Epiphany

Posted by Ken Campbell March 10, 2014 0 Comment 2004 views

I remember it well, although it would be difficult to put an exact date on that one particular long-ago morning. There is so much I have forgotten through the years, as time eats away at memories like rust through a fence post, but I can still see me sitting there on the curb at the end of the driveway on a blue-sky day in early summer. I was out of school, between one grade and the next, and the gauzy days of summer vacation were laid out in front of me like some kind of canvas, and me not knowing what I should paint on them. I can still remember the exact moment when the thought came to my mind, suddenly, fully formed, and without any warning.

In front of every house in our neighborhood, painted on the curbside in black-and-white, was its street address. That was how it was done in Southern California back then (and may be still), a visual aid to assist in the event of an emergency, to help responders get quickly to the right place when time is of the essence. I sat there next to ours – “6229” – and I looked at the asphalt of the street there at my feet. I raised my eyes a little, saw how my street curved away to the east and where it joined with the next one a half-dozen houses further along. In my mind, I could see that street doing the same a mile distant, and from there, it was just a short onramp to the highway. The freeway, a sacred artery that could take a person to LA, or San Francisco, and from there to anywhere. I looked back at the blacktop below me and I was instantly aware of my exact place in the world in a way I had never experienced before. And, more than that, my mind’s eye could see the hidden connections in a way that it had not done until that moment.

Everything changed for me that morning, at least in the way I saw the world around me. Many years later, I still look at the street below my feet – or the trail, the waterway, the climbing route – and I can see in an instant the ways in which it is connected to the rest. To picture how one thing can lead to another, seemingly unrelated at first glance, has become easier for me as a result of that morning: a tsunami in Japan connects with debris on the beaches of Alaska; coal-fired power plants in China lead to a child’s asthma in Spokane; use of a particular pesticide in Mexico drives up the price of honey in Atlanta. It is all connected, every seemingly separate thing on this fragile, sweet, tough, improbable planet, and I saw those delicate strands for the first time that morning.

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