For instance: Last week my car was in the shop. I sat on one of four raised planter beds in front of the Dalby building at Phoenix College waiting for a ride. Idly casting my gaze about, my eye happened to fall exactly onto the empty shell of a recently emerged cicada. I marveled that out of thousands and thousands of leaves in the flowering verbena, my eye would catch Mr. Cicada’s precise birthing spot (or molting spot as the case may be)!
Seventeen years is a very long time for anything, much less a milky, naked cicada grub doing whatever it does underground that entire time. His biological clock ticking, cicada finally begins his momentous struggle from a subterranean world up to the surface. Above ground he will promptly shed his delicate grubby-skin for a much larger, hardened body and wings to complete the life-cycle.
What were the chances that his triumphant ascension would happen to coincide with one of only very limited patches of earth that weren’t already covered by massive swaths of cement and asphalt? Cicada might have died without ever seeing the light - hopelessly frustrated and certainly entombed in the same dark earth where he started his simple bug existence 17 years earlier. I smiled, noting the incredibly delicate detail of the grub’s body memorialized in his discarded, tissue-thin skin that clung valiantly to the one leaf in a sea of possibilities where, in my boredom, I saw it. “Wow,” I thought, pleased, “I’m so glad I saw that!”
On another occasion, I was driving through my neighborhood when I stopped the suburban and backed it up in the middle of the road. I leaned out the driver’s window and stared at the asphalt below. It was a roof rat, totally flat from whisker to stern, morbidly frozen in a comical action-pose of running across the street. Er, running not quite fast enough.
Rats are resourceful and clever. They didn’t strike me as careless enough or slow enough to get flattened in traffic. “Wow,” I thought - what are the chances I would ever see something like that in a life-time? Seriously! The body lay undisturbed for about a week until it completely disappeared. For as long as it lasted, however, Flat Rat generated a lot of satisfaction. I delighted in driving by the carcass and inviting an unsuspecting passenger to look down when I paused the car at just the right spot. Somehow, the reaction of others never quite matched my own appreciation for little miracles.
Driving on West Glendale Avenue a couple of years ago, we approached a city bus stop where a solitary man was waiting at the bench in anything but typical waiting style. From a distance, we could see he was wildly gesturing and lunging his upper body side to side. He half-stood, half-crouched, then slid across the bench. All the while this unusual behavior was accompanied by something even more intriguing - he was shouting.
Anticipating our car passing along side, I opened my window in an attempt to hear what he was saying. He was screaming at the TOP of his lungs, “NO! NO! NO!” Obviously tormented by mental demons unrevealed to the rest of us, the man’s total commitment to arguing his point to no one with all the passion and sheer energy he could muster was ~ awesome.
Swirling in my mind were the inevitable questions: Would the bus stop for him - or keep on going? Had he already been riding the bus, but was asked to get off? Had someone asked if they could sit next to him? Was he upset because the driver had asked for exact change? As much as I searched for meaning to the man’s display, exceedingly little information was available to explain it. There was something strangely (weirdly) appealing about the full-bodied pedal to the metal expression that poor man was able to exercise. It made me want to answer him, "YES! You're right!" or "NO! Absolutely!" And yes, for whatever reason, I admit I was glad I saw that.
Grandson Jack, who is always amusing no matter what he is doing, out-did himself the Christmas he was presented with his
newborn cousin for the first time. Quivering with excitement, he clapped his hands and breathlessly exclaimed, “Oh! Baby Kenna!” He scrambled onto the couch and held out two little arms to receive the tiny baby girl. The picture was cute enough; husky big boy Jack gently, lovingly cuddling his little cousin in his lap.
Suddenly, a truly precious surprise yielded a beaming Jack spontaneously singing sweetly, “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star” over and over again right into Baby MaKenna’s rosy face. She gazed up at him, listening to his heart-felt crooning.
The warmth and beauty of this perfect exchange filled the room with a palpable joy and happiness that really did feel like Heaven on earth.
Only gradually I became aware that I was tightly clasping my hands in front of my chest in the classic “awe” pose. My face hurt from smiling. Through tears of deep gratitude, I whispered to no one in particular, “Oh! I am so glad I saw this!”