Tag Archives: life

Pompeii

9 Dec

“It was all unknown to me then, as I sat on that white bench on the day I finished my hike. Everything except the fact that I didn’t have to know. That it was enough to trust that what I’d done was true. To understand its meaning without yet being able to say precisely what it was . . . . To believe that I didn’t need to reach with my bare hands anymore. To know that seeing the fish beneath the surface of the water was enough. That it was everything. It was my life — like all lives, mysterious and irrevocable and sacred. So very close, so very present, so very belonging to me. How wild it was, to let it be.” – Cheryl StrayedDSC02087pp

Do you know what has surprised me the most about life?

You grow up and you think about building a life — deliberately, brick by brick. You go at it. Stacking them just so, building something that is strong and straight. You know, a solid foundation. Something that is disciplined and noble. That you can be proud of. That is not tarnished by oozing mortar or fireplace soot.

And then you step back and you look at your brick wall.

And it looks like the fucking Pompeii ruins.

Has anyone else had that experience. The soup-sandwich-clusterfuck-of-a-life experience?

And then there are moments when the sun hits your shitty-brick-wall-ruins just right, when wind blows across its rough edges just so. When the magic of the place courses through you. When the miracle of the fact that something you’ve built still stands — something! — strikes you. The beautiful mess of it all. The speckled dust of goodness in it.

That’s the thing I didn’t expect in life. How messy it all is. That messy is okay. That messy can dazzle, in its own crazy way.

Oh, my twenties. What a decade.

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My Grandparents Are in Nat Geo!

15 Jul

My grandparents in a June 2012 spread in National Geographic. The caption: “Newlyweds Alaina and Justin Crowder pose with a couple who paused while strolling on Kill Devil Hills beach to wish the youngsters good luck.”

In this life, there are many people who have helped and inspired me, in ways big and small.  Perhaps one of the most formative of those people is my Grandad, who passed away a year ago.  A lifelong reader of National Geographic, last month he finally made it in there himself.

My Grandad married my grandmother at age 18, days before enlisting to fight as a B-24 navigator in World War II.  All in all, he flew 22 Allied combat missions, with a pilot who didn’t have a driver’s license.

They were part of The Greatest Generation: a pack of Americans who grew up in the Great Depression and, when called, with little education and little personally in the offing, went abroad to fight on foreign lands because, quite simply, it was the right thing to do.  And then came home and built this country into a superpower.

For the son of a trolley car driver, my Grandad lived a life that exceeded all expectations: Colonel in the Air Force, prolific world traveler (visiting over 100 countries!), rock-solid marriage of 67 years.  [And who, along the way, raised 5 boys, the middle of which is my father.]

I came to really know him in my early 20s, and my Grandad was one of the first people to believe in me.  He thought I was a neat person and, at that point in my life, it meant a lot.  He taught me that life is what you make it.  But the big full color lesson was: Time is life’s currency.  When you think back on your life, you’re going to think back on how you spent your time.

Which makes you think — what if life is not measured by making, building, collecting?  What if you already have every minute you’re ever going to have?  What if life is not about saving pennies and dollars, but about spending minutes and hours?

If I learned about life from my Grandad, then I also learned about death.  It really is the great equalizer, and you can’t die the way you live.  If life is a grand adventure, then death is the last stop: home.  When your stop comes — when you arrive home again after a long journey — you pick up your knapsack, you tip your cap, you take a deep breath, and you step out.  Even if your life has been a struggle — and isn’t that what it is, a beautiful struggle? — death is about acceptance.  A sigh of relief, a pleasant smell in the air, a familiar rustle in the wind.  It’s about coming home.