.