I have often told myself I would see the wind farm of Van Wert close up. I have had ample opportunity to do so in the past, but until today never took the opportunity. I know it is peculiar to want to see what is becoming commonplace , but for me the Van Wert farm is the visual marker between two geographies of terrific importance and as such resides vividly in my imagination. Today I finally left route 30 and traveled the back roads to see the turbines up close. It is a simple matter really, but who knows if and when I would see them again.Seeing a wind farm is not really a “bucket list” thing, but how unusual and sad it would be not to see up close something that fascinates me. And how sad not to do anything for which we have an opportunity. Today after arriving back to the city I turned on NPR and listened to an interview with Studs Terkel in a Dominick’s parking lot. He referred to a eulogy where someone said, “tomorrow is never promised to us.” And it is Memorial Day and I was reminded there have been millions to which there was no tomorrow, but from whom millions more owe their tomorrows.
I did not think of it when I was snapping pictures of the metallic monsters in the early Ohio morning. I also did not think of it during the other memorable Ohio moments. But when I listened to those words, a feeling of incredible appreciation came over me. I had, in the last few days, done those things for which there may be no tomorrow, not because the opportunities may not be there, but who knows when my life or any life I move in may be required. We do go through life as if we had forever. And for the first time in a great while I had lived with the reality of finitude.
The actions were not big in the eyes of the world. They involved family and friends and walks through familiar geographies. I returned to my home state without any plans. I ate fattening foods, walked hiking trails, talked with friends, and saw movies. And I treated the time with others and in solitude as gift. I observed the landscape and listened as people and places spoke to me. Yes….I had a very good return and as I listened to the words of Terkel, I realized that living in the moment was the message in the eulogy, but it is really only one half of the story. It was not lost on me that we need to take life while we can, but I also garnered the appreciation that tomorrow had been afforded to me.
During the previous weeks of harshness, I could only think of coming home. But at that time a return to Ohio was a tomorrow and something that was never guaranteed. Upon coming back to the city and hearing the words of the eulogy, I realized I had my tomorrow.
On a 2.3 mile loop path in metro Columbus I am hiking what is considered a trail of moderate difficulty, but still not so difficult that it could not be frequented by families and those with some age. I run into a man much more youthful than his age with his two young girls. They are dawdling around and I slow down to let them have their space on the trail until I am able to pass them. As I do, we exchange those greetings that are common to hiking culture and the younger girl says something about trying to catch an eagle. I smile and give her some words of encouragement and make my way to an observation deck overlooking the Olengtangy where people go to spot an increasing population of bald eagles. I do not see any, but I do see this man and his girls having sandwiches as I come back down the other side of the loop and in a thick German accent, he asks if I have seen any eagles. I tell him no and asks if they are common in Ohio. He says he does not think so and I relate to him the only time I have ever seen a bald eagle was in the Starved Rock area. I leave their presence and realize that seeing such a charming family was one more gift on this trip of gifts. Why was anyone such as me afforded any of these beautiful tomorrows?
And I returned to the city and listened to the words of Terkel. I thought of all those others who gave so much more than I and that they should have been the ones with my tomorrows. I thought of the young men who had marched off and seen the beautiful forests of the Pfalz only in battle. I also thought of those little girls on the trail and how much I wanted them to have all those tomorrows that I had.
It is Memorial Day and I realize we do not live forever. I do know tomorrow is not promised to any of us. I only hope and pray that when we have our tomorrows they can be known to us.