Not much overlap between me and People At Large today.
I DID manage to get to the grocery this afternoon but the experience was more brainless drudgery than memorable socialization. Actual, meaningful interaction with other human beings was pre-empted by my increasingly frantic attempts to remember what aisle the spaghetti sauce was hidden away in while simultaneously ignoring the odd wobble in my cart’s front right wheel.
Perhaps my best chance to connect with the mind of another person came when I went to check out. Unfortunately, any conversation I might have had with the cashier was scared away by my utter inability to determine his/her gender. I’m not at all a judgmental person when it comes to physical appearance, and I think I’m perfectly capable of getting along quite well with either gender, but the profound indeterminacy of this particular person’s sex left me utterly tongue-tied.
By the time my rather large order had been rung up and money was changing hands, I had tardily decided I was dealing with a post-menopausal female.
Then I noticed the name tag that read Michael.
I suddenly felt as if Life was chuckling to itself, having yet again successfully played me for a fool.
As I walked away with my bags and finally realized that the smell I’d been experiencing the last few minutes was in fact the cashier’s body odor, I was sure Life was really cracking up.
Is it a surprise that once I was home and my grocery’s were safely put away, I decided to save the day by cuddling up with Mother Nature?
Of course not.
Especially once you know (as I do) that I try to do this every day.
As luck would have it, the house in which I live sits on what amounts to about a quarter acre lot. Mother Nature can be found lurking right outside my back door most days and nights, the only real exception being those occasions when Old Man Winter seems to have slain her with a sharp icicle and hidden the body under a foot or two of snow. Fortunately Old Man Winter was nowhere in sight today.
I figure I spend an average of 37 minutes a day in the arms of Mother Nature in the months between February and December. This time of year most of those minutes are spent watering the shrubs and flowers I’ve planted since I moved here about three years ago. I water those shrubs and flowers in a definite order - the better to observe the changes that occur from day to day. Perhaps other men feel compelled to carry on a much more passionate affair with Mom than this - especially after problematic trips to the grocery - but for me this gentle watering of her rapidly maturing foliage is enough.
Today, however, two unforeseen bonuses awaited me.
First, the volunteer cherry tomato plant that has been growing up amid the purple delphinium rewarded my summer-long indifference with 11 ripe little fruits. I’d done nothing to deserve them - indeed, I’d done my best to clear the area of all such tomato plants after last year’s miserably sour crop - and yet at least one seed from at least one of those plants had nonetheless survived the winter, germinated, grown, matured, and was now actually trying to continue the pattern ad infinitum, my indifference be damned. It was quite the cheeky thing to do, and I found myself grudgingly admiring its gumption as I sucked one of the luscious red orbs into my mouth, chewed, swallowed, and greedily harvested the rest.
The second unforeseen bonus revealed itself on the opposite side of my lot as I watered the slowly rejuvenating remnants of my recently pruned herbstonne. The stream of water from my can caused a small grasshopper to hop out of its hiding place. It landed on a leaf, where something about it caught my eye. It seemed unusually small, and it’s abdomen seemed an unusual brown. Setting my can down and kneeling to get a better look, I noticed that the little guy had only five legs. His back right leg was missing. Gone. Simply nowhere to be seen.
Despite the absence of what I would think to be one of his most important legs of all, he seemed to be doing just fine. He’d hopped up out of his hiding place just like I’d seen other grasshoppers hop before. He sat on the leaf just as if he had all his legs, there being no lopsidedness to his posture that I could detect.
I looked closer in an attempt to determine more about the battle or the genetic defect that had left him so terribly injured.
I could see nothing except the absence of the leg - which of course I really couldn’t see at all.
I was surprised. I guess I expected such a gross deformity to come with some hint as to its cause or its probable future consequences, but such hints seemed to be as lacking as the leg itself.
Even more surprising - once I realized it - was the grasshopper’s utter silence. He wasn’t sitting there, cursing his misfortune. He wasn’t endlessly fretting about his dark future. And he certainly wasn’t hopping mad at the universe for having treated him so very poorly.
He simply, completely, silently was.
The wise Buddha of the insect world.
Nonplused, I finished my watering, bid Mother Nature a sweet adieu, and came in to write this entry.
Who knew one could learn so much from a grasshopper?
Well, ok - I did. I’ve actually always thought the little guys were keeping the secrets of the cosmos all to themselves and were simply refusing to share. Now I finally have a bit of proof!
At the same time, I must admit that I’m now not at all sure that I really learned anything at all.
Maybe the grasshopper merely had his sixth leg tucked up under him in a calculated attempt to get me to feel especially bad for disturbing his sleep.
Maybe he really WAS bitching out the universe for treating him so poorly and my ears were simply too insensitive to pick up the high frequency he happened to be bitching at.
Maybe I don’t really know a damn thing about how regular grasshoppers think, feel, or experience life, let alone how leg-lacking grasshoppers do these things.
Maybe I’d feel much more confident about drawing sweet little lessons from chance encounters with grasshoppers if I could at least trust myself to reliably determine the gender of smelly human grocery store clerks.
As it is I think I best just shut-up and suck another luscious red orb into my mouth and go to bed before a casually ripped-off non-Buddhist tomato plant learns how to grow into my house and bust my sorry human ass.