Dear reader, do you remember me telling you about a little one-armed mantis named Pip whom Caroline discovered and brought home on the last day of school? And do you remember me wringing my hands over the fact he was a picky eater and refused to molt?
Well, he disappeared from the narrative two weeks ago when I came home from church to find him missing.
It was my own incredibly negligent fault, though at the time I thought I was so in tune. I do that every now and then, flatter myself into thinking I'm "one" with the animals when in reality nothing could be more unwanted than my presence.
At any rate, I left Pip on a houseplant while I went to church, thinking perhaps a change of scenery would do him good, a bit of fresh air. My older mantis, Kingsley, hangs upside down motionless for hours on end and I assumed Pip would follow suit.
A word about baby mantises: they're more like sugar-crazed acrobats than meditative savants.
I looked everywhere for Pip in what can only be described as the most delicate search party this world has ever known. No dogs were called in. No National Guard. When you're looking for something the size of a staple with the resilience of a soap bubble, let me assure you: proceeding with caution is the first rule of thumb.
As it so happened, my efforts were in vain. I left the sliding glass door open for the next several days, hoping that as a mantis tends to climb toward the light, perhaps Pip would escape outdoors and stand his original chance of faring in the wilds.
Needless to say, I felt badly. Perhaps I should have set Pip free from day one, perhaps I had no business trying to nurse him to health. When has a human being ever done something for an insect it couldn't do better for itself? We only step on them! Well, there was that time I rescued Charles Portis from a mismolt, but even then I suspect he would've been better off without me in the first place.
But I digress. Yesterday, which started out on a rough note, I found myself vacuuming with the intensity one usually reserves for major demolition projects. I was consumed with worry about a personal care and paying no attention to my movements when I happened to look down and see PIP, sitting on the floor, right in the path of the oncoming nozzle!
I'm still caught by that particular detail. I'd been vacuuming and staring into space for the past half hour. I don't know what persuaded me, in that crucial moment, to suddenly notice what I was doing.
So here is Pip! I wish he could tell us his story. In the interim, he managed to pull off a stunning, one-handed molt and if you look closely, you'll see a tiny T-rex arm where once there was only a poor, blackened stump!
Given my state of mind at the time, I was truly astonished. It would seem a tad corny to chalk this up to divine intervention, but it would also seem a tad ungrateful not to.
Who knows why such small, unexpected joys come our way? What do they mean? Do they mean anything? I'm not sure...I'm not the type who tries to infuse meaning into every detail, who needs to assign omens to the routine of the day, who wants to construe the return of a mantis as some great, auspicious sign. I don't see it as an auspicious sign, to be clear, but I do know God was aware of my little heartbreak over that bug and I also trust He knows my ongoing concern for someone very dear.
I know both those things. I don't know how related they are, but seeing Pip on the floor yesterday morning not only filled me with shocked delight, it slowed the worry in my heart a little, it let me catch my breath. And with that pause I was able to return to a steadier version of myself.
I can't imagine a greater gift such a homecoming could bring.