Second Chances

A major solar storm sent two enormous bursts of plasma in our direction Thursday and Friday. Not large enough to cause major disruptions to our infrastructure, they do afford some to get a pretty spectacular show of the aurora borealis–northern lights.

My hospital room has a pretty good west-facing view, without quite as much light pollution as many other areas of the hospital, so I hoped I might catch a glimpse myself. One of the advantages to boarding in a hospital is that you rarely go more than three hours without an alarm going off, or a nurse or orderly checking your vitals. While I at times wonder if the prevention is worse than the threat, having my own opinion that uninterrupted sleep is a positive factor for healing, as long as I am stuck in this system, I’ll find the advantages I can. In this case, the TV weather forecast said the best viewing time would be between midnight and 3am, if we got a show. I went to sleep at 9:30, confident I would be awake at some point in that window.

Sure enough, an alarm went off at 1:50. I don’t know what it was for, but I got out of bed and went to my window, where I got to see…nothing. Last night, the show was a no-show. When the forecasters today said there was a chance tonight the show would appear, especially where I live, close to the US-Canada border, it got me thinking about second chances.

My life has been blessed with an abundance of second chances. I went to four colleges before I earned a bachelor’s degree. My career path has been varied and interesting, putting it mildly. After a decade of being politically active, I thought I might run for office one day, but then went a different path. twenty years later, through happenstance, I ran for Mayor of Bellingham, and won. And the pinnacle of second chances is the chance to simply live. Again, I have been fortunate. I had several life-and-death moments as a kid involving injury or disease; each time I emerged to carry on.

I don’t know why I was so fortunate; I had classmates who were not. I was not better, nor smarter, nor richer than they were–but I survived. And after forty years of mostly avoiding close calls, I’ve been visited by another one. Gratefully, I emerged to carry on again. The best way I can think of to honor my good fortune is to appreciate it. To live life fully; to give back to the society and planet. To be as joyous as possible while not Panglossian. And to appreciate those around me, both close and mere acquaintances. We’re all together on this fragile planet, sharing our fragile lives. Let’s make the most of our chances.

I’m getting up again tonight to look for the aurora.


About Dan Pike

Sustainability maven, policy wonk, former mayor of Bellingham. Believes good management looks at the complete picture, that sustainability is all about stewardship--managing resources prudently and for the long term betterment of place, of culture and of self. Believes that better, and more complete information and analysis will lead people to make better decisions in their everyday lives.
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