Church Street

Sometimes one picture makes an entire day worthwhile.

That isn’t to say, of course, that Thanksgiving, 2004 wasn’t “worthwhile” in its own merits before I got dressed (finally) and walked the dog around the Square around lunchtime. After all, every day is intrinsically worthwhile, and some would argue that red-letter holidays are by nature more “worthy” than so-called Ordinary Time.

All I know is that it’s been rainy and overcast these past few days — yesterday I didn’t walk the dog (a rarity for me) and only left the house to do three loads of laundry at the laundromat down the street. So today when I took the dog on our usual jaunt into and around downtown Keene, I was somewhat desperate for blog-worthy photos. Would Happenstance happen: would the Remarkable spontaneously shine through?

Initially, things didn’t look good. Although I had thought yesterday’s perpetual rain had stopped, when the dog and I left the house this morning, it was drizzly and windy, exactly the type of weather that makes walking with an umbrella impossible. As soon as you put up your umbrella, the wind blows it inside out. As soon as you give into the wind and take your umbrella down, the drizzle turns to downpour. Needless to say, this makes for less-than-ideal photographic conditions: not only did I have to worry about my digicam getting wet, on today’s walk I fought a perpetual battle against a windblown umbrella on one hand and an antsy, tugging dog on the other.

Authorized vehicles only

So I wasn’t expecting Serendipity to show up as I turned the corner onto Church Street; in fact, the only thing I was looking for as the dog and I turned the corner was a trash can in which to deposit a fresh baggie of “business” that Reggie had done while I stood, again, playing tug-of-war with the wind and my umbrella.

New England in general and New Hamsphire in particular is known for its fickle weather, and today was not atypical. As I hurried the dog down Church Street toward the trash receptacle I knew was at the corner of Church and Main, I saw something unexpected. Sudden sunlight. It shone over the roof of Hannah Grimes Marketplace and onto the building across the street, bisecting that facade and the line of trees before it neatly in two, a perfect line between light and dark trailing off into the vanishing point. Geometrically, it was perfect, full of the lines and angles I love. Visually, it was stunning, a glimpse of light in an otherwise overcast scene. And temporally, it was fleeting: as fumbled with the umbrella, leash, doggie-doo bag and camera, I knew that in a snap second the clouds would shift and that sudden sunlight would be gone. Act now — supplies are limited.

This way

I took two pictures of the sudden sunlight on Church Street: the first is the image you see at the top of this entry, and the other is one I deleted. In the span of time between my first and second shutter-snaps, the sun had vanished and a suddenly sunlit brick facade became ordinary again. Now you see it, now you don’t.

I firmly believe that grace is like serendipitous sunlight, sneaking in when you least suspect it to catch you unaware. Today for the first time in my life, I’m spending Thanksgiving alone, turning down a last minute dinner invitation to spend instead the day in stretch pants eating comfort food and lounging with the dog. I don’t think I’d want to spend every Thanksgiving alone, but this year, it feels just right: a chance to contemplate this past year with its monumental comings and goings — first a PhD earned, then a 13-year marriage ended — in a spot of intentional solitude. When I stop to consider what I have to be thankful for this year, I don’t know where to start or stop: although I have regrets about things I have done or left undone, I can’t think of a single thing in my life itself that I would change.

Last week on the drive home from meeting with Tim over tea in the afternoon and my friend “A” (not her real initial) over beer and burritos in the evening, I saw a shooting star drop toward the western horizon. Given the chance to wish upon a star, I didn’t know what to ask for since these days I feel I have everything I could want or need. Although it’s bad luck, they say, to speak your wishes before they’re granted, I’ll share with you my shooting-star wish: trusting the Universe knows exactly what I need, I asked for another year of serendipitous surprise.