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Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Coincidences

None of these strange stories are an April Fools joke. In fact, the coincidences began several weeks ago.

Like many midwestern creative writing students, I went through a Raymond Carver stage. It is impossible to avoid him if you're on the fiction side of the department; and frankly, I can't really see why anyone would do a duck and weave with him.

I have found myself repeating the same Raymond Carver phrase for the past few weeks; always in different places, always applicable. "This is a small good thing." I was aware that it came from a Raymond Carver story. What I forgot was that the phrase came from a short story about parents who lose their eight-year-old son right before his birthday and the words are spoken by the baker who was making their son's cake for the party. At midnight, when they show up in his store for a confrontation, he sits them down at a table and gives them hot rolls and says, "Eating is a small, good thing in a time like this."

Most people relate to the parents in the story. They are certainly the focus of the story. But I have always been drawn to the childless baker. What is his story? Why does he mention that he doesn't have children? The mother assumes that he must have children as she orders the cake. And yet, it is the point he brings up during the confrontation. "I don't have any children myself, so I can only imagine what you must be feeling. All I can say to you now is that I'm sorry." In a story so sparse, so concise, so quiet, those words must mean something.

I guess the point of all of this is not to moon over Raymond Carver's writing, but to point out these strange coincidences. I found myself using this phrase many times over the last few weeks; in comments, in a story I'm writing, to the twins. Why am I using this phrase--I truly didn't even remember the plotline of the story until today when I noticed myself writing it in a comment again. And then remembered the story.

And it is a baker, someone who bakes, an act that is enmeshed in who I am that Josh put it on my business card. Isn't that a strange coincidence that infertility and loss comes up in a story featuring a baker and that I glommed onto this phrase that features in the story without even thinking about the plotline?

Not sold yet?

A few weeks ago, my friend posted an Anais Nin quote as his Facebook status. "And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom." I noted it and moved on. That day at lunch, the ChickieNob saw me holding Tertia's book and asked what the front page looked like. I said, "I don't know. Maybe I skipped it. Or it's a dedication." Except that it wasn't the dedication. Before the dedication, there is a page with a single Anais Nin quote. That quote. What are the chances that this completely unrelated male musician would choose the same quote as this female writer is South Africa?

A friend told me that she wanted to take a vacation but didn't want to be far from home in case the expectant mother she was matched with went into labour. I was excited because I had read about a town an hour away from her in a magazine and I ran upstairs to get the article. I wrote her a long email, trying to sell her on this town, listing the restaurants in the article as well as all the related day trips you could take in the area. A minute later she wrote me back. In a world of cities, in a state that I barely know, in a magazine that I rarely read, I managed to choose the random city where the expectant mother lives.

I was thinking about yurts after talking to Josh about yurts (he had pointed out that my dream house cannot be a traditional yurt due to my fear of crickets and their tent-like nature. So fine, I would like a non-traditional yurt with a good seal against cricket intruders) and then my friend told me how she wants to build her dream house and sent a picture. Like this. A yurt.

And then...that night, I drive to a new friend's house. I once lived close to her neighbourhood though I barely remember the names of the streets anymore. I haven't been down there in seven years. I park the car about a block away, fearful that I won't find parking closer, and begin to walk with the twins towards her house. And then we are standing there. In front of the house I always wanted to own. She lives next door to the house we always wanted to own. When we lived nearby, Josh and I used to drive here and sit outside this house and stare at it. We were doing treatments and we spoke about the school system as if we were going to be successful.

Finally, returning to the first person who kicked off the coincidences, he posted that at 8:30 p.m., he would be "
sitting on my roof watching SF turn off its lights. then I'll get out my guitar and some paper." I read this update at 5:30 his time. Which was 8:30 my time. Though it was originally posted at 11:43 a.m. I had just had a strong feeling at 8:30 that I should see his Facebook status. And that is what it was.

And just as he opened the coincidences, they came to an end. I haven't seen another one since last Saturday when I read that update.

It feels like these coincidences are too strange, they stick out too far to be ignored. So what do two quotes, a town, two houses, and a status update have in common? Or, Raymond Carver, Anais Nin, an old friend in California (twice!), a new friend in South Africa, a dear friend who is on the cusp, a town that I may never visit, a type of house that I hope to own, a friend who shares my heart and exchanges stones with me, and my dream house. Next door to a new friend. How does it all come together?

