A life well led should consist of a series of small miracles. I’m not the only person who has said this, or something along similar lines. But, in times of hardship, which is the here and now for many people, it begs to be said again. I don’t want to belittle the present hardships many people are enduring, and for which I suspect unfortunately there are no silver bullets, but what I have to say here about small miracles may, in some inscrutable way, help them to bear these hardships, and so gather the strength to see their way through to better times beyond them.
Consider the above photo taken on my mobile phone – please excuse the indifferent quality – of one example of a small miracle. That’s my hand lurking behind it, so you can see how small the miracle actually is. In the front of my house, I have two trees – mother and daughter – that bear dozens, perhaps hundreds, of these beautiful pink frilly trumpets. If you asked me to identify the trees, I would not be able to. I am no botanist, not even a keen gardener, just an aficionado of small miracles.
At times, these trees shed these astonishing pink flowers all over my lawn and driveway, so that their totality resembles a pink carpet. It is as if the trees themselves are sending me pink kisses to thank me for planting them and allowing them space in which to thrive. And thrive they do. ‘Mother’ is about six metres tall, and ‘daughter’ is fast catching up.
I experience a tiny thrill, from the top of my head to the tip of my toes, and from the surface of my skin to the inner marrow of my bones, every time I lay eyes upon this small miracle of the pink trumpets.
Another small miracle I often see on my turf, is the ladybird, a common variety of beetle, with which you would all be familiar. It is like a tiny polished jewel, albeit spotted with what some may call imperfections. A living jewel. It is as beautiful as a ruby, though perhaps not as much valued as a ruby by us humans. Perhaps we need to rethink our values.
When the ladybird senses she (or mayhap he?) is receiving too much attention from human admirers, her hemispherical shell will split down the middle, the two flaps so formed opening up to reveal yet another small wonder: the finest of fine wings. The criterion of fineness often invoked in such a context as this is ‘paper thin’. But the finest paper I know would seem like a chunky and unbending plank compared with the fineness and flexibility of ladybird wings.
And so off she flies.
Ladybird, ladybird fly away home. Your house is on fire. Your children shall burn.
Oh, dear. Such an outcome, as expressed in this ditty, would indubitably put a dampener on my small miracle, so I trust anything as dire as this grim take on matters would not happen on my watch. Stay safe, ladybird, and that goes for your precious children as well.
Small miracles are not always visual. Any one of the senses may become the conduit for a small miracle, including the sense of hearing.
On one recent still summer’s night, I woke for no particular reason at 3 a.m., that hour even the most dedicated insomniac will generally sleep through, and took myself out onto my back verandah. Leaning on the railing, I looked west out over the streets of the small village in which I live. I saw no people. I saw no stray dogs. I saw no vehicles. I saw no crocodiles. I saw no zombies. I saw no vampires. I saw only houses, whose occupants gave every appearance of having been detained in the land of Nod, and myriad botanical varieties whose leaves could find no breeze to stir them from deepest lethargy.
But, in this case, the small miracle wasn’t what I saw or didn’t see. It was the silence. The absence of any aural effect was in my face. I swear the complete lack of sound screamed at me.
This scream of silence would never be heard in a big city, whose residents I could only pity at that special moment for me. It was a manifestation delivered benevolently by the absence of sound, as it soothes ever so gently the network of neurons that constitutes the brain. It was the aural equivalent of nothing. Nothing. No thing. Zilch. And there can be no smaller miracle than zilch, by definition the very smallest of small miracles, bringing in its wake momentary and blissful peace to frazzled humans.
The small miracle of silence.
And, as I stood there, yet another small miracle came into my mind, not one I actually saw at this moment, but one I remembered from decades earlier when, just after sunset, I had found myself on the same verandah leaning on the same railing.
It was a comet.
Yes, yes, I know. Like all celestial bodies, comets are not small. But the space they take up in the sky, the solid angle they subtend, is small. Should I have held my thumbnail out at arm’s length, this thumbnail is the amount of sky it would have taken up. That’s the core of the comet, the tail, and all.
I’m sorry. I don’t remember the name of this comet. Around this time, the turn of the 20th into the 21st century, there were quite a few of them. Most of them, like Halley’s, were underwhelming, mere smudges to the naked eye out there in those mysterious depths to which we, earthbound critters, are unlikely ever to venture.
But this comet was the real deal. It was like nothing else I had ever seen before, and perhaps never will again. And, every evening for about a week, at the same time, it flaunted its spectacular tail for my benefit.
Perhaps one of you good people reading this dispatch of mine saw it too, and can enlighten me apropos its name.
Notwithstanding, name or no, it was a small miracle. The sort of small miracle of which a life well led should be made.