The morning of March 25 we were on I-5 in Oregon, headed to Palm Desert, California, to find sunshine and do some bicycle riding. While Ken drove, I pondered what to write for my next column. It was cold and gloomy outside, affecting my mood. Our long Northwest winters can be so depressing.
Amidst the gloom, I noticed a few splashes of color outside, the pink of flowering cherries, the pure white blossoms on fruit trees, and bright nodding daffodils, all braving the cold. Through the gray clouds, a brief glare of sunshine shone through, and we lowered our windshield visors. For some reason I thought of the first line of T.S. Eliot’s poem, “The Waste Land,” which begins with the words, “April is the cruelest month, breeding lilacs out of the dead land, mixing memory and desire…” I said to Ken that March seems pretty cruel, then I searched with my iPhone and found an interpretation of that opening line. “April is the cruelest month because the life and color of spring throws one’s depression into stark relief and forces painful memories to surface.”
As I looked down at my phone to read further about this intriguing line of thought, I heard a terrific bang, like a gun going off. When I looked up, the windshield was concave, and had shattered in place, mostly on my side. Ken said we’d been hit by a bird, a large pheasant that came out of nowhere. We were peppered with glass fragments. He kept the car steady and drove toward a nearby exit into Medford, Oregon. We found a car wash and vacuumed the glass from the car’s interior. We discovered a beautiful, black and white striped wing feather trapped in the broken bike rack. I felt sad for the bird.
Had I not lowered my visor, and had I been looking straight ahead instead of looking down at my phone, my face — and probably my eyes — would have been badly cut. I felt so grateful and very much alive. No time for depression now!
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Luckily, we were in a large town, but it was Sunday, so no windshield repair shops were open. We made our way to a hotel located near shops and restaurants. Phone calls to our son, then the insurance company followed. After covering the shattered windshield with a tarp, we took a few deep breathes, and decided to make the best of a difficult situation.
For the next two days, we went with the flow. There were relaxing meals at the restaurant nearby, where we met a man who was traveling home from his aunt’s memorial service. He showed us a picture of her on her wedding day, wearing a long silk bridal gown. We meandered through the original Harry and David store, and tasted some interesting wine. On Monday, we taxied to historic Jacksonville, walked the town and had dinner at our favorite bistro.
Wherever we went, we told our tale of woe. People empathized and were especially friendly, wishing us good luck and a quick repair.
At the repair shop that Tuesday — also Ken’s 70th birthday — a young woman receptionist who turned 20 that day and had delicate sparkly crosses painted on her fingernails, helped us pass the time.
Funny how in spite of the accident — or maybe because of it — my spirits were lifted. We’d avoided injury, met so many good people and received encouragement from friends and family.
I sent a picture of our smashed windshield to my brother John. He wrote back in a text, “Wow. The universe wanted to slow you guys down.”
He got that right!