I woke up late (again) to sunlight streaming through the sheers of my hotel in Madrid. I’d cracked the window open the night before, and the morning sounds from the street were wafting up into my room.
It was still early. By which I mean 830a. By which I mean, the crack of dawn for Madrid.
I dressed by the natural light; scurried down to the Lobby to a waiting taxi. I was off to a conference (the subject of it would bore you to tears, but it’s the sort of thing I get fired up about…remember…”Dramatic Drachmas”). The event was being held at a Spanish law firm’s new headquarters, and their building was Apple Store-like in its use of glass and dark stone. The Madrid sun filled the glass enclosure and turned the cavernous space into a veritable greenhouse.
I was thrilled.
I laid eyes on a friend of mine who gave me a big friendly hug. I am sometimes struck by the nature of hugs. I always joke about not being a touchy person, but when in Spain, do as the Spanish do. There were hugs; kisses; familiar greetings. It was…nice.
At some point, I got talking to the deputy general counsel of a big American corporation. He was German, married to an American; they were based in Geneva. We talked about my injury; about getting around on crutches; about the nature of the beast of being involuntarily slowed down.
You’ll find the blessing in this, he assured me, And it will be remarkable. Your guardian angel is looking out for you.
It was a funny thing to say, a striking one. (And admittedly, the somewhat spiritual overtones of the comment might have seemed completely out of context if the conference hadn’t been sponsored by our Jesuit law school). The comment resonated especially because my mother always said things like that she felt that my grandparents were with me and my brother all the time. My grandmother had died six years ago last weekend — the same day I’d hurt myself — and she was, in fact, Spanish.
(Her birthday is Friday. She’d have been 99.)
The whole exchange reminded me of a line from a song I used to love, and listened to on repeat during many a transition time in my life. The refrain went:
…And keep me guessing with these blessings in disguise
And I’ll walk with grace my feet and faith my eyes…
These incidents and accidents, where they just ordinary blessings in disguise? Was this grace?
The day and the conference ended and after cocktails with friends, I did some work then had dinner under the stained glass dome of my hotel. It was so beautiful — all of it — Madrid; the people; the food; the crystal, and glass, and the light of day fading in the painted panes of the ceiling above me.
It struck me, then, that there were angels dining somewhere, just maybe not at The Ritz. Though ironically, I’d swapped my hotel reservation from Hotel Ritz in Madrid to the Palace just the day before. Maybe I was walking away from fate — but maybe, unbeknownst to me — broken, human, humbled, I was slowly limping right into it.