This one stopped me dead in my tracks. I had been hurriedly walking from one point in town to the other, rushing from one appointment to the next. And then there she was. Completely out of place, this praying mantis sat (or maybe she was standing) on the driveway of a Main Street business. What was she doing here in the middle of all this hustle and bustle? She should have been hidden away on a green leaf somewhere. But instead here she was shining brightly in all her green glory against the dingy white of Culpeper’s concrete jungle. Even if our hustle has less bustle than many others, this was no place for her. Why would this creature be so far removed from her natural habitat, so vulnerable to the dangers of cars and humans? There was only one logical explanation. Me. Okay, maybe there were other reasons, but being raised as an only child, “me” is what first came to mind. Sorry. I’m working on that.
Anyway, worried she had been hit by a car, I looked for her after my appointment. I didn’t see her, and saw no evidence of foul play, so I assumed that she was safely back where she belonged. But her willingness to take such risks for me meant that I had to take some chances of my own. To my mind, it was necessary for me to consider the purpose of this “gift” in my life, to appreciate it, and to share it.
A quick internet search revealed that in part, the power of a praying mantis is in her isolated stillness, her antennae, keen hearing, vision, and her quick legs. Altogether, she seemed to be a reminder for me to take time for myself and cherish peace and quiet so that I can see and hear and notice the opportunities in my life. That is an easy one to forget. Life moves fast. There is so much chatter and action, so much to do. So often we feel the need to keep up with it all if we’re going to win or even survive. This beautiful gift offered the suggestion that perhaps there is another way.
As soon as she caught my eye, I found myself looking at her closely. I was able to see her from all sides, moving in still closer. One thing was for sure, as I was noticing her, she was noticing me. She did what they are known to do. She swayed, as if in the wind and she watched me…closely. Frankly, it was a bit unsettling while also enthralling. Now mind you, I had places to be, things to do. But somehow, I could not resist this time with her. Apparently, there’s more to the story. Looking at her from another perspective, there seems to be a more dangerous, “preying” side to the praying mantis. She is focused. And when she attacks, she is remarkably strong and consistently effective. While she is considered quiet and patient, she is also quite intentional and precise. Maybe that’s the point.
Sitting (or standing) on my turf, this praying mantis taught me a thing or two. I’m not sure what her plans were for me, after all praying mantises have been known to bite off the head of another (typically males). But she showed me how protective and valuable discernment and stillness can be, especially in the midst of all this hustle and bustle.
In natural balance, no matter how small and insignificant they may seem, these little moments are like guideposts. We must only be still to notice.