Two surprises to begin. When my daughter was little, on every St Patrick’s day, I would take her out in the neighborhood, to look for leprechauns; maybe where the rascals had hidden their pot of gold. We’d sneak about on tippy toes, with stealthy, little girl steps, looking sharp for anything green. (They wear green see, that’s the clue.) On March 17 in Wisconsin there simply isn’t much green to be found. As in Maine, piles of wet dirty-brown, leaves, mud, and every once in a while a tiny growing shoot of something or other reaching up. As we silently walked along, I’d whisper to point out moss, she’d spot a tiny bit of clover. Then suddenly. Just at the side of the road, next to a tree, three wrinkled twenty dollar bills. Probably some kid dropped ‘em after a sale of some illegal sort went south, or possibly he ran too fast. But there they were tucked next to a curb. On a March wind-swept cold street holding a bit of surprise green. I scrambled to say that it might be an American version of a pot of gold. We’d never have seen the bills if we weren’t, “looking sharp.” I really couldn’t think of how to find their rightful owner.
Moving further back in time to when I myself was little, on a Christmas eve, I was finally allowed to open presents. Not that I didn’t know what they were. Wrapped and squeezed packages contained shirts, socks. Nothing very exciting, no chance of a real surprise. My Mom said, “Hey look. What’s that?” She pointed to a string, which I hadn’t seen and was tied to a chair leg. It then moved down the hall way of our house. Following it along, we then went into the bathroom, moved up the side cabinet next to the wash basin, and then down the clothes-shoot. Now maybe not everyone remembers but houses with a basements held a chute into which soiled clothes were dropped. Ours had a basket below which awaited. When I looked down the chute this Christmas however, I saw tied to the string a dimly lit red and grey fat-tired coaster bicycle. Surprise!. The same red and grey pinstriped beauty I’d first spotted at the local bike shop. Best Christmas surprise ever!
Yesterday, while dog-walking I saw the knobbly end of a stump which looked exactly like a chubby-cheeked leprechaun, or like Statler or Waldorf, one of the pair of wrinkled Muppets in the balcony. Just a forest wrinkled tree-knot. I’d never noticed it before. Believe me I hadn’t been smoking a single legal thing. I was just giving the morning a new look. Or maybe the November light was showing it in a new way. Speaking of which, one morning recently I looked out my kitchen window and saw a huge, oversized, giant woodcock, perched and supervising all those who traveled along the path at the side of my property. It was the same rock that had been resting there for years, mind you, but on this October morning in a beam of light I saw that i had been looking past the thousand pound bird hiding there in plain sight. When we look anew at things in the light maybe that’s when we surprise ourselves. Is that the best surprise of all?