Fleeting moments of grace

“Grace” is a concept usually associated with theology, as in how God’s grace saves sinful humans from eternal damnation. I look at it from a more earthly and ephemeral perspective: Unexpected, wonder-full moments of beauty open to us if we only take the time to pause, look and savor them. Maybe both ideas of grace are the same, just packaged differently.

A moment of grace came to me a few days ago while I was taking a shower. Our circular shower has a eye-level window that offers a 180-degree panorama of the landscape around the ranch—an awesome view in itself. Outside the window I noticed a small toad, about an inch-and-a-half long, sitting on the ledge, perfectly still, looking straight at me inside, water falling on my head.

Somewhat flattered by the attention, I stared back. The exchange lasted several minutes, as if each were saying to the other, “Watcha you lookin’ at, man?

I wondered where these toads come from, here during the rainy season and gone the rest of the year, and where they spend the winter.

What was it thinking while looking at me so intently? “Nothing” cynics would say, but I don’t believe that. It hadn’t rained here for a few weeks, and I’m convinced the toad was fascinated, maybe envious, of all that water cascading and steam billowing just on the other side of the glass.

Hello and good-bye 

After a while, this small visitor hopped away only to return the next day, almost to the same spot. We examined each other, it hopped away, and I never saw it again. I felt grateful by the toad’s two visits—two moments of grace that broke my routine of a quick, mindless shower.

Succulent plants are full of surprises too, though they don’t come too often. Except for show-offs like agaves that sprout enormous seed plumes, most succulents are not only shy but downright hostile.

They are generally twisted, convoluted and really not too beautiful—unless you conflate “beautiful” and “weird”—and covered with nasty thorns to further shoo away visitors. Leave me alone. Get away from me.

Then one day, any day for there’s really no set blooming schedule for all species, they’ll send out a flower, usually huge and orchid-like, that’s completely out of character with its ungainly host.

It’s a moment of grace too, but you have to enjoy it right away for it is fleeting—usually one day before the flower shrivels up—though some blooms last longer. You have to be alert and ready to enjoy it.

Cactus buffet. 

Recently an untouchable round, barrel-like cactus with a thousand thorns—I gave up trying to figure out these customers’ botanical or common names—sprouted a single, beautiful white flower. I stopped to admire it and photograph its awesomeness. The flower dropped off in a couple of days.

Close by, a gnarly, pretzel-like cousin I suspected might be dead because it didn’t even seem to have any leaves, put out three bright red flowers that slowly opened over several days.

“Hey, I’m not dead. Far from it.”

Indeed, the next two days a gorgeous butterfly perched on one of the flowers, feasting on something,  for maybe as long as a half hour, ignoring my attention and picture-taking. The next day, it was back for more.  Collecting pollen? Drinking nectar? Whatever for?

I could have Googled butterflies, pollen, flowers, nectar or whatever to find out exactly what was going on. But that would ruin a moment of grace that is best just enjoyed rather than examined. 

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