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Sharon Randall: Maybe it’s not coincidence


Sharon Randall can be reached at P.O. Box 416, Pacific Grove, CA 93950 or on her website: www.sharonrandall.com.

Do you believe in coincidence? I like to think things happen for a reason, even if I don’t know the reason. Take that strange thing I saw on the mountain.

Recently we moved to Carmel Valley, Calif., to a small house with a big view of the Santa Lucia Mountains.

I wish you could see them.

Last week, I was sitting in my new living room, checking out the view — the horse farm across the valley, the  clouds rolling in from the coast, the buzzards circling overhead — when suddenly I spotted it.

On a faraway ridge, something stood alone and tall. I grabbed the binoculars and focused on what looked like a lighthouse.

“Look at that,” I said, handing the binoculars to my husband, “what do you think it is?”

He stared for a bit and said, “I think it’s a fire lookout tower.”

A fire tower? Like the one I once climbed? I knew he was right. He always is. But I wanted more proof. An hour’s search online gave me the following:

The Sid Ormsbee Fire Lookout was built in 1948, in what is now the Santa Lucia Preserve, on a ridge that rises more than 2,000 feet above Carmel Valley.

It is named for 2nd Lt. Sidney C. Ormsbee, a 26-year-old forest ranger from Capitola, who died in 1943, when his plane was shot down on a bombing mission in World War II.

No longer used for fire observation, the site is equipped with a telecommunications tower for emergency transmissions for firefighters battling blazes in the area.

That’s a short version of Sid Ormsbee’s story. This is mine:

Long ago, when I was a teenager in the Carolinas, with no clue of what to do with my life, I went for a ride with some friends and ended up at an old abandoned fire tower.

I remember standing on the ground, looking up to where the tower disappeared in the clouds.  Somebody (not I) said, “Let’s climb this thing.” So we did.

We climbed for what felt like forever, rung by rung, never daring to look down. When my friend reached the platform, he yelled, “Dang! It’s locked!”

We clung there for a while, holding on for dear life, feeling the tower sway in the wind.

After a bit, I opened my eyes and looked down at the silent, glorious world below. I felt a sense of peace and joy unlike any I’d ever known. And I said to myself, “I can do this. I can be a ranger in a lookout tower.”

That became my goal in life for several years. Then I went off to college. After college, I moved to California, married, and had three babies. And at some point, I realized I would never want to spend my life alone in a tower without the people I love.

So I gave up my dream of living alone in a tower. Instead, I learned to find peace and joy, not in isolation, but in a crazy, frantic thing called life.

I thought about all of that this week, sitting in my living room, looking out at that tower and giving thanks for a young man who gave his life for his country.

Here are ways our stories are alike: Sid Ormsbee and my dad were born on opposite coasts in the spring of 1916. Sid played basketball at Santa Cruz High, where 40 years later, I would keep score for the visiting team from Monterey.

In 1941, both men enlisted in WWII. Both served in Northern Africa and Italy. Ormsbee’s plane was shot down on the eve of my mother’s 18th birthday. The tower that bears his name, and that I see from my living room window, was built the year I was born.

Coincidences? Probably. All I know is, after so many years, I finally have my own lookout tower. And I don’t have to climb it to enjoy the view, or to feel the peace and joy it brings me.

A coincidence may be nothing but chance. But sometimes, if you look closely, you might see an old dream coming true.

Sharon Randall can be reached at P.O. Box 416, Pacific Grove CA 93950, or on her website, www.sharonrandall.com.



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