November 25, 2014

Essay: Crashing on the ‘S’ Curves—Crisis to Opportunity

 

PHOTO COURTESY OF VALERIE KIRKGAARD

Essay: Crashing on the ‘S’ Curves—Crisis to Opportunity

Seen above is Valerie Kirkgaard’s mangled Jeep on the ‘S’ Curves of Topanga Canyon Blvd. after the accident.

Looking back, I am remembering February 28th was a Friday.

The day started with a trip to Arthur, the chiropractor, a stop at Weight Watchers to weigh in, and a fine lunch with my friend, Paula.

After doing my shopping, my wonderful sage green ‘98 Jeep was purring her way up the ‘S’ Curves with a full tank and groceries for the week.

It was raining hard, which I enjoyed a lot. I was singing, “Let the stormy clouds chase/everyone from the place…” and happy to be returning home.

At 2:47 p.m., I felt a tire blow and my car drifted toward the mountainside. The slope of the mountain acted as leverage and put my car into a roll. The accident was so graceful and elegant that the air bags did not deploy. Thank God! Those little buggers have been known to do damage, though they are also known to save lives.

As the car rolled, my experience of everything began to slow down.

I watched the passenger side of the windshield begin to crumple and my Olympic USA Team label fell from the windshield as the glass in the car shattered, The thought came to me, “Is this how I leave?”

I experienced no fear at any time. My strongest feeling was of gratitude to a driving instructor at traffic school—I remember he was heavy set with egg on his tie—pointing his finger at me and telling me, “Never drive without fastening your seatbelt. It might save your life someday.”

As I swung upside down in my car, I remembered this guy with deep gratitude, ‘cause this was The Day.

Nimira and David were the first to get to me. Nimira had already called 9-1-1 and they were there to help in any way they could. They told me what happened. It seemed a little rock came down from the mountain in the rain and cut my tire, causing the blowout, an appointment with destiny, I thought.

I had bumped my head on the ceiling and there was a half-inch cut on the left side of my head and some really good-looking blood on the ceiling of the car. I remember appreciating how healthy my blood looked and was grateful to Mary Louise Zeller for getting me into better health with Kyani. Hands lifted me from the car, over the pool of broken glass and I was amazed to have not one single glass cut on me anywhere. I did, however, find glass in my shoes when I got ready for bed that night. The fire department, ambulance and highway patrol were there in minutes. This was community at its best. I declined the ambulance ride and sat with Ron, a Highway Patrol officer who loved his job and helping people, and waited for the tow truck.

­It was clear this precious Jeep of mine was due for a memorial service; this car was not getting fixed.

I loved when a fireman poked his head in the window and said, “I know you and I am concerned for you.”

PHOTO COURTESY OF VALERIE KIRKGAARD

Essay: Crashing on the ‘S’ Curves—Crisis to Opportunity

Valerie’s replacement vehicle is a 2007 Honda CR-V seen in front of Pat’s Topanga Grill.

I realized that these men and women show up for disasters day after day and besides helping in dangerous situations, they also bring love and compassion. I was aware of community.

Ron retrieved my groceries and personal possessions from the car. As I watched, gasoline ran all over the street and I was grateful for the rain and the fact there was no car bursting into flames.

After Ron drove me home, my white knight son, Johnny, got me to Enterprise Rental Cars before closing. The guys there were great, staying after hours to make sure I had a car for the next day. Thank you to Karen Robison of Safeco, who was a great help in putting things together, and to Stewart Sank of Galpin Motors and his teammate, Michael Knerr, who were extraordinary in getting me into a 2007 Honda CR-V. This car has all the bells and whistles. Michael and Stewart spent hours with me getting a car that would work for me, my budget and the bank’s.

Originally, I wanted to get another Jeep; I love them dearly. Stewart said it was time to get a newer car and more comfort for myself in my life. I trust this guy and have bought two Jags and a Mustang from him in the past. I share a house with Gerry Greenberg, an excellent astrologer. Upon returning home, I knocked on his door and said, “Do I have a car accident in my chart for 2:47 in the afternoon?”

It seems I was 3/4 of a degree away from some major transformation at that time (a car wreck should qualify) and it was the luckiest day of my year—a blessing. When he said that, I was aware of how lucky I had been physically.

Now, looking at my new car I see other blessings too: the car and a profound sense of gratitude for my community. Crisis and Opportunity are the same symbol in Chinese. I’ve felt the power of this symbol for many years and have the evidence in pictures and memories to show this is true. No matter what happens, we must claim the opportunity.