Thursday, March 13, 2014

God's Words and a Little Red Car

The sun was striking that morning, a stunning red as it peaked over the horizon. 

Not an early summer fireball red but a deep rose hue that only happens on a subzero morning in Maine.

And I left my camera bag at home.

It was a decision made to protect my gear from the bitter cold in a van that takes six months to heat up but one I immediately regretted.

Thinking I still time to catch the remainder of a brilliant sunrise, I drove home quickly, grabbed the bag and headed out to the outskirts of my town.

As I chased the sun through my town and the neighboring one, I took a few shots but didn't capture anything I was particularly happy with. 

Disappointed, I turned the van around to point toward home and shifted to drive. But I couldn't leave. I felt a sudden need to continue in the direction I was traveling, the words "Go on" sounding in my head as if spoken. 

So I reversed course and drove through the back end of Whitefield until I ended up on Route 17 in Coopers Mills. 

"Turn left and then go home," the instruction continued, more feeling this time than words.

I drove for 10 minutes, looking for opportunities to photograph something unique. Nothing caught my attention...until I approached a little red car, suspended on a 30-foot pedestal near the entrance of an auto scrapyard in my town. 

"Now stop."

The scrapyard is a few miles from my house. I've passed it scores of times in the 18 years I've lived in town, always noticing it but never inspired to photograph it...until that morning.

The car's vibrance against a white winter landscape made it all the more striking - the shot I had been searching for without even realizing it.

Twenty minutes later, the image was prepped, uploaded to my website and shared on Facebook.

Shortly after, I saw a comment posted beneath it from my friend Diane.

As it turns out, Diane's partner Mark had painted that little car years ago - the color was his choice. According to Diane, he had to stand on ladders perched on a box truck to do it, a feat both challenging and precarious. It was a source of pride for him...and for her. Perhaps even more so now.

Mark, you see, died suddenly from a heart attack almost a year to the day I took that photo.

His death at 59 was shocking to those of us who knew Mark from countless school concerts, Saturday morning soccer games and other activities at our little school where he would be with Diane to support his boys.

I first met Mark when Diane was pregnant with their youngest, twin boys who are now 10, just a little younger than my son. 

Knowing the family well from such a long history, my heart broke for all of them in different ways. The twins and their older brother had lost a father; Diane, the love of her life.

 Diane reposted my photo on her Facebook wall later that morning, sharing the story of Mark's involvement.

"When I ride by it, it's like his legacy of a great autobody tech lives on. Happy tears...," she wrote.

And I realized, when I read Diane's message again, how our lives are filled with little moments we're sometimes too quick to label "coincidences."

When we take the time to listen to our internal messages - really listen - we sometimes find that they're not coincidences at all, but rather the quiet whispers of a divine being.

I set out that morning in pursuit of a red sunrise - a manifestation of God's beautiful work - and ended up at a little red car instead.

But that's where I was meant to be.

God called me to do the simple act of photographing an object I've driven by countless times without ever stopping, a landmark with a history I did not know.

His words that morning made me stop...and I'm glad I listened. 

For that calling brought joy to a friend whose past year has been filled with sorrow and pain. Her tears were grateful ones that were mine.

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