Nearly a decade ago, while visiting a friend in Vancouver, British Columbia, I decided to step out and take a stroll at dusk. The air was fresh and fragrant with the scents of summer, the temperature was ideal, and I felt generally happy and at peace with my life, which lent me an unusual sense of spontaneity. I hadn’t the foggiest idea where I was going or where I would end up, but trusted my fate to the city.
As darkness descended, I found myself near the waterfront, which was buzzing with overwhelming activity. Inquiring of those around me, I discovered that I had stumbled upon Celebration of Light, an annual musical fireworks competition. The competition features spectacular fireworks set to a musical score. I was near a high-rise condominium, several of whose residents had their radios tuned to the station broadcasting the soundtrack, and who were blasting the music at sufficient volume for it to be heard against the thundering boom of the exploding fireworks. I arrived just as the show was beginning, and took up a patch of grass to take in the colourful display. It was an entirely unexpected boon, and one which made my holiday so much sweeter.
Yesterday, we arrived in Gatineau, Quebec, for the tail end of an annual family vacation which begins with camping in Algonquin Park. We have a few friends and family who live in the Ottawa area, and this is our chance to catch up with them. The streets and parking lot outside our hotel were nothing short of chaotic. A man with security stenciled across his shirt intercepted us at the entrance to the lot to confirm we had legitimate business at the hotel. I thought at first that some political personage must be staying at the hotel and there were concerns of assassination. (I realized later that this was silly as, although the hotel is of reasonably decent caliber, it is not quite so high as to attract people worthy of assassination).
It turned out that the Casino du Lac-Leamy Sound of Light program was being featured in a place visible from our hotel. Without intending it, we ended up in a place of such convenience that we needed only to set up our fold-up chairs on the lawn outside the hotel and a marvel of human ingenuity was executed seamlessly before us in dazzling bursts of light.
serendipity: the phenomenon of finding valuable or agreeable things unsought
As I have aged, I have found myself losing some of the pure excitement of my childhood — the fascination of a virgin mind exploring a world filled with wonder. Having children helped me regain some of it, as I found joy in their wonder, but I nevertheless feel that, compared to my childhood, my blood has in many ways dried to dust when it comes to feeling that sense of amazement at the world around me.
Not so with fireworks. When I see them, it’s like I’m a child again. I feel no shame in admitting it: I get giddy. I just sit there with a goofy grin on my face, my gleaming eyes reflecting the vibrant, chromatic explosions before me. You can understand, then, that happening upon an opportunity to see a world-class fireworks display when it was not even planned made our family vacation infinitely more perfect than it already was.
Today, I am thankful for serendipity. Whether you believe that fate brings us to these places, or that it is all just happenstance, I feel immense gratitude for the small opportunities that arise in life through perfectly unplanned timing.