Surviving the Storms of Winter

 

All: I was going to just put in a quote today (will in a few days, that of Lewis Carroll’s Jabberwocky poem). But today is a snow day in Colorado Springs, and it has called forth a memory for me to share:

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As I sit at home on a snow day from teaching, I am reminded of the many storms I have encountered and survived in this life.  I realize there is a principle here of survival that we develop every time we successfully negotiate “stormy weather,” whether that be of the climatology type of storm or situational storms in our work or relationship life, or even the stormy nature of world affairs.

So as a metaphorical story of confronting the stormy weather of life, allow me to recount one experience, from many years ago. This happened around 1978 during a road trip with my fencing team. We fenced several teams at an intercollegiate tournament in New Jersey at Fairleigh Dickenson University and then our coach, Roxanne, gathered the team and our equipment into our university van to begin the 8-10 hour journey home to Buffalo, New York; but we knew from the beginning we would be facing the onslaught of a major blizzard along the way.

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There were six of us fencers plus Roxanne, our coach; she was the designated driver of our van. We had a hearty breakfast in New Jersey then set out to travel interstate highways for the bulk of our trip. The storm started early in our voyage, such a blizzard that we were in “white out” conditions by the first two hours of our adventure. Around four hours along, we still could not see as far ahead as the vehicle whose tailgates we were trying to follow in order to stay on the highway. Then, we heard a pop and felt the uneven lurch forward of the van; we had a flat tire!

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Coach Roxy pulled over as far as she could off the highway to avoid being hit by snow blinded drivers. We found a red tee-shirt and tied it to our radio antennae on the car and another red piece of scarf we tied to the rear to signal our state of distress. Coach tried to get us to a next service station, first by letting the van limp forward very slowly, but after about 45 minutes of this we realized we were only incurring more damage to the vehicle, so she pulled over further again and we stopped.

While we were stopped along the shoulder, a vehicle pulled up from behind. Two helpful African American men offered to help us. Two of my teammates decided they would ride with these men to the next service area and send back help. They departed.  After about another hour, another vehicle pulled up and a middle-aged man and his wife offered their assistance. Two more of our team members went off with them; it was too much of a blizzard to try to change the tire ourselves so we needed one of these two groups to send back help. Worried about both separated parties, the one other remaining teammate, myself and Coach Roxy waited nervously in the gusting, snowy dark with the van.  We used the van’s heater only sparingly, as we were also low on fuel.

Eventually, the first two teammates returned in the company of a tow truck driver!

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All five of us (still with two teammates missing) packed into the tow truck cabin after the driver chained the van to haul, and still in slow, white out conditions, we lumbered along in the frigid van uncomfortably to the next toll booth station, where the driver let us out and went to work on repairing our flat tire. This was before the days of cell phone convenience; we stood out near the road by the toll booth, hoping we would see our missing members going back to find us where we had been!

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It was very late at night (early AM the next day actually) by this point; our 8-10 hour journey had become a nightmarish 18 hours or more already. Police officers at the toll station sent out an alert to try to locate our two separated members. We waited and fretted for another couple of hours; cold, bedraggled, and worried. FINALLY, the whole ordeal shifted, as if miraculously!

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Suddenly, it was as if the test or challenge of the gods had been passed. Within about 15 minutes, our separated pair was returned to us in a police car from where they had been left off at a town up ahead. Our tire repaired and back on the van, we were back on the highway; it was by now about 5 AM. As if to honor our ordeals, in a beautiful relief, suddenly the snow stopped, the dark cloud cover passed, and overhead was a beautiful, sunstruck morning with a full, glorious rainbow to herald the final hour or two of our trip Home!

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So much could have gone “more wrong” even than it did. What if we had been too trusting of either of the two cars of helpful strangers?  What if in the blizzard we would have been hit from the rear by a driver blinded by the snow?

The success of our survival through this Blizzard came partly from our Coach, partly from our individual resolve to see this through, but mostly through the team effort we relied on. Using the buddy system of two at a time departing and the rest staying together, each sub-team had decisions to make and risks to take that would contribute to the survival of the whole.

What I will always remember most about this experience is that team camaraderie, but also the symbolic layering of THE ORDEAL itself. This was a challenge or a not so subtle Test of the highest order, as it felt. If we could get through this intact, without compromising the safety and well-being of any of our members, we could survive anything! And then, after gradually negotiating every step of the way through the ordeal, solving new problems as they arose, the rainbow that blessed our successful emergence from Darkness was palpable. I remember almost crying or maybe I even did to know that we were going to be okay and Spirit was gracefully blessing our trials with nourishing sunlight.

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images from pixabay.com

This story represents a Descent and Re-emergence; a Dark Night of the Soul ordeal. Though it may seem a light travail in comparison to the harsh journeys of refugees today or the fighting of warriors in battles of their own and their nations—or the bitter travails of the injured and the aggrieved who have lost family and loved ones in battles or to incomprehensible, inhuman terrorist attacks!—the story of travail and survival is universal, Archetypal, even potentially Alchemical, regardless even of the ultimate results.

It is in being challenged that we reach deeply, together and alone, into the deep recesses of Universal Spirit, to manage solutions, to band together and resolve the difficulties that confront us. This is the beauty of life, for any species even. We strive to overcome and to transcend our survival challenges; we attain to greater spiritual strength and harmony along the Way!

I welcome YOUR comments and Stories!

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