In the novel, “A River Runs Through It,” Norman Maclean wrote, “Like many fly fishermen in western Montana where the summer days are almost Arctic in length, I often do not start fishing until the cool of the evening. Then in the Arctic half-light of the canyon, all existence fades to a being with my soul and memories and the sounds of the Big Blackfoot River and a four-count rhythm and the hope that a fish will rise. Eventually, all things merge into one, and a river runs through it. The river was cut by the world’s great flood and runs over rocks from the basement of time. On some of those rocks are timeless raindrops. Under the rocks are the words, and some of the words are theirs. I am haunted by waters.”
There are times I find myself reminiscing my past, much of which was spent with my friends racing cars. There is also the realization that racing isn’t always about the cars, but also about the personalities that push them through their paces. There is a certain camaraderie among racers, one of respect, admiration and a great deal of compassion. In the process of spending those endearing moments with each other, we learn what makes us happy, what angers us and what kind of personalities we have. For the most part, I’ve never met a racer I didn’t like.
There are other times I find myself with the realization that more time has passed than I would like to admit. More of those, “That happened 10 years ago! Are you kidding me? Where has the time gone?” At any given moment, I can remember time spent at the track with others who made a lasting impression upon me. It’s a gift to that allows me to look back at my involvement with racing and smile, knowing it was a great time.
The best advice I can give any racer is to truly learn to appreciate and reminisce all the awesome moments spent with friends and family at the track. There will come a time when it will all be nothing more than a memory. You will find your inner self laughing at certain moments that resonate. You will actually feel yourself behind the wheel as you watch old in-car videos and asking yourself why in the hell didn’t you step on the gas earlier. You will catch yourself attempting to hold back a tear as you remember a friend who is no longer with us. You will eventually tell yourself, “Yeah, I was a bad-ass, all right. Those were such great times.” Then you will feel satisfied.
For me, NASA has taught me that getting old isn’t such a bad thing after all. Now I understand what Norman Maclean was trying to say when he penned, “On some of those rocks are timeless raindrops.” I get the feeling that what he meant was that many of those timeless raindrops are in fact the people who touched our lives in a meaningful way. They left us with endless moments of laughter, awe, and even life’s lessons at times, and all we need to do is sit back and reflect. Not at all unlike stopping to smell the roses, sometimes a racer can pull to the side of the track, and while looking real hard in the rearview mirror we can see those old memories coming fast and hard.
So take it from me, gather all the moments you can and store them away for a time many years from now. Because if you don’t, they will pass you by, never to be seen again.