Sunday, November 20, 2011

Fish Tails

Fish-tails and Floundering

"You've got to know your purpose in life," my friend said, expertly maneuvering his big GMC half-ton on the snow-laden mountain road past the slower long-haul lorry. "If I wake you at three in the morning, eh, you need to be able to state it just like that!"

"Wonderful," I smile. "And what would you say?"

He pauses. "That's my problem. I just am not sure. Used to know. Used to think it was about making money and having things, eh, but then that changed a couple of years back. Now I know it's important to be helping people. But not to enable them. Just to help people out and to give them a leg up. But I know there's a better way to state that, a bigger purpose, eh, just not sure how to express it."

All around us the world is white with November's heavy snow. The road is sometimes only visible thanks to the balustrades on either side. Occasionally vehicles headlights beam at us from the opposite direction. We've a ten or even thirteen-hour proximity together in the cab of his solid-feeling vehicle, and as relaxed as my 62 year old friend is, he is focused yet casually alert on the treacherous road. Other vehicles here and there have slid off, some vacant as abandoned igloos, one or two with occupants now outside and digging unrewarded. Emergency vehicles have lights blinking. Police cars, like snow vultures, hover around the carcasses of some stranded vehicles. A semi-trailer lies alarmingly tipped over onto its side, right in front of Three Valley Gap. Further on an abandoned car lies upside down, somewhere along the Coquihala. But we progress onward in our quest to get my paintings from Calgary to Victoria, until...

"Here we go!" he gives me the forewarning, even as the half-ton's backside slides out from under us on a patch of black ice. "Uh oh!" and the vehicle suddenly points toward the drop of the valley far below with a sickening wrench, but almost instantly my friend corrects the alarming fish-tail and we're cautiously continuing the long descent onto the narrow bridge over the Kicking Horse River. "Long hill ahead of us," my companion nods at it, and the engine growls slightly as it takes the incline.

"Seems to me you express it very well," I venture.

"What's that?"

"Your purpose. It's expressed in your actions. You're a superb driver and a most helpful friend. I couldn't have brought all these paintings with me on a plane, and they're too big for my own vehicle, and I certainly couldn't load them alone, so thanks! If your purpose is to help people then you do it, as another good friend of mine says, with action. He says love is a verb. So thanks for the love, buddy!"

He chuckles, and grows silent. I think to myself, I know what I'd say if woken at three in the morning and asked what my purpose in life is, it is... But then again, your knowing what mine is is not nearly as good as knowing your own, eh? So? So what is it, hmm?

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