The First Time

This is excerpted from a longer article titled The Intersection of Coincidence and Providence.

My morning journal entry was the first time I mindfully wrote the words “be open to coincidence,” pay attention, and use that as a guidepost for your choices.  Over the subsequent years, there have been occasions where I exercised this openness and, with each, my confidence and trust in something higher than myself has grown along with a deepening belief that I do not walk this world alone.

Last year, I visited a dear friend who had recently moved to Portland, and for this trip, I chose my Dad’s film camera.  In the aftermath of his death, my mother had given it to me, and it had only recently returned from being refurbished.  It’s funny; I don’t remember him ever using it but, then again, my sensitivity and awareness of cameras and photography were not as acute as they are today.  The Minolta is simple, reliable and steady - much like my Dad who used to refer to himself as the common man's common man.  It was unusual for me to choose this camera for this trip as I had not much time behind the lens before sending it off for repair and I was uncertain of how it would meter light, the frame, and, importantly,  the quality of the photographs it would produce.

Carrying it for the first time, I realized it hung from a cumbersome, annoying and unattractive strap that, while aggravating, was, and still is,  too precious for me to toss.  Instead, I found myself in Portland, behind this untested camera,  shooting away and being constantly reminded of my Dad by the maladjusted strap.   So Ironic.  He would be the first to grimace at the smallest discomfort and would have laughed at me and the effort expended to slide the camera across my chest and raise the viewfinder to my eye.  So it was that he was on my mind.  Each release of the shutter seemed to resonate with some memory of him.  

The days were filled with activity as Patrick and I adventurously set about discovering his new hometown covering more ground in the weekend then he had in the weeks prior and prepping for the arrival of his family at the end of the month.   Suddenly, and without sufficient warning, it was  Sunday and time for me to return to Southern California and my husband who was waiting there.. 

A trusted traveler I know the routines of security well, and, while unnecessary,  it remains a habit to remove my watch and jewelry before queueing.  I routinely and carefully place them in my bag as I have for years, and so it was a surprise when, as I began to redress, I didn’t find all of them in my handbag.   With security’s assistance, I recovered two of my three bracelets and my watch and, considering myself fortunate for having found most of it,  started to pull myself together and make my way to the gate.  That's when I saw it.

Looking down, one last time, into my handbag I noticed, off to the side, upside down on the ground, a baggage claim ticket.   Figuring it was mine, I picked it up and turned it over to see,  not my name, but my Dads.  It was for an Alaska Airlines flight leaving that day from Portland to Redlands, CA. It resonated even more so because the last trip my Dad and I ever took together, to celebrate his 80th birthday,  was to Alaska.  There I stood staring at his name and the word Alaska.  It was a thunderbolt poking bruises too raw from grief and echoes in empty spaces where he used to be.  It struck me hard, the coincidence of it.  Or was it providence?   I'm still not sure.  The sense of being off balance and falling while synchronously being buoyed by the spiritual connectedness of it was both off-putting and reassuring.

I now carry this claim check with me as a talisman imbued with the spirit of my Dad, the simple joys of the weekend in Portland, and the many times where I have stalwartly stood at the intersection of Coincidence and Providence.  Occasionally I pull the baggage claim check from where I keep it and sit with it for awhile thinking of my good fortune, my Dad, and how his spirit walks with me through this life.  I like that.