My husband, a lifelong reader and writer, is a stickler about the proper usage of the English language and is constantly after our nieces and nephews for affixing the word “awesome” to every other utterance. As in “my friend’s new chocolate Labradoodle is awesome.” The dictionary defines the adjective as meaning “extremely impressive or daunting, inspiring great admiration, or fear.”
Buffered as most of us are these days from fearsome and daunting experiences, I don’t think we very often come face to face with something that is truly awesome in our daily lives. I did yesterday around noontime on the eastern spur of the Pennsylvania Turnpike when, in a matter of seconds, the wind-driven rain hardened into freezing sleet and icy snow. I was on my way to a reading/signing of my new novel SO NEAR at the Barnes & Noble in Jenkintown, and I was determined to get there on time. But I’d hit the ruthlessly advancing front of the Surprise October Snowstorm of 2011. Trucks skidded. Cars spun out. Traffic slowed to the defeated pace of Napoleon’s army retreating from Moscow. While all around us, the heavy, silent, unstoppable snow descended.
It was terrifying. It was magical. It was an unsettling and, I think, important reminder of how little control you actually have over your life. How it is by the grace of much larger forces — nature, fate, whatever higher powers there may be — that you get to go about your business. Until you’re forced to stop. To hear the tick, tick, tick, of ice against a windshield. To see the road and cars in front of you dissolve into a wall of white. To face the fact that you’ll have to turn back. And to realize: this is awesome.