Those who know me know that I have my feet planted firmly on the line between atheist and agnostic, with a little Buddhism thrown in for effect. So, the story that is about to be told represents an awakening of sorts-a reanalysis of a value that has guided my life for three decades. So here it goes, my story of divine intervention.

A week or so ago I decided to hit the open road and visit the desert. Now ordinarily, the desert is not a place I would care to spend any waking hours-nor hours of deep restful sleep filled with the most fantastic dreams-but this time it was beckoning me. In a breathy, urgent tone I kept hearing, “Come, you must come. See the wildflowers at their peak bloom. Come, you MUST come.” To tell the truth, this was not really the voice of the desert, but that of a biologist friend who harped on me for years about missing the bright orange California poppy bloom every year for twelve consecutive seasons. So, I put on my grubbies, threw a lunch box and camera equipment in the trunk, popped open the sun roof, slid “Heart’s Greatest Hits” in the CD player, and set out for the one and a half hour drive to the California Poppy Reserve in Lancaster. I felt like Thelma, or was it Louise? The one distinguishing difference being I wasn’t so fortunate as to meet up with Brad Pitt in a lonely, desert motel. But, the day’s events were actually more satisfying, or at least more thought provoking.

So there I was, traveling down Route 126 admiring the green rolling hills and plentiful crops that adorned the highway while belting out “Magic Man” at the top of my lungs. The day was spectacularly beautiful; the traffic was divinely civil. I was as happy as a snail after a warm summer’s rain, gliding along and lapping up the splendor of the moment. I was just bursting into the phrase “never seen eyes so blue” when I spotted the amusement park “Magic Mountain” on the right and realized that I was nearing my turn off point. Not missing a note, I reached for the map on the passenger seat and glanced down to check my whereabouts. Satisfied that I knew where I was going, I looked up while vocalizing “Try, try, try to understand, I’m a magic man” and fixed my eyes upon the red light that was now glaring in front of me. In that brief moment, time stood still and the event that was about to unfold was not observed by me, in my body, but by me in some altered, bodiless or formless, detached state. Complete silence enveloped the moment.

There was no time to stop. The red light was there and there was no way of avoiding it. The pileup that would occur from behind would most likely be deadly. The situation that lay ahead might offer a five percent chance of survival. The black Toyota Matrix plunged through the busy intersection at sixty-plus miles per hour barreling straight toward cross traffic coming from the right. The intersection was sprinkled with eight or so sedan-like vehicles and a massive, tan pickup truck just starting to make a left turn. The black Matrix veered sharply to the left to avoid the tan pick-up truck, which was actually not the slightest bit avoidable. Strangely enough, however, the Matrix sailed past the truck within millimeters of collision, jerking back into a straight line and heading straight for the stampede of sedans in its path. Suddenly, the stampede opened up, like the parting of the Red Sea, revealing a void so wide and so clear that the laws of physics could not describe it. The Matrix flew through the void, and behind it the stampede closed the gap as though there had never been a separation.

Meanwhile, back inside my car, my heart thumped with the intensity of the most ferocious thunderstorm. In my mind, I tried to join together the pieces of the puzzle. Red light. Tan pickup truck. Sedan stampede opening. Sedan stampede closing. There was no truly logical explanation. The gap in the traffic could have been a fluke. Flukes are always possible even in the least likely of situations. After all, that’s the definition of a fluke. But that pickup truck. There is absolutely, without a doubt, no way that vehicle could have been avoided. Who was driving that pickup truck? Was it the Magic Man himself? Had he taken the day off to enjoy a spirited blast of excitement at Magic Mountain, only to clock back in just as I came through the intersection? Maybe one day I’ll get to ask him myself, but as long as he’s still on the clock I’d like to request that he postpone that day as long as possible. Oh yeah, and I’d like to say “thanks.”

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