Your thoughts? Honestly, do you see any connection? I can answer any questions to give more information except for information about the dear friend on the cusp who is finding herself in an impossible vacation.

Your own strange coincidences that you've noticed?

26 comments:

Mrs. Higrens said...

I think coincidences are like solar flares. They spring up for no apparent reason, and then disappear just as quickly but have the power to affect things far outside their apparent range.

That said, it may be while before you see and are able to understand the final results of the events started in motion the past few weeks.

areyoukiddingme said...

Perhaps you were experiencing a spurt of ESP...

N said...

I get them, but usually they're connected to my brother, so I like to think that he's trying to talk to me.

Carrie said...

I love those sort of coincidences. My father always talks about the concept of synchronicity which says that events may happen together which are unlikely to be related, and may have meaning because we decide they have it. Anyway, bad explanation, but I am sure you're familiar with the concept. When things like you describe happen, I always feel like I'd better pay attention, because the universe is showing me something! :)

Hugs,
Carrie

Carrie said...

I thought you'd like this quote by Carl Jung: "When coincidences pile up in this way, one cannot help being impressed by them -- for the greater the number of terms in such a series, or the more unusual its character, the more improbable it becomes."

Mijk said...

I have started a bussiness. Very slowly last year. I write older peoples lifestories. I love the work but I am quite scared by the whole sell yourself thing that comes with ones own bussiness. last year i saw a drawing of a leave that an american artis made with late fragment by raymond carver next to it ( I am not american and no native english speaker so it was fresh for me). I purchased the imagerights to use it as a bussinesslogo. This last few months the bussines starts to mature and I just told my mentor it feels like I am slowly starting to blossom because it failing starts to become scarier then succeding.

And now I read your post...and it is kind of weird.

Oh my number one stressreliever...

Baking..(I think I delurked for this> I have to many infertile friends and I read to be a better friend)

infertilityrocks said...

I believe that coincidences like this are proof that there is a bigger force at work in our lives, that things are not as random as we tend to believe they are.

I LOVE the Carver quote. I'm working right now on appreciating those small but good things in place of dwelling on the big but nasty things.

Lisa said...

I've experienced many such coincidences -- in my life I call them signs. They occur around specific (and always important) life events/paths but don't, in my mind, point to any answers or explanations about said events/paths. Instead, I look at them as reinforcement (for me) that everything, everyone, is connected . . . and that my existence in the universe (along with everyone else's), though SO infuriatingly insignificant, matters.

Kristin said...

I love what Mrs Higrens says, "I think coincidences are like solar flares. They spring up for no apparent reason, and then disappear just as quickly but have the power to affect things far outside their apparent range."

I see the connections. How could anyone miss them? But, I'll be damned if I know what they mean.

JuliaS said...

I love stuff like this - kind of a way of knowing you're not "alone" and someone is thinking of you if that makes any sense?

When dh and I bought our first house in Idaho, we ended up moving into the same neighborhood as one of my former babysitters when I was growing up in Colorado. I use to babysit her best friend's kids when I was a teenager. Her oldest daughter ended up babysitting my oldest child. She also turned out to be the lactation consultant who made a huge difference for me when my preemie daughter was born and I had a lot of difficulties getting her fed. I was even baptized on the same day/at the same place and time as her youngest brother when we were both 8.

Pretty cool!

Shinejil said...

I research a group of people who live in yurts, and you do not want a trad. yurt in the Mid-Atlantic US (waaay too humid, even without the cricket issue). But many people in Siberia build wooden, octagonal yurt-shaped houses with a very similar vibe and internal layout.

I'll happily email you an old 19th century photo, if you're curious...

babyinterrupted said...

Is it a coincidence that I've been thinking a lot about coincidences lately, including this morning, right before I read your post?

Raggedy Ann said...

I'm the wrong person to comment on these things because I don't take coincidences seriously at all. I follow the poet's advice
"I believe in the world as in a daisy,
Because I see it. But I don’t think about it,
Because to think is to not understand.
The world wasn’t made for us to think about it"
Alberto Caeiro (The Keeper of Sheep)

Sorry! Felt like sharing some Portuguese poetry here.

serenity said...

