November 26, 2013

Oliver & the Beetle: How Little Things Change the World.

It’s the little things we take for granted that have the greatest potential to change how we see the world, precisely because we don’t expect them to.

Our little family was enjoying a cool breeze on a sweltering, tropical afternoon when a big buzz flew through the door. Oliver jumped, he’d never heard such a noise and certainly not so close. His young face looked to mama and papa for a cue on how to react, the question in his eyes was clear. What was that?

Mama, knowing full well it was some kind of beetle, screeched. She doesn’t think much of bugs. Oliver looked over at me, wide eyed. So, I got down to his level and excitedly pronounced “Let’s go hunting!” At two he probably has little idea of what I was proposing, but gamely went along anyhow. Papa’s excited, so it must be good!

The buzz flew through the air again. “I think it’s under the couch,” Mama said. She’d gotten into the game but was certainly going to keep her distance. Besides, she was relieved that papa was going to do something about that thing. I looked under the couch and there it was. Just a black ball in the shadow lying still, trying to be invisible. I reached out and gently took it from it’s hiding place. Oliver watched intently.

I brought my loose fist back to the couch and Oliver, who was next to me the whole time, cautiously looked on as I opened my hand. There it was, a tight black ball that did absolutely nothing. Could I have picked up the wrong bug? Was it dead? I lightly bounced my hand to check. It opened it’s legs out. Good. It’s moving.

Instantly Oliver grabs my wrist and starts shaking it to get the beetle to move again. I held still and quietly said “gentle, be gentle”. He stopped, unsure of what to do. So I took his little hand and opened it to place the frightened bug in his palm. He did not move. Nor did the bug.

This, to me, was a photo-op. Oliver’s first bug! I had to get a picture, right?

So, as he held the beetle I grabbed my camera. When I got back an instant later the beetle was moving and Oliver was giggling. I helped him keep it on his hand as it crawled to the edge and he was very deliberate about not squishing it with his awkward, two year old fingers. I made a few exposures.

We observed the beetle for a couple of minutes. The way the wings formed a perfect shell around its back. The funny looking front limbs used to roll dung into a ball. Its deep, almost perfectly black body. Oliver enjoyed every minute of it. He soaked in every little tidbit with a smile and wide eyes. He was hardly able to contain himself too. I had to steady his hand from the excitement and keep him from dropping the beetle. Each time Oliver regained composure and came back to the bug.

A few minutes later we walked to the window and he promptly tossed it out. His broad smile told me everything I needed to know.

As a new dad the little things have been my greatest discoveries. This beetle, before Oliver, would have been fun but I never would have appreciated it the way I did today. This was the first time Oliver saw one, held one, let it crawl on his hand and released it.

This simple, daily vignette was an example of the naif Zen mind. What I’d seen a million times was made new by the curious eyes of a two year old.

To see the world again, as if for the first time, is a wondrous gift.

 Para leer el artículo en español, sigue este enlace.

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Editor: Bryonie Wise

Photo: courtesy of the author

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