I suppose the expectation that life should be easy is traceable directly to Ward and June Cleaver. Or maybe it is the persistent human capacity for hope. Or maybe it’s electricity. Or maybe it’s central heat and the automatic washing machine. Whatever it is, I can imagine old Ugg and his lovely mate, Growler, hunching over their evening fire wishing for a dryer cave or a fresh kill to soften their existence sometimes in late pre-history. It wasn’t easy. It never has been.

But we keep trying to make it so. More money, better car, nicer TV, and the list goes on and on. Then the unexpected comes along. For old Ugg and Growler, it was probably a raid from the neighboring clan, or an unexpected cold snap, or a piece of leftover Saber Tooth Tiger steak somewhat past its use-by date. Maybe it wiped them out, or one of them, or set them back into a “darker” age. All we know is that somebody survived. Then there is us.

More recently, I remember having a brand new ’76 Oldsmobile Cutlas. Life was good. Going places was easy. I went for an overnight hike, one November night, in the woods down in East Texas and slept on the marge of a shallow lake by my fire snuggled into my sleeping bag. The next day I hiked out to that brand new Oldsmobile and proceeded to lock my car keys in the trunk. I was on a remote road. Have yet to see another car. The quality of my life seemed to dwindle some. There was a screwdriver.

After a while, I managed to drive the trunk lock out with my boot as a hammer applied to the screwdriver. I retrieved my keys and was on my way. Then, a few miles down the main highway, the brand new Oldsmobile began to wobble badly and I pulled off the road to see what the trouble was. A wheel had slipped off it’s bearing and was resting against the fender, which was the only thing that kept it from cavorting out across the field and into the woods. The quality of my life began to dwindle even more. Hey, I said, this is supposed to be easy and fun!

It occurred to me that whatever else I supposed my life to be, that for the moment it was all about being stranded on the side of the road in what was fondly called Deep East Texas. Deep seemed to fit. The short version goes like this: I found a phone after a short walk and called my wife and the nearest Oldsmobile dealer. Help was on the way. Meanwhile I considered my condition. Good health, a little money in my pocket, and a leftover “joint” from somewhere. It was, after all the mid-seventies. So I lit up and leaned back against that tilted wheel, and waited. I began to see clearly. All I lacked in my life was mobility. If it had not been for this expensive pile of useless automobile, I would have put on my pack and hiked to the McDonald’s in the next town and resumed my life. Then I realized that none of this had a thing to do with the quality of my life. It was my life.

It was a lesson I sometimes forget: what’s happening in my life now is what my life is all about. Not what I wish was happening, or dread will happen, but what’s going down now.

I shouldn’t want to miss it.
. . . Aw, hell. Sometimes, I think I’d like to miss just a little of it, now and then. If you know what I mean.

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