Crumbs From the Corner: Adventures in Woolgathering

Friday, June 13, 2008

A Ghost of a Chance

"Without mysteries, life would be very dull indeed. What would be left to strive for if everything were known?"
-Charles de Lint

My uncle travelled to New York a few years ago to take part in a parade that honoured his fellow police officers. When it was complete he paid a visit to neighbouring New Jersey and stepped into a bar for some refreshment.
After a while he struck up a conversation with an elderly man. It transpired that the latter was from Ireland too though he had been living in America for a long time.
It turned out after some small talk that the man was also from my uncle's side of Ireland, from the same county, which boasts a reasonable population of about 160,000.
My uncle chanced to mention the tiny village he grew up in and asked if his new acquaintance had heard of it. The village in question has about 600 people living within its boundaries.
Sure enough, the fellow declared with a slow dawning expression of incredulity, that he was familiar with the village- very much so. As a matter of fact he had visited his own relative there every summer of his childhood long ago, far before my uncle's time.
My relative, wise to every house in the diminutive locale of his youth, enquired as to what the family name might have been.
Between the two of them they at last established that the house one of them visited as a boy was the same house the other had grown up in. I grew up there too. Mater still lives there.
The house is more than a hundred years old and we were all aware of the name of the man who lived in the house ever before my family did. We knew nothing of him but his name and that his era had long since passed.
At the age of eleven I wrote a poem about him- or rather, about his spirit, which I whimsically imagined to be hovering in the atmosphere of the cottage I am sure he passed away in.
My uncle travelled four thousand miles for a work-related purpose, wandered as a tourist from the focal point of his visit, and in a randomly chosen bar on an inauspicious Autumn afternoon met a man who knew a particular house as well as he did.
Certain things in this world can be planned, accounted for, arranged, aligned and constructed in a nice orderly fashion to keep the world ticking over soundly. When we step into an area of uncategorisable and unresolvable matters, however, and come face to face with highly improbable coincidences, it shakes our nerve and leaves us wondering how much we really know about anything.
I would like to think that the pair, upon recovering from their curious encounter, raised their glasses and offered a toast to the departed old man who linked their lives.


Barb said...

It really is a very small world ... don't you think. B

hele said...

"When we step into an area of uncategorisable and unresolvable matters, however, and come face to face with highly improbable coincidences, it shakes our nerve and leaves us wondering how much we really know about anything."

I love those moments. They restore my faith.

Beth said...

There are so many coincidences--we are all connected if we only take the time to figure it out.

polona said...

wow, that is a truly amazing tale! truth is indeed often stranger than fiction.

tangobaby said...

Okay, that is an amazing story. My mouth literally fell open! I love reading about connections like this. Truly magical and wonderful!


BTW, I am just enjoying all of the Irish people in my neighborhood (for some reason there is a nice sized Irish community in the Sunset) along with several Irish bars and restaurants that make Irish breakfasts (which I had never even heard of until I moved here). I went to a new market last week and bought Irish sausage and Irish bacon and thought of you and I am going to pretend I am having breakfast with you.

I know this has nothing to do with the fantastic story you just told but it makes me smile to catch a thought of you.

Pauline said...

without serendipity, life would be dull indeed

Pappy said...

My mom used to say, "When you're in a strange place and want to meet someone you know, just do something wrong." :) Pappy

Jaime said...

Excuse me while I pick my jaw up off the floor.
That is incredible!

There really is no such thing as coincidence, is there? I don't think we little people have any idea as to the marvelous workings of the universe.

Phyllis Hunt McGowan said...

Barb, well it is but it's also a huge world in other ways, which is why things like this are so strange! :)

Hele, and I like comments like this. They keep me writing.

Beth, Definitely we are all connected but most of the time don't see it at all. Much to our own loss, that is.

Polona, If I wasn't directly connected to the person involved I'd pass it off as a fairytale but it really happened. A strange world indeed.

Tangobaby, I love connections too. They are there as Beth said, if we look for them.
Thank you for thinking of me! I grew up on a diet of Irish sausages, for breakfast every morning. I miss it here. Sausages are different.
"I am going to pretend I am having breakfast with you." Oh no. So now you know how many sugars I put in my tea? Even Spouse doesn't know that, nor Mater. :O Did I enjoy the breakfast though? I'd like to think I had extra sausage and bacon and that it felt like home... thanks for telling me this!

Pauline, It's those happy little accidents that can somehow make our day, I think. Makes us surprised and shocked in wonderment about the world. It would certainly not be as interesting without coincidences and the like.

Texican, I know it well. It's true. People can pop up in the most unexpected places at the precise moment you're looking silly. It isn't fair.

Jaime, I'll excuse you ;) We are such little people and when we think we're bigger and more important than we are, it's good to think about things like that. Brings us back down and reminds us we can't understand everything.

Thanks, everyone, for the comments. I'm trying to do some catching up on blogs and the hot weather is making it difficult. So bear with me :)

mouse (aka kimy) said...

what an absolutely magical story!! thank you for sharing it.... six degrees of separation - or less!!

Phyllis Hunt McGowan said...

Kimy, thanks, I'm always amazed by how little it takes to meet someone you know, when you least think it will happen. It's a marvel, really.

julochka said...

i love to think of the interconnectedness of the universe and find that these stories happen so much more often than you would ever imagine! thank you for sharing it!!!

Phyllis Hunt McGowan said...

Julie, I suppose we have to look for them, they're not always obvious but they do exist, these connections. They're fun to find. And to write about ;)

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