Coincidence multiplies when we are in motion. This is one of the reasons I enjoy travel, despite (and sometimes because of) missed airline connections, delayed bags, cramped seats and other perks of getting around the world. When we are out of the famiiar groove, we are primed to notice more of our environment. When we are not only in motion but off-plan, off-schedule (maybe because of that missed connection) a trickster energy comes into play that can bring us gifts of the unexpected.
I learn a lot from chance encounters on airplanes. I started one of my books (The Three “Only” Things) with an account of five extraordinary revelations that came through conversing with strangers on planes – people I would not have met, in most instances, but for a missed connection or a seat swap that overthrew fixed expectations and gave the trickster a clear entry into the scene.
On my two flights to Denver airport yesterday, I benefited by less outrageous, but still profoundly satisfying and confirming, examples of the gift of chance encounters in the air. The young woman sitting next to me on the first flight reminded me strongly of my youngest daughter, so strongly that I became convinced that (like my daughter) she was an English major. When I finally asked, she told me, “Yes, I majored in English, but I graduated two years ago.” Shyly, she confided that she had found the world rather “cold” since graduation. She had taken a job in a county office, just down the road from where I used to live, to pay the bills but her heart was set on finding work as an editor. What kind of editing? “Literary fiction, metafiction, science fiction and fantasy.” Which authors did she most enjoy in those fields. “Neil Gaiman.” No hesitation there. Great pick. American Gods is one of my favorite works of metafiction, with its hilarious account of broken-down Old World gods – or anyway their doubles – roaming the Midwest while an “understory” is played out behind the surface world of white bread and American fries.
By the end of the fl;ight, we had not only homed in on what kind of works this young, highly literate woman would like to edit, but on how she could network to introduce herself to the publishing world, and how she could get some of her own fiction out there in one format or another. As we parted company, she had two specific actions plans. I felt really good to have been given the chance – as an author who has also been an editor and an amateur agent on behalf of friends – to give this bright, shy star some encouragement and focus in manifesting her life dream.
On the next flight, there was some confusion over seat assignments and the mature woman who eventually sat down next to me had taken someone else’s place. This set my antennae aquiver but I did not open conversation until a work folder slid off her lap and slapped me on the thigh. When she began to apologize, I said, “That folder is now charged with energy. I need to know what’s in it.”
She laughed and explained that she was heading to Wyoming to direct a leadership program aimed to help people in rural and small town communities. I liked what she told me about the goals of this program: to help people who had not been heard to claim their voice, to encourage inclusivity. I told her I was going to speak in Boulder later that day on “Active Dreaming for Conscious Living and Community.” She became quite excited when I described how, in an Active Dreaming circle, we not only make space for each person to find their voice, develop their skill as a storyteller and be heard, but have each person take turns to play leader of a process within a strong, coherent and time-sensitive overall direction. This, for me, is a very effective way of building intentional community and a new mode of leadership. Then I couldn’t talk to her for a whilke because she had grabbed a copy of my new book and had started to devour it.
That conversation served to confirm both of us on our chosen paths of practice. And to put a little fizz, like champage bubbles, into the air.