Thursday, August 23, 2007

Catching

Walking out the door, I saw a small girl with white ringlets running around my front yard with a butterfly net. Wearing only pink- pink shoes, a pink dress, pink bow--she would stand quietly in the center of the yard. Her eyes would follow something I couldn't see. Slowly she would walk up whatever creature she was chasing and throw her net over it, clasping the net closed at the top so the creature couldn't escape. Then, she would place a jar in the net and usher the creature inside, screwing the lid on tightly. Dozens of jars lined the driveway, and I walked over to her.

"What are you doing?" I asked curiously. She shushed me and held a finger to her lips, her tongue sticking out as she concentrated on something in front of her. Slowly, she reached for her net. In one quick swoop, she flung it down to the ground.

"Missed him!" she cursed. "Darn it!" Raising an eyebrow, I watched the curious blond girl creeping around my front yard.

"What are you trying to catch?" I asked, peering at the empty jars. "I don't see anything in there."

"That's because you're not looking," the girl said, as she inspected the tree closely. "If you would look, you'd see something."

I looked at the jars again. Nothing. "I still don't see anything," I said, smiling politely. This child was crazy.

"You're not looking," the girl repeated in a sing-song voice. "If you would look, you could see."

"There's nothing there," I said, losing my temper. "I looked twice!"

"That's because you're trying to see it," the girl said, undisturbed by my frustration. "You have to look for it and want to see it. You just can't see it."

"Right," I muttered, nudging one of the jars with my foot. "Look but not see. Whatever!"

"Don't touch that!" the girl gasped, running over and clutching her jaw. "This is a good one!"

"A good what?"

"Idea."

I stared at her dumbfounded.

"An idea? There's an idea in that jar." The blond girl sighed and shook her head. "Of course there's an idea in there. They're all ideas."

"What does an idea look like?" I asked curiously, staring more intently at the glass jars. All I could see was my own reflection in the glass.

"It depends from idea to idea," the blond girl said loftily. "The good ones look like shimmering butterflies made from pink stardust or a delicate flower. The bad ones can look like a frog or a pile of squiggling worms."

"What about the mediocre ones?" I asked, fascinated. "They look like cheese," the girl answered decisively. She continued to creep around the yard, clutching her net. Staring at the jars, I sighed.

"I don't see them," I sighed. "How do you see them?" The blond girl sighed and sat up from staring through the grass blades. "I look," she said simply. "There's a lot of things that exist in our every day life that people can't see. Particularly adults. But you can see them if you look at them. You just have to be free."

"Free?" I asked in horror.

"Free," she repeated, smiling at me. "Haven't you ever had an idea that was so brilliant that you were filled with passion and fire and wanted to fly throughout the clouds and never touch the ground?"

"Yes, several times," I responded.

"That's free," the girl said, picking at a slug on the sidewalk. "So just think of that idea and you can look, not see." I squeezed my eyes and thought to myself. When I opened them, the jars were bursting with magnificent and ordinary creatures.

"Oh my gosh!" I cried, clutching my chest. "I saw them, I saw them!" The child smiled and I watched as she continued to pounce around my yard.

"What do you do with all these ideas?" I asked, looking at the crowded jars littering my driveway.

"Keep them," the girl said.

"Why are you going to keep them? I asked. She looked up at me, her big blue eyes drilling into my face.

"There's never a bad idea, just poor delivery," she said, with a smile. And with that, she returned to her butterfly net, catching ideas under the late summer sky.