Thursday, July 30, 2020

When Your Cottage Doesn't Catch Fire

When you begin your morning thinking that your back yard cottage is on fire, the rest of the day seems easy.  I'll spoil the tension:  the cottage was not on fire.

Yesterday, I was almost ready to go to work when my spouse called me from the back yard.  His voice had the urgency that told me either something was wrong or there was an unusual animal in the back.  I hurried to the back of the house to see smoke coming from the roof of the cottage. 

I waited 20 seconds before I went inside and dialed 911.  The operator was calm, and I was calm-ish.  My voice quivered, but I was able to tell her what I saw and where I was and my phone number.  Then my spouse came in to tell me that it was a false alarm.  Smoke was coming out of everyone's plumbing stack.

The water company had told us they were doing a smoke test and that we might see smoke, but probably not.  I envisioned smoke the way I used to draw it out of a chimney, a slender thread.  I didn't expect to see gray smoke chugging out of the roof.

Even though I told the dispatcher that it was a false alarm, she sent the firetrucks anyway.  They were very kind.  They said, "Better that you call us and not have an emergency than to have an emergency and not get help."  The police officer who showed up later was also understanding.

I was pleased that I performed well under pressure.  I don't want to be one of those people who freezes and can't act--or worse, that falls apart in hysterics.  I was glad that I remembered my address.  But more than that, I have been trained since childhood to call 911 in an emergency.  Happily, I've never had to do that. 

Now in the past 6 weeks, I've had to make that call twice.  The first was for a student who was having chest pain and tightness and tingling in his left arm.  He was young and looked like he was in good shape, but the symptoms were close enough to heart attack symptoms that I decided it was better to call 911 than not.  He was fine, although there was some irregularity revealed by the tests that the paramedics used.  They wanted to take him to the ER, but he declined since he was sure he wasn't in danger of a heart attack.

As I said, the rest of the day felt easy yesterday.  At 1:00, I watched the new poet laureate of Virginia being sworn in.  Maybe these events have always been livestreamed and/or recorded, and I just didn't know it--but one of the benefits of this recent time is realizing how many of these events need to be livestreamed and recorded to reach a larger audience.  It was so inspiring to watch--it would have been inspiring regardless, but it was even more so because I know Luisa Igloria, the new Poet Laureate.

As I watched, I made this Facebook post:  "I am watching Luisa A. Igloria's acceptance speech--she's being sworn in as the Poet Laureate of Virginia. How cool that we can all watch, even if we can't travel to Virginia. And even more wonderful to know that she was chosen--it gives me great hope for the future, both the future of poetry and the future of the country. It wasn't long ago that a female would not have been chosen, an immigrant would not have been chosen, a non-white poet would not have been chosen. She's an amazing poet, and I'm so happy that she's been chosen!"

I ended the day by reading Timothy Ware's The Orthodox Church, a history of various types of Orthodox Christianity.  It's more compelling than it sounds, although I confess I likely would not have picked it up if it wasn't required reading for my certificate program in spiritual direction.

Throughout the day, my equilibrium didn't slip.  I don't recommend a 911 call as a way to trigger gratitude at the beginning of every day, but maybe the idea that we're not calling 911 can trigger gratitude too.

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