The streets and sidewalks were still damp and puddly from the nighttime rain. I edge out of the house and gingerly step down the drive. The street is shiny and wet. I don’t look around. I look down. The milky, early morning sun is warm. It’s going to be hot. I have plenty of time to get to school. It doesn’t matter. I am going to be late.
I’m going to save them all.
And I try. Over and over I bend over to scoop their slithery, writhing little selves off the quickly drying pavement and onto the cool grass so they can burrow back into the earth. I can’t make heads or tails of them! But I don’t feel triumphant as they slide off my fingers into safety. I fuss and I worry. Am I putting them back in the right place so they can find their families?
Anxious, overwhelmed, fussed, I am way in the back, slumped in a seat, shrinking away from the crowd that surrounds me. They are all looking up. I should be looking up. I should be but I just can’t. Instead I look down. A tiny speck. A solitary ant, boldly and stealthily making his way across the floor. The brave advance guard! All alone.
Like the self-important Florence Nightingale of the insect world, I turn to rummage for a scrap of paper intent on scooping the tiny thing up and winging him to safety and freedom out into the sunlight.
But when I turn he’s been crushed. As am I.
There is a lot of in between here. I wonder, moving so fast for so long, what other small marvels have I arrogantly and short-sightedly overlooked? How much have I missed?
I flit by here all the time. A quick glance out the car window, a heartbeat’s worth of appreciation, and my eyes are back firmly on the road, I’m zooming on my way. But tonight is different. Tonight I stop. Slowly I make my way down to the pond. And I sit.
I tap my foot nervously. Let’s go, let’s go, let’s go! I jitter and sneak glances at my watch. What am I waiting for exactly? To be instantly embraced by the rhythms of nature? To have all secrets revealed?
The pond, surrounded by delicate trees and brushed by soft flowers, is down a gentle slope next to the library. It’s bordered by roads and as I sit I’m enveloped not by the spark of nature but buffeted by the whoosh of the engines as cars careen wildly around the corners. I can’t think.
If the steely-eyed drivers bother to glance out their windows as they roar past, they will see me sitting there. A tiny speck. Alone. I shift uncomfortably.
I won’t stay. Instead I make my way back up the path and to the library. The great indoors: my own Elysium. I enter and I am at once embraced by a cloud of quiet.
It’s here that I feel safe. Blanketed by thought, soothed by words, I find the peace that I’m longing for. It’s here that I can, for a few moments at least, just allow thought to wash over me like a salve. Here, if I listen very closely, I can even feel the pulse of souls, both large and small.
And it is here, finally, that by myself I chide myself gently for what I have for so long forgotten to notice. And it’s here that I can too remind myself that there is always so much to see if I make the effort
to look up
and always down.