Embracing change is difficult. No matter who you are, no matter how many times things have changed, when change catches you off guard (and sometimes even when you expect it), something in your heart and in your spirit shrinks away from the reality you’ve been presented with.
When the woods you’ve loved to play in in all seasons and weathers is transformed to a bare strip of emptiness… well, I challenge even the most hardened of hearts to not feel at least a little teeny bit lost and overwhelmed.
But time, as they say, is a great healer of all things. I believe that is true because time gives us an opportunity to put a change into perspective. To see it not as a threat, but as a new version of the world that may not be what we thought it was, but just might be better. To find a silver lining, so to speak.
Some changes… some changes are too shocking and too destructive and too enormous to put into a suitable perspective in any human timeframe. Others are too large and too subtle for us to even notice in the sorts of time frames we are used to dealing with. Each in their own way have the potential to teach us things we never knew, and to inspire a passionate reaction that forces us to learn and think and act.
This one was no different.
The first moment of thinking came from our young friend L when she wondered where the road went. We set out to find out, of course, and discovered in due time that the road stretched all the way to the two-lane highway that runs behind our development. That discovery was not all that fascinating, in the end, though it was a nice walk on a sunny day with that blue, blue sky stretching cloudlessly overhead.
But as answers tend to do, this one took away our reason for walking, yet having come this far, we had to go exactly that far again to get back to our starting point, which left us with some few minutes to fill and nothing terribly interesting to fill them with.
Or so I thought. Silly me.
Silly, silly me, for forgetting how little girls of a certain age are apt to find beauty in the oddest of places. Like in the tiny strip of ground in the shadow of the slightly raised road bed.
And they did indeed find beauty. You see, the road lies a good 45 cm or more above the ground. And it is made of gravel. Being made of gravel, its sides are not perfectly vertical.
Combine these two facts with the limitations of large ground-scraping machinery and you wind up with a narrow strip barely more than a hand-span wide that the machines couldn’t strip bare.
An un-barren strip in the midst of all the nakedness, it turns out, is the perfect place for panicled asters and monarch butterflies. Lots and lots and lots of monarch butterflies.
And lots and lots of asters, too. Every few feet, we found another shrubby bunch of asters turning their faces towards the sun while the butterflies danced over them.
But flowers and butterflies are nowhere near as fascinating to a boy of 10, and it didn’t take long for him to pull far ahead of the slow-moving, flower-admiring and always giggling girls. He wandered from side to side a bit, picking up rocks and tossing them experimentally over the sandy shores of the road, and then he stopped and bent down to examine something in greater detail: a spiderweb that absolutely shone in the sunlight, its architect waiting oh-so-patiently in its center.
The girls, finally tired of butterflies, came over to see what had caught K’s interest, but before they got close enough, B found a treasure of her own.
“Mama! Look at this!” she cried, and I went over expecting to see a butterfly or a flower, or maybe another spiderweb. What she had in her hands instead was this:
The discovery of an arrow-straight seam of white and rust in the midst of an otherwise ordinary rock soon led to a flurry of rock-hunting, heads bent towards the ground as all three kids industriously hunted down more prey. They found quite a few interesting specimens, but in the end it was B who found the best one of all. Here’s what they found at first:
Each rock was carefully examined by a closely huddled set of junior geologists before making its way into a pocket or into B’s collection bag. L’s shorts were in imminent danger of sliding off her hips from the weight of the rocks she had in them, but seeing the grin on her face, I hadn’t the heart to suggest she maybe leave a few behind. K, ever the gentleman, gamely offered to carry some of her rocks for her and within seconds his pants were in a similar precariously balanced position.
Thus encumbered (and barely able to walk from the weight of it all but giggling the whole while), we started towards home. There was much giggling, and almost as much shifting and squirming and rearranging and grabbing at waist bands before they could slither to the ground, and I had just started urging them more seriously towards the path home and the possibility of lunch when B let out a shout of delight:
“Mama! A fossil!”
As if an eight year old with her bag full of rocks and her pockets in danger of ripping their seams could possibly spot a genuine fossil as she danced and twirled and giggled her way along the road. Especially a fossil which, to judge from the direction she was pointing, actually lay at least a meter away from where she was standing.
Eagle eyes, that girl has. It’s true. And it really, truly was a fossil.
Not only was it a fossil, it turns out it is a really, really, really old fossil. As in the predates the dinosaurs by a hundred and fifty million years kind of old. It predates North America, too. And oceans with names. And ground-scraping machinery. And people.
Best of all (in the mind of a 10 year old boy, at least), it’s a carnivore, and for a time at least, was the main predatory life form on Earth.
But how we found that out is a story for another day.