Sunday, September 29, 2013

Life can seem so arbitrary...

When we arrived at the hotel in Rio de Janeiro yesterday morning, we had been up all night...10 hours non-stop from Houston.  Of course, everyone was exhausted and anxious to get to their rooms for a quick nap.  When I arrived at my average, run-of-the-mill "crew room" on the 12th floor, it was a rat's nest.  Either it was still occupied (inhabitants must have stepped out for a moment) or it had not been yet been tended by the maid staff.  In any event, this is NOT the eventuality you want to encounter after a long, sleepless night.  I found a maid just down the hall who informed me, in VERY broken English, that I should "go to lobby...get new room".  So I did.

The very nice lady at the front desk was so apologetic for my inconvenience.  She stepped away and returned a few minutes later saying, "Again, I apologize.  I hope that you'll enjoy a newly renovated, oceanfront room!"  Well, if you insist...

My room is on the 3rd floor in an area of the hotel reserved for very frequent guests and VIPs.  For reference, the lobby is on the 5th or 6th floor.  When I opened my door and stepped inside, the view took my breath away!  I'm likely 15-20 feet above the sand but the expansive view off of my lanai makes it feel as though I could dip my toes in the surf.  And what surf it is!  The Atlantic is crashing around huge, waterbound boulders just feet away.  I immediately turned off the air conditioning and opened the doors wide.  The sight, the smell, the sound of waves crashing...seemingly all around me, the sensation of the slightly salty ocean breeze wafting in, and the comforting, familiar "taste" of the sea all serve as "centering" forces in the midst of life's pressing insurgencies on one's humanity.  

For example...

Last night, I was mesmerized by the sight and sound of the rising tide, seemingly right at my feet.  Even after dark, the hotel assures that the beach is well-lit, so visibility is excellent.  In the sand, just to the left of the monument-sized boulder immediately outside my room, I noticed a smallish, roughly cone-shaped figure lolling back-and-forth in the surf.  At first, I thought it was some surf or boogey board apparatus but the longer I watched it, the more substantial this "body" appeared.  I soon realized that it was a small marine mammal, dead, washed up by the tide.  Back-and-forth it rolled, on the sand, back out into the surf.  The lifeless body, I determined, was a small seal.  From a distance, it appeared "whole" and unblemished, yet animated only by the ceaseless action of the sea.  I stepped away from the lanai for a few minutes and when I returned, it was gone.  Was I the first person ever to have seen this tiny being?  Was I the last?

Just prior to leaving home on this trip I learned that a pilot colleague at my airline employer died while operating one of our flights from Houston to Seattle on Thursday night.  Apparently, he suffered a major cardiac event while at the controls and, despite the best efforts of many capable, caring individuals, he later died at a hospital in Boise, Idaho.  While I did not know "Rocky" Skillern personally, we have several mutual friends and acquaintances.  I've since learned that the heart attack that lead to his death was likely a totally unforeseen event.

The seeming randomness of life fascinates me.  Yet, on some level, I believe that every event is related, that the seeming randomness is actually just a limitation of our ability to comprehend what it all means.  Underscoring that belief is how, as I sit here in "paradise on Earth" with no worries, no cares, I can't help but think about life and lives that never directly touched my own.

By virtue of those thoughts, aren't the lives of Tony Reece and Rocky Skillern, in fact, connected?  Isn't all life related in some fashion?

Rest in peace, Rocky.

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