This morning I worked an event, and while putting up my pop up tent, something else popped too… my neck. Ordinarily, I’d just boulder something like that out, but my back’s reaction to that little pop triggered the “get thee to the chiropractor ASAP” alarm in my brain.
After work, I packed up and then headed for my hotel to see if I could check in early. Mikaila at the Hilton Eugene (Priceline roulette WIN!) checked me in, and I asked if she knew of any chiropractors open on Saturdays. She made a phone call, got a “no,” and said she’d call around and let me know what she found out. I hit Yelp and Facebook and Twitter, with no luck myself.
Before I’d even put my keycard in the door of my room, Mikaila called to tell me she’s found a place that was open and could see me, but that it was in Veneta. 20-ish miles west… no problem. I drive for a living. I dropped my bags and headed for Veneta — blown away not only that Mikaila had offered to call around; but doubly blown away that she called around enough to actually get me an appointment.
I set out for Veneta, and once on Highway 126, started to see signs for Florence.
Florence: 56 miles.
That meant I was a mere 56 miles away from the Pacific Ocean when I saw that sign.
I thought about that fact while the chiropractor got me back in line, and then decided that the whole thing had been a happy accident to allow me to go visit my old friend, the Pacific Ocean, today during my afternoon off.
My drive took me down new roads I haven’t driven before, to a destination I’d passed through many times. I basked in the fall glitter of orange and gold leaves against the grey, storm-coming sky. With the phone off, the radio off, the GPS off and no way to get lost, I drove up and down twisties, through replanted clearcuts, to the flat that precedes the coastline. I thought back on a years ago conversation with my friend Andrew, about his theory that looking out over the vastness of the ocean opens our minds.
At Florence, I turned north, aiming for Haceta Beach and a view of the ocean itself. When I caught my first glimpse of the surf, it caught my breath. You would think after 34 years of occasional visits, there would be no surprise left … it’s just sand, and logs, and water, and seabirds. But the vastness… the knowing, that it all just goes on forever… out to somewhere distant where the objects of my maybe-in-a-past-life-ornithologist crush — the albatross — fly their massive migrations. Those seabirds even put my annual mileage to shame.
I love being in constant motion… I can’t imagine living any other way. The tradeoff is that with how much I am on the road, I am away from my friends and family much more than I like. The interactions I have with the hotel staff, my breakfast waitress, the salesgirl in a shop I pop into, and the people I connect with through work are richer, for missing the people I love. Those interactions are warmer, because for me, warmth must come from somewhere.
The quote “Work is love made visible” is attributed to Khalil Gibran; unless I’m remembering incorrectly, the variation “Work is love made real” appears on one of my favorite greeting cards. I interact with people every day, who through their work, make love real. And every time I see that, or am the lucky beneficiary of it, I am grateful for the lesson.
This evening, I am nestled into my hotel room… my hair a mess of tangles from the ocean winds, the scent of seagrass and salt and vastness still in my nose, and sand in the stitching of my boots. All thanks, in large part, to the small kindness that Mikaila did for me this morning. Now that’s customer service.