Monday, November 8, 2010

Nothing is by Chance

Serendipitous angels are the real muses
For writers, serendipity is a visit from the muse. Spiritual serendipity is that odd way we have of being somewhere we need to be at the right time and place to learn something or be saved from something. Sometimes it’s being there for someone else, a stranger who might need our help. And, sometimes it’s all that.

On a short Christmas cruise of the Caribbean, my husband and I sat across the lunch table from a young couple talking about her chronic health condition. She wondered how she could manage it, perhaps for the rest of her life. Never one to ignore the opportunity to practice medicine without a license, I said, "See me after lunch and I’ll tell you what works for me."

"Tell her now," said her husband. "I can take it." So I did. Three days later she waved a happy goodbye from the gangplank. We never saw them again; we’d never seen them before. But we were in the right place when she needed my suggestions.

When my youngest daughter Lynne was seven months old, we had just relocated to Xenia, Ohio. Lynne and I developed sore throats. I found my way to the doctor’s office despite a steady rainstorm. My child cried beside me in the flimsy car seat (1964). Returning, having had our shots and our prescriptions filled, I thought I’d become turned around on the four-lane highway and made a U turn though a median strip that rivaled a rice paddy. The gurgle beneath the car told the tale. I threw open the door and saw that the water had stopped at the center of the hubcaps. My daughter was asleep, so I stepped out of the car into the sucking mud and drizzle to flag down help.

I hadn’t been standing there a minute when a non-threatening little old lady in a vintage, Model T, Ford came along, rolled down her window and asked, "Do you need help, honey?"

"Yes please, and do you mind if I bring my baby?" (The shot hadn’t kicked in yet.)

At the service station, I arranged for a tow truck and sat down to wait. A burly policeman walked in and took one look at me shivering on the metal chair with the baby on the floor in her contraption. He shook his head. "Is that your car in the median strip?"

"Yes, sir." I’d learned to use sir and ma’am recently after we’d moved so close to Cincinnati and the Kentucky-Ohio border where southern manners began in the Midwest.

"Well," he said stroking his chin, "I should give you a ticket, but I think you have enough trouble."

Two angels for the price of one.
In 1977, I was in Chagrin Falls, Ohio, driving home from a meeting with an editor when I heard what sounded like a MACK truck behind me. Sure enough a huge semi was coming to the crossroads right on my tail. A few minutes later I heard him again. He sounded so close that I sped up and looked in the rear view mirror. But the truck was gone. I slowed down and the sound changed, lower this time. It was my first flat tire on our new German car. Luckily it hadn’t even swerved.

I was only half a mile from our veterinarian’s offices. Knowing that I needed a flat surface to be able to use the European jack, I rolled onto the vets cement parking lot. Right behind me followed my next angel/knight. His shining armor was a red and black Pontiac GTO. He asked if I’d like help changing the tire.

"Would I ever! Thank you."

It wasn’t long before he was puzzling over the jack and the metric tools in the trunk. "Do you have an instruction manual?" he asked.

"It came with the tools." I retrieved it from the glove compartment, where women generally keep trunk items.

He opened it to the German section first, then turned it upside down and started reading again. While he was changing the tire, I went inside to call home.
A few years ago we were on a cruise in the middle of the South Pacific when I met Jim Woods, Champagne author, editor and short story and article writer. He is also an expert on guns and Africa. This was an unlikely place to meet a man of action, but for a week, his friends and my duplicate bridge group had been telling us that there were two writers on board.

He found me in the library—of course.

"Are you the writer?" he asked.

"Yes. Are you the other one?" I answered. In the course of our conversation, he told me about Champagne Books, for which my romantic novels were suited.

Had I not been on that cruise, I’d have not met Jim, and Champagne might have eluded my search.

Spiritual and creative serendipity is not just luck. It’s being in the right place at the right time, then listening to the person providing the help. Thanks to all you angels and muses, past, present and future.

Julie Eberhart Painter is the Champagne Books author of Mortal Coil, in which she practices both medicine and law without licenses, and Tangled Web, a story close to her heart. See Julie’s Web site at The World, the Flesh and the Devil, American Castles and Tahitian Destiny are available from Amazon and Barnes & Noble Her nonfiction e-book, From the Inside Out, a volunteer looks at staying motivated, is considered a best seller on the Net.


Ashley Barnard said...

Jim Woods was an angel to me once too. When I went to the writing conference in Tucson in 2005, he noticed me being shy and lost, and took me under his wing. A year later I won second place in the conference's annual short story contest, and found out he was a judge -- the entries were anonymous so he was surprised it was I when we met again at the awards ceremony. I was absolutely delighted when I saw he was also published with Champagne -- I didn't know it until I got my contract this last December. I've always thought of him as a little writing guardian angel.