Lucy Ferriss

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I've called this blog "Travelin' Thoughts" in the past, because I kept it mostly as a journal to record impressions of new places and cultures. But in a way, it's still a place for traveling thoughts--ideas that move through and past me, and out into the world. Some of these are literary, some just about life. It's a good place to open up the conversation, and I welcome your thoughts and comments.

So Much Unfinished

August 27, 2015

On my way south from the Berkshires last Tuesday morning, I was planning my day ahead: an early tennis game, a long conversation with my son, an attempt to craft a new outline for the new novel that’s gotten stalled on page 95. It had been raining heavily when I left, but the courts were supposed to be dry in Connecticut, and sure enough, the rain tapered off and seemed to be mere sprinkles as I took the shortcut around Westfield and, after a hairpin turn, crossed the river. As I accelerated on the rise past the river, my car seemed to have suffered a stroke. Its legs—er, wheels—lost their bearings. The steering wheel wasn’t taking orders from me. And all on its own, the car executed a neat 180-degree turn, hopped sideways over the curb on the other side, and ended on the grassy slope, facing north.

            My first thought was, So much unfinished.

            Five seconds later, a car passed me, headed north. Had I spun out five seconds earlier, I might have had a fatal collision. Instead, I put the car into reverse, gingerly dropped the wheels off the curb, and rolled into a nearby driveway to inspect the damage. My left rear wheel was badly bent, and I would learn later that one of the brake drums had gotten skewed and a bearing knocked loose. But I managed to limp the car the rest of the way south, to a service station ¼ mile from the tennis court, where I went ahead and played in what felt like a surreal game, the bright yellow ball floating through the afterlife.

            Only later did I remember that first thought, about so much unfinished. What had I failed to finish? The dialogue with my son, about his immediate future. Resolving my recent estrangement from my oldest friend from college. The stalled manuscript, but more importantly, the pieces of writing I’ve been putting off for a day when nothing else is at stake and I can write from that deep, strange, tidal place I could call my soul. My other son, my first-born, for whom there’s a door just waiting to be opened, but only he can open it, and all I want is to see that first ray of light slanting through. The potentilla that hasn’t flowered and won’t flower and needs to be replaced. The trip to Machu Picchu. The charities I meant to mention in my will—Planned Parenthood, Doctors without Borders. Italian—I was going to learn Italian. One more day of pure sensual delight. These and more were the unfinished business, the things that wouldn’t get done, the words that wouldn’t be heard or said, the sights that would fail to reach my eyes.

            Only it turned out to be a small accident, a freak event of little consequence, and I can still do all those things. The thought itself, I believe, was just a half-step behind. It was the thought I was having just before a fatal crash wiped out my consciousness, only it didn’t reach my frontal lobe until the danger was past. Now, once again, the choice is mine. Can I finish? Or will my life, like just about all lives, end unfinished, in the midst of the cadenza, more notes left to play?

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