Now that we have talked about how I spent my birthday, let us chat about how I wanted to spend it.
I desired an escape. I craved outdoor time. I yearned to get away from it all. What I really wanted for my birthday, was to go stand on the Space Needle’s roof.
Some background might make me sound a hair less crazy. The Seattle World’s Fair, and the opening of the Space Needle, was in 1962. They repainted the roof the same metal-orange tint for the fiftieth anniversary. One of my friends got to help.
How could I not be jealous of her? Nothing between you and the skyline. Mountains, lakes, skylines; all with no pesky windows, people, or even guardrails to get in your way. You get a safety tether, sure. But really, it is you and the scenery. The Space Needle is no longer the tallest building in Seattle. I was okay with that. I was fine with getting paint on my shoes. I just wanted to go play.
For the sixtieth anniversary, they decided to repaint the roof the same colors. When you are an historic landmark, you get to repeat yourself. This time, though, they made a contest out of it. They asked for people to send in notes and explain why they should be chosen. I told them that I had worked in the area for decades and wanted one more feather in my cap. I left out the part that it would take place the day before my birthday. I did not want to come across as trying too hard. Maybe that was a mistake, because they did not pick me.
I keep telling myself that there were five other people that needed the experience more than I did. That their lives were more stressful than mine. I still wish I had been chosen. As has been proven before, heights are not a problem with me. I wanted to do something different. (Not outright foolish, just, well, “unnecessary.”) I had been hoping to spend some time with God, nature, and sure, a big puddle of paint. Nope. I did not get what I want.
Leap forward a few days and I was walking around on my birthday. There, relaxing on the bank of a river that runs through my neighborhood, was a heron. Standing there, unfazed by anyone, preening and resting. I walked back a few minutes later and the heron was still there. Not to be outdone, I soon saw an eagle circling high overhead. I thought that was a rather nice display of God’s creation.
The next day, I was meandering about my apartment. I looked out my window and there were two blue jays, hopping and flapping right outside my window. No great purpose, no breaking out in songs like a kid’s cartoon. Simply two fine looking specimens, adding a dose of color.
Now I was expecting a finale. God likes the number three, right? Every story needs a third act. So I went for my run and waited to see if a third display of nature would make itself known.
My jogs always involve birds. Frogs croak at night, birds chirp in the morning. That is my neighborhood. Even though I heard birds chirping and calling for my entire run, I did not think that was special enough. “Just another day” stuff seemed too banal. As I approached the halfway point of my run, I started to wonder if I would get to see Mount Rainier. I had not taken it in in quite a while. Sometimes, if the sky is really clear, I can get a nice glimpse of it. I figured that it would great if I could… Nope. The morning fog refused to depart.
Then, right after I did not see what I wanted, it happened. A lone duck glided over my left shoulder. It did not flap. It did not quack. It coasted slowly and gracefully above me and descended towards the nearby river. It quietly and majestically made itself known as the sign I had been anticipating. The final bird in three days to suggest, “Hey, you get to take in God’s creation. You win!”
I went out of my way to set up an elaborate encounter with God. I planned to ditch work for a day. I submitted my entry, assuming I would be chosen. I thought of the fun photo that might result and further convince my parents that I am crazy. As my mom put it later,
I am very, very glad that you were not chosen. But if you had, I would have bragged about you.
(There is a reason I did not tell her about skydiving until after the event.)
I set out to have an encounter with God on a grand scale. And it did not work.
Instead, I was able to just be. To go about my day and have God meet me where I was. To still spend time with nature, the outdoors, and the Creator. I did not have to force anything. Beauty came to me.
I keep hoping I will get an invitation to go up on that roof. I will continue to enjoy activities that are probably safe, but not entirely so. For now, I have to remind myself not to force anything. That you cannot always get what you want, but you might get what you need. That letting things happen, being aware of the blessings around me; that is a rather solid gift in itself.