Two very distinctly different yet moving things happened to me today, I was on my way back home and to avoid the freeway traffic, I took the streets. It was a wise decision. The streets were clear for the most part, the sun was going down, and I enjoyed the cool breeze flowing in from the windows as I drove.
There were about two cars in front of me so I slowed down slightly and suddenly to my right was a woman that looked to be middle aged with a weathered face as red as a beet glaring at me. She seemed enraged and extended her middle finger in my window followed by the profane word that defined her gesture. I was startled but un-moved by her behavior as it was quite clear even, in the brief moment of passing her, that she was not ‘all there.’ It was obvious that she was directing her anger toward me, but her eyes seemed fixed on something else as if she was looking through me at an adversary just beyond or behind me.
I would describe her glare as a look of madness as opposed to anger. After about a block or so I decided to turn around to observe if she continued to be agitated and indeed she was. Only now she was babbling to herself and walking rapidly. Just ahead I saw a group of children moving in her direction so I slowed and distracted her long enough for the children to pass escaping her attention.
I wasn’t sure what more I should do, after all, she could have been inebriated or simply peeved at someone. But maybe it was something more, something that might lead her to step in front of a car or the light rail track, or push someone else in front of one. I decided to call the police and share what I had witnessed and leave it to their discretion to act or not. I was not trying to “be a good citizen” and report any unusual activity or behavior.I was acting out of my gut, advice may father gave me long ago. “Trust your gut Joy,” he would say, “it might save your life one day.”
I was thinking about what had just occurred as I arrived home. I was deciding whether to write about it when I noticed a huge dragon fly on the sidewalk directly in front of me. This was not my first close encounter with a dragon fly; last summer one had flown into my car window and frantically zoomed around my head until I pulled the car over jumped out and spent the next ten minutes trying to shoo it out of any one of my four open doors.
This one was struggling and buzzing around on the ground but unable to fly. It wasn’t nearly as large as the one that graced my Camry, but is was far more beautiful with brightly colored yellow, green and black markings. I tried to startle it into flight so no one would step on it, but it tumbled over and over until once again landing on its tiny legs fluttering nervously. I leaned down to see if it had broken a wing but they seemed to be moving perfectly. Then it dawned on me, what possible difference would it make whether the wings were injured or the legs were broken? There was absolutely nothing I could or likely would do about it either way.
I saw two small boys just on the other side of the street and I considered calling them so they could come and see the beautiful and quite spectacular but wounded dragon fly. Then I remembered what the small boys in my neighborhood did to little defenseless creatures and I decided to pass on that idea. As I walked away I felt – albeit only slightly- ‘defeated.’
Pondering the two events now I am startled by my presumptuousness. Who am I to assume that the angry woman had no justifiable right to her own anger? And even if her anger toward me didn’t seem reasonable, it is still her right. As for the beautiful and delicate dragon fly, everything that lives ultimately dies. The dragon fly, unlike humans, cannot act outside of the bounds of nature, so things were as they should be in the world of my little winged friend and how arrogant of me to even imagine that I had any power or need to change the course of the life of even this tiny creature.
I have joined the ranks of what is considered “mature adults” and I am accorded the respect and privileges that is culturally due someone of my age due to a conferred accumulated learning. There is a familiar saying that youth is often wasted on the young; perhaps an equal truth is that wisdom is sometimes wasted on the old.
No worries though, there’s also room for those like me who fall somewhere between youth and wisdom, glad I had today… one more day… to learn and grow!