It all started with the untimely death of Dr. William Coperthwaite, artisan, poet, educator, and author of A Handmade Life, in a single-car accident in Maine. A modern-day Thoreau, Bill lived an existence infused with simplicity, art and peace. He had no phone, no computer, and no email. He steadfastly refused to put a motor on his skiff, paddling it instead with a cedar oar he carved himself. Yet he was the man who started the yurt revolution, a living legend in simple living whose name came up at every primitive skills meeting I ever attended.
His death behind the wheel on icy roads is the very definition of cruel irony. The technology he eschewed resulted in his demise. Hearing of his death and the manner of it chilled me as fully as if I had been standing by the snowy roadside where he perished.
Then came the story that exploded in the twitter-verse Thanksgiving night when Josh Romney pulled four passengers from a car and tweeted a photo of himself grinning at the scene. Kudos to Josh for pulling four people from the wreck. But his expression, pose and tone would have been more appropriate if he had been announcing that he caught a record breaking fish or proclaiming that his sow took first place at the county fair.
In the context of a narrowly averted tragedy however, his demeanor is creepy and surreal. Maybe it’s the untouched red-eye that glares out of those eyes, but my bones were once again plunged into a deep freeze.
And then last night, the third and final car accident: the death of Paul Walker, star of the car-centric Fast and Furious film franchise, in a single-car accident in Santa Clarita. A father, outdoorsman, surfer, and BJJ Brown Belt, Walker was well-liked by his co-stars (and by my wife and daughter who have watched every one of his adrenaline-jacked films a dozen times). Last night my daughter heard the news on Twitter and called out “Mom! Paul Walker died in a car crash!” and a pall came over the room. He and friend Roger Rodas were killed after leaving a charity event benefiting the victims of Typhoon Haiyan. In true Shakespearean fashion, the instrument of his greatest film success was also the instrument of his demise.
Bad things come in threes, and I have errands to run today. Is there a cruel irony in store for me after I put the truck in gear and pull away from the curb? Will there be a headline about a father of four, a local writer and martial arts expert, perishing in a pointless wreck? Unlikely but distinctly possible. After all, car crashes don’t come in threes, they come in hundreds and thousands. Car accidents claim over 100 lives every day in the United States.
Yet we all keep getting into them thinking that everything is going to be just fine. Truth is indeed stranger than fiction.