Everybody needs beauty as well as bread, places to play and pray in,
places where nature may heal and give strength to body and soul. —John Muir
i don't know why it is, why some little, hardly noticeable, almost insignificant—although not to me—things in the natural world astonish and startle me, so much so that they actually can, at times, startle me silly. (what kind of an expression is that, startle me silly? it's ridiculous, that's what it is, but it's also accurate. when you feel silly you get all ticklish and giddy and wound up, don't you? now add a startle. that is my point exactly.)
in general, i don't think i startle much, or easily—i am not by nature a jumpy person—but if i turn my head or change direction, or if i bend down and this thing suddenly appears on the periphery of my vision, i realize with some surprise there is something i've not seen before, and it happens. it is when i am faced with a novel situation, say, i come across a place where light is striking an object just so, or something in nature seems different, like seeing a living creature where i least expect to find one, where i've previously never stumbled upon one, that i get that feeling of wow.
my garden. early august. early in the day. day lilies explode in every hue. an ordinary day. an extraordinary amount of weeds. bend down. pull up some of those impertinent weeds. then, on my way back to an upright position, there is this—my own sharp involuntary intake of breath. i am caught unaware and i can only muster a sense of delicious discovery because of—can you believe it?—a tiny wood frog. he's lovely and he seems so fragile, shyly peeking out from within the yellow throat of a tall, extra large peach colored lily.
maybe the simple scenario above is boring enough to prompt many people to yawn and fall asleep. maybe it's beyond boring. (i can understand that. after all, i didn't discover a mountain lion in my backyard.) maybe this type of thing happens a lot, is nothing new. but it's new to me. i have never witnessed a frog nestled inside a flower before.
at this point in my life i could easily fall into a deep well of cynicism—a nasty election season could also help nudge me right over the edge—and say i know all about this crazy world. i could say there is nothing left under the moon and sun that moves me, that surprises me. i've seen it all, done it all, there's nothing new and nothing really changes—it's all just life endlessly repeating itself.
but i don't fall; i don't even stumble. for some reason, i don't trip. i stand firmly on two feet and catch this small precious thing—a common, ordinary wood frog!—out of the corner of my eye. i stand there gawking like a nitwit and try to memorize the moment i first saw his small tan face.
because of the likes of him, i am still able to be made woozy—yes, even silly—with astonishment. i am happy with the discovery that there are things that continue to move me, get to me, that blaze with beauty inside a darkening world. it's such a little thing, but i get the message—there are a few surprises yet to be uncovered on this harassed old earth.