Wednesday Vignette – Onward, forward…

Two nights ago, I learned that a friend had just accidentally killed another man. I was gasping on the phone, as I was trying to make sense of the situation – to no avail. There is no making sense of such a horrific thing. What caused the death was stupid, irresponsible, totally preventable, and of course – as such things are – completely irreversible. Two drunken men on a high-speed joy ride, killed a cyclist. I will spare you the gory details I do know, and let you guess the many details I still have to deduce. In the end it doesn’t matter. Suffice to say, my friend is a quivering mess, overwhelmed by regret, guilt, horror, and self-loathing, and all the other complex emotions that come to the surface when you realize the finality of what you’ve done.

I didn’t sleep much the night after the call. I was angry. He should have known better. My first instinct was that I wanted to beat some sense into him – the painful enormity of his stupidity was just too unbearable! But as I drove to work this morning, I saw two things – within half a mile of each other – that changed my perspective somewhat. (I’m saying “somewhat”, because I’m still angry as I ponder the unnecessary loss of life, and the intense waves of pain that reverberate out from this event.) First, I saw a woman, flip a burning cigarette butt out of he car window. It landed just a foot from the parched grass at the edge of the road, still smoking. I wanted to scream at her, and tell her what a lazy, %&^@# idiot she was. Forest fires are not limited to forests, as we well know from recent news. I was furious! Less than two minutes later, as I waited by a stop sign, I saw another woman driving by, her eyes fixed on her cell phone. She wasn’t paying attention to the road at all, she was texting. The point is that we all take stupid chances at one point or other. For the most part, we end up okay – until we’re not. And, sometimes when we’re not, the consequences we find ourselves in the middle of, are dire. So, for this week’s thought provoking exercise, I invite everyone and anyone who  has not at some point tempted Fate, done something unbelievably stupid – and gotten away with it – to speak up.

I’m still angry, and feeling far from being flippantly forgiving about the whole thing. But, as I look at my own life, I have done stupid shit, and made dumb choices more times than I care to admit, and – so far – gotten away scot free. By the good graces of sheer, dumb luck, mind you. Seeing it that way, makes it easier to not be judgmental. Yes, what was done was unbelievably irresponsible and stupid. But, there is no need to tell him that – believe me, he knows. I still had the urge to smack him, but when I saw him later, I said nothing, and just hugged him as he sobbed on my shoulder. I’m not a religious person, and I am a firm believer that heaven and hell are both right here, side by side, on this earth. Even if I had had access to the torture tools of the Spanish Inquisition, I could not possibly have inflicted more pain in this man, than he is already experiencing. “I can’t breathe”, he agonized. Nothing anyone can do or say will undo what happened. Both my friend and the driver of the car will have to live out the rest of their lives knowing that they caused another man’s death, and deal with the consequences thereof – all the while re-experiencing the horrors of the crash every time they close their eyes. I can’t even begin to imagine what that would be like. I also can not imagine what having a loved one cruelly taken away by someone else’s idiotic actions, would be like. There is enough horrors here to go around, for sure. Let’s look at our own risk-taking behaviors, and not cast judgement of others until we ourselves are in the clear. (Which will likely coincide with a cold day in hell, as the saying goes…)

When I asked a very knowledgeable garden plant nerd friend why my recently planted Manihot was loosing leaves, he answered that it was because it was adjusting to its new place. "It's shedding its old leaves and putting out new ones, suitable to the situation it is in now", he said. After the events of the past two days , this survival skill made me think of the surviving inner circles of this tragedy. There are old leaves to be shed, and new ones to be developed to cope with its new life. Onward, forward...

When I asked a very knowledgeable garden plant nerd friend why my recently planted Manihot was loosing leaves, he wisely answered that it was because it was adjusting to its new place. “It’s shedding its old leaves and putting out new ones, suitable to the situation it is in now”, he said. After the events of the past two days , this survival skill made me think of the remaining inner circles of this tragedy. There are old leaves to be shed, and new ones to be developed to cope with the new life. I wish them all plenty of counseling, love, help, friendship, and peer support – they will need it. 

