Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Lady luck

I always have good fortune when I travel, so it’s a wonder I worry so much before taking a trip.  Still, being an uber-Virgo, I need to remind myself of all the times in the past when leaving home meant one miraculous moment after the next.  It didn’t matter if I was taking a road trip all by myself or flying from one end of the country to the other.  Providence continually met me along the way.
Last spring I was contemplating cancelling my trip to Sedona.  There was too much to do around the house and I worried that a week away from home would only compound the busyness of starting a new yoga series all the while trying to carve out time to write another novel.  But after my friend, Sandy, and I coordinated our flights to Phoenix, I was resolved to try and look forward to a much-needed vacation.  Surprisingly, once I had booked the non-stop ticket to Arizona, all of the details easily dovetailed and by August first, I was ready and raring to go. 
Never mind that I wasn’t scheduled to leave until the twelfth.
Arriving at the Detroit Airport well ahead of time, I meandered around the terminal for a while before finding my gate.  As I stood near the spacious window, watching the crew load luggage and refuel the jet, I looked down and found a shiny penny sitting in the sill.  Smiling, I picked it up and noticed that it was dated 1995, the year I first discovered that finding the joy in simple things attracts more of the same.  Pocketing the penny, I knew it was an omen of wonderful things to come.
The flight west was uneventful, save for the boarding process when an obnoxious preteen girl was throwing a fit in the aisle next to my seat.  She was supposed to be next to me, while her overly-permissive parents were on the opposite side of the plane.  After the girl made a particularly snide remark to her mother, she looked at me.  I suppose my Deadpan Teacher Face never fully retired when I left the classroom, as the girl’s eyes widened with surprise. 
Thankfully, a lovely young woman agreed to switch seats so the family could sit together.  “I appreciate your kindness,” I whispered to her as we buckled our seatbelts.  “You just made my morning.”
As the plane lifted off, the sun shone brightly through my window and as we rose above the clouds, I took a deep breath, then let it go.  Tears filled my eyes as they always do when I fly, grateful to transcend time and space for a while on my way to new adventures. 

Of course Sedona was magical.  The mesas were mesmerizing.  The weather, nearly perfect.  Sandy and I hiked our way through miles of Red Rock, laughed through hours of warm conversation, and meditated on the profound beauty of nature.  Throughout the week I often told her, “This is the best vacation I’ve ever had.” 
“Better than Big Sur?” she asked one night as we sat on the deck sipping pomegranate tea.
“Oh, yes,” I nodded.  “Big Sur is gorgeous, but there’s something about this place that opens me up in all directions.”
“Now that your forties are over, what’s your focus for your fifties?” Sandy asked.
“I’ve been giving that a lot of thought lately,” I smiled.  “I’d like to be as creative as I possibly can…in every area of my life.  Yoga classes…writing…gardening…teaching…creating a new home.  I want to live from a place of deep creativity.”
“You’ve already accomplished a lot,” Sandy nodded.  “You’re ready for it.”
“My forties were about practicing a lot of things,” I said.  “I learned how to be a better writer, how to edit, and publish myself.  Now I truly understand how lucky I am…not everyone gets to be fifty.”
Sandy smiled.  “That’s true.”
"I figured out that the most precious thing we have in life is time," I continued.  "What a wonderful way to spend the beginning of a new decade here in Sedona."

The next morning, we visited Bell Rock on the east side of the city.  By then I was used to hiking on shale that often crumbled into gravel.  I had become accustomed to the heat, to staying hydrated by carrying a supply of water in my backpack, and to the steep, often treacherous heights to which we had already climbed.
But Bell Rock was something else altogether. 
Neither Sandy nor I felt as comfortable there as we did in west Sedona.  The energy was very strong and seemed to push on us from all sides.  In fact, Sandy didn’t feel well the entire hike and decided to stay below while I ventured above to see if ascending closer to the summit might alleviate some of the pressure.   She watched as I carefully made my way up the flat, sloped surface, then walked to the shade to get some relief.  Reaching the top was not recommended in the guide book, so when I climbed as high as I could, I leaned against the shale, my feet propped on a rock to steady me. 
Facing the expansive horizon with the peak of Bell Rock behind me, I snapped a few pictures, then sat for a moment, content that while I was precariously balanced on the edge, I was also secure in knowing that I’d be just fine.  Looking over my shoulder, I saw the sun glinting over the crown of the small mountain.  It was breathtaking and I wanted to capture the moment, yet didn’t feel safe enough to turn around.  I tapped the selfie button on my iPhone and as I’m no fan of taking pictures of myself, leaned as far out of the way as possible. 
What a surprise to discover that by accident…or by luck…I had also captured the sun shining not only above the apex of Bell Rock, but also on my face and shoulders.  Later in the day, John Denver’s memorable song echoed in my mind as I shared the picture on my Facebook page, typing, Sedona sunshine on my shoulders makes me more than happy
In response, my friend, Cheri, wrote:  When you get back, you’ll have to show me how you did that.
It was total luck.  I wrote back.  The caption should have read:  Taking a picture of the sunrise, balanced on the edge of a mountain while trying not to fall off into the cactus!  I’m surprised I look so calm.

The night before I flew back to Ohio, I walked around the resort where we were staying and found a brand new, shiny penny on the asphalt.  I said a prayer for Sandy, for all of the people we had met during our week in Sedona, for the pilots who would fly the plane I would be taking the next morning.  Since I was overflowing with peace and grace and bountiful energy, I also prayed that if it were possible, to have the middle seat on the flight be empty so I could have a little more space on the way home. 
Lucky me…the entire row was empty, as well as the seats both in front and behind mine.  Having more than enough room to stretch out and enjoy, I invited the man across the aisle to share my simple abundance.
As the plane soared high above the mesas, I felt a deep sense of gratitude wash over me.  Then and now, I know how blessed I am to have a dear friend invite me on the trip of a lifetime to celebrate the beginning of a new chapter in my life.  I’m more than ready for new adventures as the years unfold.  More than lucky to be here now, just as I am, able to participate in life so fully. 
Another trip to Sedona is in the works for 2017, and I'm eagerly anticipating a hike up Bear Mountain.  In the meantime, I’m open to whatever grace Lady Luck wants to bring my way, all the while knowing that in the end, good fortune is really preparation meeting destiny. 

Sedona sunshine over Bell Rock