The known but often-forgotten fact of our lives — to expect the unexpected — has been underlined today once again as I turned on my computer to write this column. There had been a number of automatic Microsoft downloads that needed to be configured, and configured, and configured …
The idea of exploring how to expect the unexpected, a precept of “The Green Flash,” was already in mind, so I slipped off my hair cloak of annoyance and donned one of silky patience as I waited. Rather than staring and fuming, I could refocus, using the time to think further so I’d be ready once the go-signal came.
My thoughts turned to a close friend we’d recently lost to an unexpected cause, just as this person learned his long-fought cancer was in remission and was celebrating a new lease on life. I could definitely learn from that, following our friend’s way of living each day as fully as he could. It hit me that my computer wait-time frustration should not even be thought of in the same breath, that it was an ant along the pathway.
My eye fell on the news item I’d circled in last Tuesday’s TGI, somewhat offsetting the shock of earlier personal news. That shock coincided with news of deadly pipe bomb deliveries to national leaders; the synagogue massacre that stemmed from one individual’s fear and hate; the Pentagon deploying the 5,000 armed troops of “Operation Faithful Patriot” to the Mexican border to stave off “a force” of desperate migrants attempting to escape their own regimes of terror and death. And then, there was the tide that rose beyond known proportion that caused the extreme, dangerous flooding of Venice, a city we loved visiting, because the solution of building underwater barriers was delayed — because of corruption.
Aside from this darkness, on “The Green Flash” side, we humans through the brains and engineering of NASA had successfully launched a spacecraft built to withstand the heat of the sun! (That achievement deserves an exclamation mark.) I struggled to comprehend that the Parker Solar Probe broke Helios-2’s 1976 record of 26.6 million miles, and that its two dozen approaches to the burning planet over the next seven years are going to bring that to 3.8 million miles. This very week, Parker will fly through the sun’s corona (outer atmosphere). Here I am, an ant, myself, in my minuscule orbit on an island.
I took a minute to peek through the window of my office at the sun lighting ripening papayas through the clouds. A delicate meijiro (Japanese white-eye) flitted and landed on a bobbing leaf stem, tweeting and dancing delightfully, causing a resident gecko to jump — just as I heard my Dell’s electronic launch tones. I couldn’t suppress a chuckle over this timing.
Small delights — these can alleviate worry and sadness, and keep us level and functioning well, hopefully growing with the tackling or circumventing of each obstacle. I believe my late friend knew this fully.
Some might consider this to be a prescription for putting on “rose-colored glasses” or a denial of feelings about loss and the dangers we face, but others might go with the buoying wave of refocusing in a new light. We could boil it down to the pat phrases of glass half-empty vs. glass half-full types of thought, and the choice of perspective is ours alone.
In this writer’s experience, it’s very much easier to slip into the habit of the first of those. Dispelling the half-empty approach takes more effort in times of disappointed expectation. In keeping to the opposite approach, this takes awareness and practice, such as learning to drive well, using tools, chopping without slicing or losing fingertips, exemplifying good manners and polite behavior even in the face of rudeness and mistreatment, and perfecting whatever practice in which a person desires to become skilled, including the giving of friendship and love. As with editing draft after draft of a poem or story, and learning to dance and play an instrument, a positive and overriding mental outlook to life’s regular challenges and disappointments, and sadness and shock, requires regular practice and attention.
A good question is, when to make time, during an overly busy and committed day? There’s no one answer or suggestion that will work for all. The metaphor of putting-on-the-cloak or “angel mantle” that will lead to a more peaceful, accepting state — if not joy and happiness — may work for some of us, and when needed, a self-imposed “time out” before reacting by whatever method a person perceives such a cool-down period. However, doctors and psychologists tell us that anger is acceptable — when it is truly warranted and channeled away from hurting the self, and others.
Laughter and fun are real tonic, along with uplifting music and being with friends and those we love. “The Green Flash” was blessed to experience all of this over Halloween, when my young confreres in the Community College Orchestra gave up their trick-or-treating and attended a two-hour rehearsal to focus on preparing to play the Winter Concert — and were unexpectedly rewarded with Miss Tochiki’s candies and theme cookies baked by “Cinthy” of the violin section. Our business visit to the Garden Island Credit Union was made special beyond the courtesy that institution’s employees always show. The tellers were costumed as “fortune tellers,” and the loan department was decorated in an underwater theme with the gals togged out (you may have guessed), as (loan) sharks. Ah — humor … I wish some your way now, Dear Readers.
Dawn Fraser Kawahara, author and poet, made her home on Kauai in the 1980s. She and her husband, a retired biology teacher, live with books, music and birds in Wailua Homesteads. Shared passions are travel and nature. The writer’s books may be found in local outlets and on Amazon. For further information, firstname.lastname@example.org.