Hurry, hurry, hurry, hurry, hurry.
I work a part-time day job. And on the days I work, from the moment my feet hit the floor in the morning until I walk back into the house and head for the shower, I hurry. The job requires it.
Steve often asks, "What did you see while you were out on your route today?"
"The road," I say. "Mailboxes. Cars that crossed the center line and almost ran me over. Envelopes." There's just no time to focus on much of anything else.
Last week I'd had a lousy morning. I was driving down one of my favorite winding country roads, but with no time to enjoy the curves in the rolling green farm country of Southern Kentucky, all corn and soybean fields mixed with cattle and pasture and interspersed with fence rows and small stands of trees. Everything was a blur of the same stuff I see every day I work. Stuff like this picture on the right.
I'd forgotten my coffee. I was tired and cranky and hungry, and all I had with me was a cold tenderloin breakfast biscuit. I unwrapped the foil and picked at the ickiness of something that God commanded should be served hot.
"I need to get a life," I muttered. I tossed pieces of biscuit out the window and nibbled on the cold tenderloin. Blech. I was running late, and it was not a good day.
That's when I saw it. A flash of yellow in the sky. I looked again, and could not believe my eyes.
It was a crop duster. Maybe those are old hat to some of you, but they're new around here. I had never seen one. I stopped the car and stared as he crossed the road over me, turning hard to head back to the cornfield he was spraying. His plane was low-wing and blinding flame yellow. So bright you almost couldn't look at it in the late-morning sun. He approached the field from first one end, then the other, dropping each time like a winged avenger diving on a target, dipping over the tops of nearby trees, barely missing their branches, then down to the level of the corn. I watched him fly under telephone wires, the wheels of his aircraft actually brushing the corn tassles as he zipped across them. After each pass, he pulled out of the field to turn, and came directly over where I was. He was so low I could almost see his face. I stood there, awestruck, as he flipped the plane up onto its edge, the wings all the way vertical, so he was standing on end over the road in the tightest turn a plane can make, before he headed back to the field for another pass. It was an aerobatic show, performed right out there in the middle of nowhere. A show I think God sent, just for me.
I stayed there for probably ten more minutes, until he finished the field and headed off the other direction into the humid August sky, flying south. Then I started the car and went on my way. Screw it if I was late. Now, I was smiling. Every time I think about it, my heart still gives a happy little flutter, and I smile all over again.
If I'd been on time, I would have missed that.
I'm not fond of religion as a rule, but the thread of faith runs deep within me. I started thinking about that this week, and about the things that interrupt my hum-drum everydays and cause me to remember why I'm here, in this Garden built by God. I started thinking about how much I probably miss as I hurry, hurry, hurry along. I'm grateful that every now and then, God sends something along that stops me cold.
Night before last Steve stood at the front door (it's mostly glass) and said, "Cassondra, come look at this." Steve is always trying to get me to look at one thing or another.
"I'm busy," I said, and kept typing.
"Really, you should see this," he insisted.
I got up from the computer and walked to the front door and pressed my face up to the glass, hands cupped around my eyes so I could see out into the darkness. A line of thunderstorms snaked across the sky to the north. Giant purple thunderheads lined up all the way across the horizon, and lightning streaked between them. They were layers of purple, green, gray-white and yellow in the violet sky. It was other-worldly in its beauty. And I almost missed it.
I noticed, a bit later, that the computer was still there when I went back to it, and the words I was trying to cobble together--they waited for me to stop and stare for a while.
I often have my head in a book. Physically, yes, because I love to read, but even when I'm cleaning the van, or mowing the yard, or weeding the flower beds, my head tends to stay in the story I'm working on, or the story I just read. That's the thing about writing. There is no such thing as time off.
It was that way in the early summer this year as I was walking down the driveway after a noon storm. I was staring at the gravel, frowning at myself and my characters, trying to figure out what wasn't working in a manuscript, when a bee buzzed me and I jerked to my right. And there it was in the East. A rainbow. A rare, full bow, shimmering against the clouds. It took my breath away. Whatever I was doing fell away and for the moment, I was captivated. It was a miracle right there in front of me.
Thank God for that bee.
Those surprise miracles come in all shapes and sizes for me.
My neighbor raises peacocks. Is it even possible to see those birds, strutting with those feathers spread wide, without stopping to stare?
Or the bloom of a passion flower twining through a fence full of ragweed, without catching your breath?
Late January, when the world is frozen, dead and hopeless, and you notice one yellow crocus popping through the mud and the grimy-gray, end-of-winter snow beside the walk, does your heart flutter a little?
What happens when you come upon an unexpected nest of baby birds?
Now and then I'll walk through the yard to put the dogs in the kennel, and I'll walk through a whiff of honeysuckle. A scent so rich and lush that it nearly brings tears to my eyes. It stops me cold, in my tracks, and I forget, for a brief moment, all the troubles in my world.
What does it for you?
Has there ever been a time when things were going badly, but something unexpected and beautiful came into your world to brighten the moment?
Have you ever been griping or down-in the dumps, only to find a diamond glimmering in the mud?
Have you not wanted to do something, then afterward said, "I'm SO glad I did that?
What does it for you? Is it nature, raw, unexpected beauty, or perhaps unexpected kindness?
In the middle of the hurry, what makes you stop and stare?
Have you ever been rushing about your business, only to be brought up short by something extraordinary? Something startlingly beautiful?
The things that stop a person are individual. What stops me might not stop you.
Sometimes songwriters say it better than anybody else. Just click http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8VfoRyjWJl0 to listen.
Then tell me . What stops you cold?