Serendipity

posted in: Uncategorized | 8

Female Oblong-Winged Katydid resting amidst the underbrush, White River Junction, Vermont, U.S.A., 1989

Spring is ratcheting by (yes, I know it’s not a real word, but it sounded so descriptive of the occasional glimpses I make out of the window… if I was a camcorder the whole world outside would pass like time lapse film) outside my window, not too different from Rod Taylor’s 1960’s “Time Machine” visions of his world fast forwarding and fast rewinding. The two Zelkovas that I planted two years ago have sprung out into a surprise of light green leaves, already waving a meter above my head. I peek out the curtain between bouts at the computer, while hard at work on the last spurt of the hotel design project, and lament yet another passing of Apollo’s chariot across the rooftops.

The other parts of the connection to sunlight and green things and air living in freedom come to me in little gifts of passage while on the trains, going to and from work. I stand on the train platform of the station near my home, looking over a tree nursery of flowering dogwoods and take a few moments to hear the last rays of the sun tinkling into the corners of my eyes, seeping in like warm honey. Or I sit transfixed, staring across the breadth of the train car at the hard lavender sky building up muscles among the clouds. When no one objects I pull open the window behind me and close my eyes as balmy fingers of wind buffet my face; at times I inhale deeply, seeking traces of sweetness in the night air. Or better yet, the living room sliding door rattles open to my hand and I step out into the dawn light, mist still screening the neighboring garden, while a flock of one of my favorite birds, the Azure Winged Magpie (Cyanopica cyana) (Pica, a very interesting curiosity about this species is that they live only here in Japan, parts of southeastern China, western Spain (in the Extremadura), and in Portugal. ) keep watch in the Magnolia, their long, azure tails pointing down beneath the branches.

Perhaps the most delightful moment occurred four nights ago on my way home on the train from a long day of morning at the doctor, afternoon at a design review meeting, and evening of teaching English… I was so tired that the moment I sat down I drifted off into sleep. For some reason I woke one station before my stop and opened my eyes straight into the face of a young woman staring at my… knee. My knee? My eyes followed the line of her gaze and I nearly jumped out of my seat: there, doing a pretty little pirouette, she was, a female katydid (Holochlora japonica), green as green be. That was not something I had expected to see on a late night train, a chilly spring evening, while half subdued from nature-deprivation. And yet there she was, saying hello, waving at me with her antennae. I thought she was delightful, though I think the woman staring at me must have felt she was witnessing the coming of the body snatchers. I reached out to grab the katydid, and she hopped to the floor. In front of everyone and just not caring what anyone thought, I leaned down and caught her, bringing her to the window, which I promptly pulled open. I stood with the wind blowing in, my back to everyone on the train and waited until the train passed through an open area where the katydid would be sure to find the company of leaves. I tossed her into the night, wishing her well, and somehow wishing I was tossing myself out with her. She disappeared into the darkness and I closed the window, sat down, and closed my eyes again.

Nature is not some foreign dreamworld that only the initiated can attend. It is all around us, every day, wild and free and vital. It may be harder to recognize it in this concrete lab experiment we’ve decided to call “good living”, but if you peer between the cracks the denizens are moving, going about their own lives. And occasionally they look up and see us, and when you’re lucky, they wave hello.

8 Responses

  1. Delightful moments are the best things in life. Thanks for sharing yours. I’ve said this before: I really do love the way you exercise poetic expression within prose passages. In the end, this may be the most powerful application of poetry. And Nature seems to inspire you that way!

  2. Admirable presence of mind. I probably would have swatted the katydid or gone into a leg jiggling fit. (I’ve always wondered just what it was that Katy did . . .)

  3. That story of the katydid is just delightful, Miguel. I love the contrast of our busy, mechanical world – our “concrete lab experiment”! – and the natural world that so many of us neglect to really see. Beautiful photo, too – a katydid within her own world.

    Of course katydids are nice to look at. I once found a rather large brown spider sitting on my leg and I jumped up and brushed it off with my heart pumping. I was always afraid of spiders. But this time I saw it on the floor trying to hide itself from me, making itself real small against the leg of the table and I suddenly felt touched by this little life. I got a cup and piece of paper and trapped it, then put it outside on my deck where it scampered away. I’ve never looked at spiders the same way since.

  4. You are such a good man. I don’t say that lightly.

  5. Butuki: thanks for the reminder of the beautiful azure-winged magpies… we saw some in Spain in December on our way to the Coto Doñana. They are so beautiful.

  6. Butuki, I have to ask, when and why were you in White River Junction, Vermont, besides being there to take this stunning picture?

  7. Beth, this actually has a special story with it… the two days I spent in White River Junction were with a former girlfriend and two other couples who were close friends of ours. I’m not exactly sure where in White River Junction this was… all I remember is bumping around on a dirt tack and ending up in an undeveloped homestead which one of the two other couples owned. We put up our tents and spent two golden days talking, going for long walks both together and alone, making wonderful camp meals, and laughing more than I have much since. It is one of the happiest memories in my life. The katydid photo I took while wandering about in a nettle choked hollow. I was in love with the trees and insects all around me and didn’t want to go home to Boston.

  8. Good job on catching it before someone panicked and stomped.

    (personally, I get Nola to handle insect & spider removal.)

Leave a Reply