No sooner have we celebrated the fact that we’ve all survived the end of the world as predicted by the Maya calendar (which, BTW, seems to have been a TOTAL misunderstanding as the Mayans mainly concluded one cycle of time would end on the 21 of December 2012 and be replaced by a new one) than we must prepare for the next upcoming catastrophe.
As per yesterday’s newspaper, the asteroid Apophis swished by the Earth just recently – at an uncomfortably close distance. Next time round, in 2029, it will be really, really close, and the time after that, in 2036, well then … No one knows, you see. Astronomers study the heavenly bodies and do complex calculations re mass and speed and gravity, but ultimately the giant rocks that whiz through space are fickle things, and a minor collision between one and the other may alter its course entirely.
In 2036, I’ll be well past my prime – but nowhere close to my grave (I hope). Given that I have started a new bout of “let’s get this body into shape” regime (failed dismally on day one as I felt this new life required some celebration involving M&Ms and a diet soda, all the while repeating silently that this was the absolutely last piece of chocolate to cross my lips in the coming four months) I plan to be in great shape 23 years from now, like WOW shape, with toned thighs, a firm rump and nice breasts. I choose to ignore such dreary facts as gravitational pull on bodily parts, general consequences of ageing and my weakness for all things sweet and fatty when envisioning my future me. Anyway, should an asteroid crash with the world just when I am finally fit, tanned and toned, I will be mightily pissed off. Not that it much helps, I imagine.
Ah well; the concept of impending doom sort of concentrates your mind, and as a consequence I’ve written a top ten list of things I must do before I die. Preferably BEFORE 2036 …
1. Publish my books. Good thing about this is that’s it already ongoing. Bad thing is that my head swarms with new potential ideas, and as I don’t want the world to miss out on any of my fantastic creations (!) I’m looking at quite a workload here… there is a risk I will become even more vague in my interaction w hubby and children – well, with everyone really – as I struggle to keep multiple plots separate in my brain. Even worse, one of the as yet unknown characters seems to speak Russian. Shoot! I don’t speak Russian!
2. Given one above, I must learn Russian. Dear oh dear; that sounds very daunting. A Slavic language is constructed with very different building blocks than the ones I already speak, and I bet they have some sort of guttural sound I will not be able to reproduce. On the other hand, maybe I can learn to sing “Kalinka” in Russian, thereby combining new language with new parlour trick. (At present my best parlour trick – apart from a selection of very rude jokes – is singing a song in Spanish called Corazón, like Julio Iglesias sings it, i.e. with the depressed look of a cockerspaniel in pain…)
3. I want to go to Japan – more specifically Kyoto. Now this is a dream based on several re-readings of James Clavell’s Shogun, and I worry I might be a teensy, weensy bit disappointed in that I won’t see samurais swishing down the streets with that look of controlled haughtiness that is so difficult for us Westerners to interpret. Still; I want to see Kyoto, preferably in spring when the cherry blossoms drift like perfumed snow in the parks. Now in Japan they don’t speak Russian, which means I need to add yet another language to my top ten, as it’s much more fun to travel if you can make yourself understood.
4. Learn Japanese. See above. Will complement language with an attempt to master the Japanese tea ritual. I fear I may be too clumsy – and loud. But will try…
5. I’d like to take a degree in history. My father was all for practical education. I am grateful to him in that my M.Sc in Accounting and Business Admin has been a safe meal-ticket – and proved the door opener to an interesting and fulfilling career. But my dream was to be a historian …
6. Win the lottery. Hang on, hang on. That doesn’t qualify, as there’s nothing I can do to actually make this happen. Well, beyond buying a ticket of course… Hmm; yes, I’ll do that.
7. I’d like to do something that fundamentally changed a person’s life to the better. I’m not quite sure how to go about this without becoming yet another enervating do-gooder, but I do think about it a lot. It would help if I won the lottery … Or maybe that’s applying very crass material standards, maybe it doesn’t COST anything to improve another person’s life. Maybe all it takes is a helping hand, a kind word or two. Must meditate on this, i.e. develop my inner qualities further – and maybe take up yoga.
8. I want to go on a pilgrimage. Not only physically, but spiritually – which I find somewhat scary. As everyone and his dog seems to be trotting down to Santiago de Compostela these days, I will need to find another route. Maybe the old pilgrim’s road to Nidaros in Norway? Or a long, long walk to Jerusalem, or Rome? Whatever the case, I want to WALK. Alone, I think, and maybe with a temporary vow of silence. Umm … me silent? Now why can I hear so many of you laughing? I can be silent when I want to – it’s just that I rarely fell like shutting up.
9. I believe in happily ever sunsets. I want to experience one of those with my Johan. Growing old(er) with someone you love is a privilege – and far better than the alternative. So, I want to ride off into the sunset, if it was my choice on a beautiful white horse, but I think Johan prefers vehicles that run on petrol to four-legged things that thrive on oats. Compromises, compromises …
10. Having children has been the single biggest joy in my life. It sounds soppy and cliche, but there you are; my kids are my biggest achievement. People say having grandchildren is even more mind-blowing than having kids, and while I find it difficult to believe anything can beat the utter joy of holding your newborn child in your arms, I will give these more experienced friends of mine the benefit of the doubt. Ergo, I want grandchildren. If nothing else it will give me a most valid excuse to hone my cupcake skills and in general fill my freezer with wonderful sticky things containing chocolate…Oh, and I’ll be able to pull out all those dogeared books again, reading aloud to a new, entranced (I hope) audience.
What strikes me as I read the list above, is that none of these dreams is unachievable (Okay, learning Japanese does seem somewhat difficult – but not impossible ). That’s a major fall forward for a woman who as a girl dreamed of being a Crusader knight … (and who still has recurring dreams of being dragged backwards in time to see for herself what life was really like back then in the fifth or sixth or seventeenth century)
To be honest, I’m not all that worried about Apophis. And, the scientists tell us, should the asteroid crash with the Earth, it will “only” obliterate an area the size of Europe. No big deal, right? Humankind will go on to design its own destruction, God will let this little orb spin out its intended lifespan, and if the planet is lucky that future asteroid will in fact land in Europe – or North America – thereby wiping the planet of the blight that is us lazy, over-consuming, spoiled Westerners. I hope not, of course. But then I keep on hoping that someday very soon we will all wake up to realise just how close to self-imposed environmental annihilation we are sailing. You wish, as the more cynical amongst us may say…
Whatever: I have a list to fulfil, a life to lead and yet another book to edit. Now and then I will look up at the twinkling points of light so high above us, just to check they’re not moving too fast in our direction, but all in all I’ll leave it up to fate.