About annamadeit

I was born and raised in Sweden, By now, I have lived almost as long in the United States. The path I’ve taken has been long and varied, and has given me a philosophical approach to life. I may joke that I’m a sybarite, but the truth is, I find joy and luxury in life’s simple things as well. My outlook on life has roots in a culture rich in history and tradition, and I care a great deal about environmental stewardship. Aesthetically, while drawn to the visually clean, functional practicality and sustainable solutions that are the hallmarks of modern Scandinavia, I also have a deep appreciation for the raw, the weathered, and the worn - materials that tell a story. To me, contrast, counterpoint, and diversity are what makes life interesting and engaging. Color has always informed everything I do. I’m a functional tetrachromat, and a hopeless plantoholic. I was originally trained as an architect working mostly on interiors, but soon ventured outside - into garden design. It’s that contrast thing again… An interior adrift from its exterior, is like a yin without a yang. My firm conviction that everything is connected gets me in trouble time and time again. The world is a big place, and full of marvelous distractions, and offers plentiful opportunities for inquiry and exploration. I started writing to quell my constant queries, explore my discoveries, and nurture my curiosity. The Creative Flux was started in 2010, and became a catch-all for all kinds of intersecting interests. The start of Flutter & Hum at the end of 2013 marks my descent into plant nerd revelry. I occasionally contribute to other blogs, but those two are my main ones. For sure, topics are all over the map, but then again - so am I! Welcome to my blogs!
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24 Responses to Wednesday Vignette – Onward, forward…

  1. Alan @ it's not work, it's gardening! says:

    Another powerful vignette post Anna. Wow. Sadly I can’t remember any of the unbelievably stupid things I’ve done right now, but I did have a friend who would often shock us with his “do you remember when you used to…” stories of crazy teenage stunts that he thought everybody did, like climbing between the sunroofs of moving cars. Nobody else in the room ever did things like he did, which surprised him.

    • annamadeit says:

      Thanks Alan! I’ve done a lot of crazy stuff, but climbing from sunroof to sunroof on moving cars has not yet been one of them. I think your friend has me beaten… 🙂

  2. FlowerAlley says:

    I won’t be casting any stones either. We all need to pause and think more.
    Spot on as usual, my friend.

    • annamadeit says:

      Thanks, Becca! Yup, there are far too much stone throwing going on in the world. Better to mend and tend the fragile network that joins us all, methinks! 🙂

  3. Peter/Outlaw says:

    I’m so sorry for the loss, the pain, the torture that all involved are going through. I certainly have done more than my share of stupid, thoughtless, fate-tempting things. You’ve given us all something to ponder!

    • annamadeit says:

      Thanks, Peter! It puts it all into a wider perspective, doesn’t it? I would have died many times over had I not been so lucky – I know that for a fact.

  4. gardenriots says:

    And then there are the things that many/most of us do every day with little to no thought, that don’t end in direct and immediate dire results…but as a society and over time may be even more devastating. All of this calls for us to be present and conscious in our lives, to regularly assess all of the decisions we each make daily. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard people say, when confronted about their wrong or illegal behavior, that it’s just them, that their single action doesn’t matter and when I point out the multiplier effect of the many other people doing the same thing, they shrug it off….None of us are beyond this. We seem to live in a time when many of us simply don’t want to be bothered to think about consequences. Most gardeners seem to understand the creative power of their own actions in their gardens, we just need to understand the power and responsibility that we have in the wider world.

    • annamadeit says:

      Absolutely. I hate that lazy shrug of popular justification. So often, I just want to smack people, in the hopes that it would give them real eyes to see with. Such a vain hope…

  5. Loree L Bohl says:

    Oh the long long list of stupid things I’ve done, with very little consequences. I’ve often thought that’s the most amazing thing about being a parent. The ability to completely disregard (forget?) all the times you came close to causing irrevocable damage to yourself or someone else and birth another human who may not be so lucky. I like to think I’m a reasonably intelligent individual but wow…stupidity knows no limits.

    MY WV is just dumb fun:

    • Loree L Bohl says:

      Your words were still bouncing around in my head when I got a call from my sister in law this morning. We almost lost my nephew over the weekend. His own stupidity of the kind that comes from youth and experimenting. We were lucky.

      • annamadeit says:

        Sadly – you are right about that boundlessness… The parent thing is scary, but I think that – hard as it may be – sometimes you just have to step back and let them go. If they screw up, they inevitably learn from it. The school of hard knocks… And, when they get big enough, they just take off on their own. If you’ve done your job properly before that point, chances are they’ll weather the larger knocks that await so much better than if they were hovered over from day one. So very glad to hear about your nephew coming out unscathed – hopefully he learned something valuable from it!

