A few months ago, I heard that there was about to be a special alignment of several planets over the course of a few days. Inasmuch as the next time such an alignment would occur would be 2052, this event was being touted as something anyone in her right mind would take any measures necessary to see. In my part of the country, it would occur in the eastern sky a little before 4 a.m.
Need I tell you who was up at 3:30 a.m. for the next few mornings, riding her bike to a spot with a great, unobstructed view to the east? And who never saw these planets all clumped together, like the experts said they'd be? And who, on the third pre-dawn of coming up empty-handed, astronomical phenomenon-wise, realized that this was just nuts?
I hung out there for a while, though, and took in the exquisite quiet of a day about to be born: a black, star-studded sky readying to turn indigo, then ever-so-gradually giving way to such incomparable shades of blue that they, themselves, were astronomical events. And I thought about how interesting it is that so many of us go to what can be great lengths to witness once-in-a-lifetime events such as this when the media makes a big deal about it. It didn't escape me right then that every single thing we do is a potential once-in-a-lifetime event. Life is so fragile, so very unpredictable. And while I am busy chasing rare planetary alignments, I neglect the fact that there is no guarantee that I will ever even visit my library again. Or hug that friend. Or tell that favorite family story. Or change a child’s diaper. I have no way of knowing whether anything that happens won’t be my last opportunity to experience it and be grateful for it. But, by God, I needed to see those planets enough to get on my bike at 3:30 a.m.! We humans are so funny.
As I grow older and become less and less surprised at how life can bring drastic changes in a nano-second, I am working toward treating seemingly ordinary events as the potentially extraordinary events that they might indeed be. While I didn’t see that rare astronomical alignment, I did witness a sunrise that still lingers in my memory. Surely that ended up enriching my life more than what I set out to see.
My wish for us all this holiday season and the coming year is that we have serendipitous glimpses of how once-in-a-lifetime events may be taking place all around us and that we are graced with whatever it takes to truly appreciate them.