I don’t usually run the day after a long run. Yesterday, however, I needed to get out and move, even though Hubby and I had completed double-digit miles the day before.
We agreed beforehand we were only going to go three miles, our shortest distance. We also agreed we were going to take it easy, even though we both knew we were lying.
For some reason, after a slower warm-up, we usually get rolling faster and faster, increasing our pace without really trying.
Either I am trying to keep up with him, or he with me, but our pace gradually escalates until one of us (me) says, “I need to slow down.”
But yesterday was different.
I felt good, strong, like I could run forever. Believe me, these days, I don’t get too many outings like that. I don’t even get too many minutes like that.
Yesterday, for 10 minutes, I felt like…well, like a woman half my age.
It was beautiful.
When I finished, I walked a short distance along a bike path, then began the steep climb to my front door. It’s a walk I take a hundred times a year. My hubby was probably already in the shower as I was still puffing up the hill.
I passed a large planting bed filled with tiny purple flowers my mother called “Indian Paintbrush” when I glimpsed a shade of green among the flowers that seemed out of place
I bent over for a closer look.
A praying mantis was perched on some leaves, grooming herself like a cat, rubbing one “hand” over her head time after time.
She turned abruptly to her left and was instantly still, focused, and almost quivering with anticipation.
Suddenly, she exploded in a clatter of legs and whirring wings and pounced on a hapless lanternfly.
I was so startled, I jumped back and yelled. My neighbor probably thought I was being attacked.
Laughing at myself, I recovered and thought to watch the final act of the gruesome drama unfold but I couldn’t easily find predator and prey and I did not want to disturb the scene. We need all the help we can get in eradicating the invasive lanternfly.
If an ally as formidable and spine-chilling as a praying mantis is on our side, I thought, lanternflies don’t stand a chance.
It was an image I won’t soon forget.
I have been thinking lately about how we are all collectors of snapshots.
The photos on my phone and older ones stuffed into shoe boxes in a closet serve as triggers that initiate a flood of memories associated with the images we capture.
When I look at this picture of Colorado grasslands, I remember its green, vegetal smell after a brief summer rain. I recall the elation we felt as we climbed to the top of each rise on the trail and were rewarded with another stunning vista, the blue mountain background framing the sage-hued foreground.
I recollect the “Crrrr-iiick, crrr-iiick, crrr-iiick” sounds we thought were emitted by frogs in nearby ponds until we saw three sandhill cranes flying close by above our heads.
I remember the dozens of grasshoppers that exploded to our left and right with every step we took and feeling like Moses at the Red Sea. Rather than clearing a path of water ahead of us, grasshoppers parted as we strode.
I remember beautiful scenes from other times and places: ice crystals sparkling from trees in the pale winter light following a freezing rain storm, monarch butterflies flitting among milkweed so fragrant their heady scent filled the whole valley, a particularly striking slant of sunlight reflecting from a stream as it bounded over a rocky ledge, holding a baby in the quiet warmth of a bedroom late at night.
2020 has been a tough year. Painful and full of losses. Sometimes it feels like all the stories are sad ones.
I can’t help thinking, though, about the glimpses of beauty we are afforded even in this difficult time – the exhilaration of a good run, the incredible power of a praying mantis, the spare appeal of an arid landscape – and remembering that good still exists in this world. It exists in abundance.
Blessings are flung broadside all around us.
We must remember to look for them.
Maybe it is more difficult in this year of relative darkness, maybe our search must be more disciplined, maybe we will find only small examples of the grace we seek.
But, like exquisitely wrapped hidden treasures, they are the reward for our persistent search.
We must pursue goodness, and do so relentlessly.
Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. – Romans 12:21
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