  6. We all need to be more mindful as we go through our daily lives. Thoughtless mistakes can cause as much harm as malicious ones. I’m glad you’ve been able to step back and offer your friend the comfort of a shoulder, though – even righteous anger can cause damage if it’s not balanced by understanding. My father died in a car accident (along with 2 co-workers) on his morning commute to work when I was 6 years old. My mother blamed the truck driver who hit his car and the drunk driver who slammed into him from behind. She sued both and lost her case – the event really was just a tragic accident but she could never let go of it and it hung over her, my brother and myself forever as a result. I somehow found a way to shake off her judgement of the situation and forgive the truck driver, which I think saved me decades of misery. Judgment comes fast – we live in that kind of world – but, if we try, understanding and even mindfulness follows afterward.

    Your WV is a wonderful illustration of your current mind-set. I continue to marvel at the way you channel what’s happening in the world around you into how you view what’s right in front of you. My WV is another simple wildlife series:

    • annamadeit says:

      Oh my god, Kris – how awful about your father… I’m so glad you managed to see past the horror and injustice of the tragedy and realize that life – inevitably – goes on. I wonder if the truck driver ever managed to forgive himself… I told my friend he needs to turn this tragedy into something good – like maybe go out and talk about his mistake to students, or people who have gotten DUIs, or something like that. I think that would help the healing process.

      I’m glad you enjoy my WV musings. I honestly didn’t start it in order to be so philosophical, but I guess in a way, it has become my venting system, whenever there is something that occupies my mind. Thanks for humoring me by reading and posting! 🙂

  7. Pingback: Wednesday vignette 6/1/16 « A Growing Obsession

  8. Denise says:

    My well-settled manihot continually drops leaves. How easy it is to describe that, the simple travails of plants. What lies ahead for your friend is just unimaginable and beyond words. He does have one good thing going at least, and that is your friendship.

    • annamadeit says:

      Thanks Denise – I think he has a lot of people rooting for him. Despite his occasional blunders, he has a heart of gold. Thanks for the advice on the Manihot – good to know! 🙂

  9. Mark and Gaz says:

    Thought provoking. Healing will happen and hopefully it will be soon.

  10. Megan says:

    I regularly think about all the dumb things I have done when I should have known better. Risky driving is definitely one of the things I regret.

    And I worry about the things I probably still do without realizing the risk.

    I once told an ex and a friend that I didn’t want to talk to him when he called. It was nothing serious, he was just getting on my nerves. He ended up shooting himself, and I have no way of knowing if it would have changed things if I had been there as a friend. I had no idea the stakes could be so high, even though my step-sister’s suicide was recent at that point.

    Your friend will suffer plenty from this mistake. He’s lucky to have your compassionate friendship to turn to. It must help to know he doesn’t have to face it alone.

    Strength and love to you both.

    • annamadeit says:

      Oh Megan – I have the same “what if I…? – experience” with my best friend from art school. I was visiting from out of state. If I had realized the gravity of her mental state, I would have canceled the damned flight back home and stayed with her. On the morning of my flying out, her husband called to tell me she had electrocuted herself. He had found her in the bathtub with a lamp. I still wonder if my staying would have made a difference… And yes, I still cry about her.

  11. No shortage of stupid crap here , during my pre-adult days in the late 60’s. I can’t imagine living with the guilt and pain of causing the death of another human, and your friend will likely pay for this with the loss of his own freedom. How does one learn to put meaning back into life after an episode like this ? My inaugural Wednesday Vignette can be found here…

  12. annamadeit says:

    That’s a really good question… Maybe like the Manihot – grow some new, adapted leaves? Glad you joined in – welcome! 🙂

  13. I’ve done enough stupid things to last a lifetime and I’m only 47. I just try to be less stupid the next day. But remembering that every choice affects many more than me, or has the potential to, is a humbling reminder to think before I act. I just forget sometimes to think that thought and end up doing something stupid.

    • annamadeit says:

      Amen sister – we all do. We’re just luckier than some – so far. Thanks for commenting, Tammy – I have no idea why it ended up in my spam folder. Just found it this morning – sorry about that!

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