I had to go read the short story because for the life of me I couldn't understand why you used the word "confrontation." I had never read that story before.

*shaking head to get out of it*

I, too, like Mrs. Hingrens thought of coincidences as solar flares. They just remind us that we're all interconnected, no matter how much we might think we're alone. It's comforting, actually.

Maybe you just needed a reminder that your experiences, your ideas, the things that make you YOU... connect you to others.

eep6@cornell.edu said...

1) You MUST see "I Heart Huckabees" if you haven't already. All about the coincidences.

2) I'm thinking of the Calvin and Hobbes cartoon where Calvin muses (I paraphrase) - either everything has meaning, or nothing does, and I don't know which is scarier.

3) I like what Serenity said.

MissMeliss said...

Sometimes I think of coincidences as God trying to tell me something, or I'm supposed to see something. Not all of those coincidences need to be connected to see that they have meaning for you.

Maybe even just to show you how small the world is. Have you been feeling like the world or your world is out of control or too big? These things combined make me think that the world is, indeed, a SMALL place and that we are all connected somehow.

JMO.
Melissa

eden said...

My personal theory on coincidences (and deja vu) are that they occur like this only when you are on track in your life, when you are moving forward in a way that was designed for you.

xox

luna said...

I've been thinking a lot about this.

part of me deeply believes that "coincidences" are not random occurrences at all, but our acknowledgement of the forces at play in the universe.

this conflicts with the other part of me that refuses to believe that everything is 'supposed to' happen 'for a reason,' when I really think that sometimes shit just effing happens.

maybe "coincidences" are simply our awareness of how connected everything really is. (similar to what some others are saying.)

when we first met K, we spent a LOT of time talking about all the events that led us to each other. some were seemingly perfect random acts in each of our lives. but each had the consequence of bringing us closer together.

that day we agreed that none of us viewed those events as totally random "coincidences.' rather, it truly felt as if the gravitational pull of the universe was bringing us closer and toward one another. there were just SO many signs, it was inescapable that we were to meet...

when we answered the question why we wanted to adopt THIS baby (as opposed to any baby), it was SO clear to us why. aside from really liking K as a person, there are linkages throughout our lives that we can point to that just made it so easy to see our connection. remind me to tell you about them sometime...

Parenthood For Me said...

When things like this happen, it seems to be feast or famine. Maybe they do all mean something- to you? Maybe they are just that- coincidences. I thought the one about the bmother hometown was especially eery.

Io said...

What does it all MEAN?!

Um, I don't know. But I hope you bought a lottery ticket just in case.

Fertilized said...

I love stories like this. To me , It means we are all connected in more ways than we are able to see/feel. So we have a word that describes it coincidences.

Brenna said...

I love stones. And secret stories. And hidden meanings. And the way we all coincide with one another in this crazy place, sometimes overlapping in strange and unexpected ways...it's all so wonderful and cool!

Paz said...

I think that the coincidences are you getting closer to 'the energy' behind it all, my version of god. Like we are all in motion and our waves sometimes dip into the energy and it affects us. I love the coincidences!!

Bea said...

I tend to err towards the chaotic marvel approach - solar flares - etc. Things happen like this because the universe is strange in unimaginable ways. Ways which are both random and meaningless, and at the same time provide insights into the grand and elusive law which shapes this strange and unimaginable nature. Rambling.

But the real value of coincidences is not to be found externally, but internally. Sit with it for a bit. No doubt you will discover (or rediscover) something about yourself.

Bea

Lori said...

I see these coincidences that happen to you periodically as a very natural occurrence.

You carry the energy of connection. Your blog, as a hub, is out outgrowth of your nature.

And the Universe is just a web of interconnections between seemingly separate entities (that are not really separate).

So I am not surprised that these uber-connections happen to you.

I am more surprised that they don't happen more often.

A.M.S. said...

;) When I was a kid, I actually knew a family who lived in a yurt, which I thought was incredibly cool. That, combined with an insane desire for Bilbo Baggin's home from "The Lord of the Rings" movie, is certainly what has driven me to want a round house. I already know where I'm going to build it. Now I just have to figure out the when. Oh, and win the lottery or something.

Ha! My word verification is "bitterr." Oh, how appropriate is that?