Friday, June 28, 2013

There Are No Coincidences

Borrowed from Flora Bowley's Brave Intuitive You message
I have a friend who believes "there are no coincidences" (some people read this as, "there are no mistakes"). I love that idea - perhaps because, from a certain perspective, I have made so many mistakes in my life! What a relief, to be able to see some logic, and in some cases, even blessings and wisdom, in what appeared at one time to be an awful error of judgment or action.

This doesn't take away my responsibility for my actions and their results; it just puts them in a larger field of vision, and allows me to find value in them, rather than condemnation. I'll take value over condemnation any day!

Yesterday, I took a leap of faith and traveled to Canada to meet Elizabeth Aquino, a friend I have known through our blogs for several years. Her blog, a moon, worn as if it had been a shell, is one of my favorites. Elizabeth is a gifted writer, a hilarious woman, a kind and loyal friend, a devoted, compassionate caregiver and an insightful human being. I've wanted to meet her, but since she lives in California and I live up here, the opportunity has not presented itself...until this week.

Elizabeth won a week of respite from the wonderful organization Caregifted. She chose to spend it in Victoria, B.C., and if you're a regular reader here, you know how I feel about that city. I sent a packet of information to her about things to see and places to go, and she invited me to visit her. I took her up on that offer, left my home at 6:00 A.M., caught a ferry across the Strait of Juan de Fuca and arrived around 10:00 A.M. in that inviting, breathtakingly beautiful city.

Before I write about our visit, can you suspend disbelief for a few moments while I tell you what happened on the boat on the way over? Because it is a crazy "coincidence," - only there are no coincidences.

A couple of years ago, we were invited by friends to the All Academy Military Ball in Seattle. Their daughter has been a classmate of David's since the 1st grade, and I love her. She is a student at West Point Military Academy, and the ball is an event they share with other military academies. It was a privilege to attend.

The speaker at the ball was a retired Colonel named James Wilhite. He is the author of a book called "We Answered the Call: Building the Crown Jewel of Afghanistan." If you haven't seen the book, I recommend that you take a look at it - it's an inspiring, fascinating and unforgettable story. I bought two copies of his book - one for my dad, and one for our friend Fred (both veterans of WWII).

Yesterday, as I packed for the day, I was moved to bring a copy of my book and card. When I boarded the MV Coho (ferry), I sat down at a table and started to read some articles I had packed. Two ladies and a gentleman approached and asked if they could join me. I said, Yes, and returned to my reading. I tried to mind my own business, but I noticed their southern accents. I also heard the man speaking about Sandhurst and then heard him say something about founding a military academy in Afghanistan.

My head snapped up, and I looked across the table at the ladies. "Excuse me; did he write a book? Did he speak in Seattle a couple of years ago?" Yes, he did...Col. James and Mrs. Wilhite were sitting with me, along with their good friend, Ann.
Colonel Wilhite with me on the MV Coho
You can imagine that we talked for the entire crossing. We talked about the Colonel's mission in Afghanistan, updates on that story and his work. A number of other overlapping "coincidences" in our lives were revealed in the conversation. They asked me why I was traveling; asked about my book, and what I do, so I spoke that, and gave them the copy of my book which I had packed in my bag. By the time we parted after going through Customs, we all hugged.

I knew that I was in the right place at the right time was no coincidence.

After leaving the Wilhites, I met Elizabeth in front of the Empress Hotel. We went to have coffee and a snack, and talked without stopping for two hours. Then we walked to meet another blogger, the talented artist Kim of Art in Red Wagons, who had come to see Elizabeth from another part of Washington. We walked to a pub, ate lunch, and talked more.
Kim and Elizabeth with me at the Irish Times pub in Victoria, B.C.
Those four hours of conversation and sharing snapshots of our lives passed in a flash. Part of me wished we could have continued all day, and into the night over glasses of wine, but when meeting bloggers from far away, I have learned (there are no mistakes!) to be a bit careful and (as Gregg often says), ""

I am thankful for the encounters of the day - a couple of miracles, if you consider the odds of both - and look forward to whatever the future holds.
Birthday dinner with my parents at Marche on Bainbridge Island (Greg & Betsy Atkinson's gem of a restaurant)
Birthday flowers from the SFDWG


Gabriele said...

My heart filled up, reading your words. I feel this so much, the last few years.

I love it: go. in. slowly. I should tattoo that somewhere handy. Or engrave it on the inside of my glasses.

Elizabeth said...

Yes, there are no coincidences. I'll add that our daughters -- your beautiful Katie and my beautiful Sophie -- were born on the same exact day, astral twins, of a sort! I loved meeting you, Karen, and can't tell you how much I appreciate you coming to see me. I know that we'll be fast friends for a long, long time.

Kim Andersen said...

it was a joy to meet you - and my day ended up similarly to yours - in that I met and talked for hours with strangers as if we had always known one another forever. A sweet lady on the bus shared her journey through life from skirts and heels in the fifties to several years in London as a model to family life in Canada to cancer and a stroke and in all that time never driving a car! And another woman traveling with her husband from Montana - a high school art teacher - and we had so much to talk about - from teenagers to art techniques and how art is a bridge for those kids. It was a truly fine day - thank you for your leap of faith to travel up to see Elizabeth - wasn't it fun?!

Karen said...

What a wonderful adventure...strangers who meet and "know" each other...and bloggers who click. They make some good kindred spirits, don't they!

Karen Gerstenberger said...

Me, too, Gabriele! That's why he says it. I need to be reminded.

Karen Gerstenberger said...

It was a pleasure Elizabeth. I hope you'll be back again - or come to Washington - and we can continue the convo... Xoxo

Karen Gerstenberger said...

It was, Kim. I am so glad that your day was full of delights, too. It's quite incredible about both of our journeys to see Elizabeth. I enjoyed getting to know you & seeing your blog & etsy site since coming home. You are talented!

Karen Gerstenberger said...

They do, Karen. I am so looking forward to the day when you & I finally meet face to face!

Busy Bee Suz said...

I actually remember you writing about attending the military ball! ( My Cuz graduated from West Point)
What a chance encounter to 'run into' a person you've seen before WHILE reading his book? Really? That is crazy good.
I'm so glad you had such a nice visit with 'new' old friends; blogging is a great avenue to meet new people.

On a different note: you've always been a wonderful writer in my eyes. I'm never bored reading anything you write; whether it be emotional or day to day stuff. BUT, I've noticed lately that your writing is becoming even BETTER. Just the way you phrase things and move from one part to another. Must be that writing group of yours. :)
Love to you and yours.

Karen Gerstenberger said...

Suz, thank you for your encouraging words. They mean a great deal, especially as I haven't been as regular a writer here lately as I wish I could be. Your kindness knows no bounds. Please thank your cuz for his service, & congratulate him for me!