I had breakfast with a man who inspected cranes, the mechanical ones, not the birds. He been inspecting cranes for twenty years, and he loved it so much I loved listening to him tell me about it, though I was also listening for what the Universe wanted to tell me through him.
He not only inspected cranes, he taught classes on operational safety. Even though he could not drive a crane, he could read the specs and he knew the stress points, and these were things the operators often did not know. He talked about lifting heavy loads, and how on the old cranes these loads could tip the crane over, and on the new ones, lower to the ground, how too heavy a load could crack the chassis. “Of course it depends on how you pick it up,” he said. “You can pick up a lot more if you lift it slow and steady. If you take the bucket up fast, it will bounce around, and then there’s the shock effect, creating a lot more stress on the equipment, and that can do a lot of damage.”
Once when my step-daughter was three, her dad headed out to the country after the Delta spring monsoons. He came to a bridge that was barely submerged, and being young himself, and foolish, he began inching his way across. Ellie plastered herself against the back of the seat and began shrieking, “We’re all going to die,” over and over. On that day, they did not, though the water was higher than he expected. He took his shrieking daughter and walked her to dry land, came back later for the truck. The we’re-all-going-to-die reaction is generally my immediate technique for meeting emergencies head-on, my mind running rat mazes of disastrous consequences, even if my exterior appears to be fairly calm, and even though I have survived all the emergencies low these many years. Now on the morning of breakfast with the man who inspects cranes, the Universe reminded me again: If you have a heavy load to lift, slow and steady is the way to go.
Thank you, Universe.
Long after the man went on his way, I’ve thought about heavy loads and stress and slow and steady. One morning as I was walking the dog I was thinking on this Universe lesson, what I would cook for lunch, probably about my children, the elderly aunts, and how I really needed to clean the upstairs room when my eye was caught by
the knobby twigs of the popcorn tree lacing against the gray winter sky.
I realized I could not see the tree or the sky or the birds darting overhead while my mind was full of chatter. I really didn’t see anything except the video playing in my head, telling me how things are, how they should be. If I took in
the tree, the birds, the morning sky
my brain had to shut up. And if my mind is full of this constant movie-making, all talk, talk, talk, and flashing images, when the waters start to rise, and I finally notice, that movie-making brain is going to shriek for all its worth.
Slow and steady.
It takes practice.