"The bird a nest, the spider a web, man friendship."
"Take a picture, quickly!" Spouse urged. He was occupied driving the car. Rushed, I scrambled for my backpack, reached inside for the camera, untangled it, took off the lens cap, switched the camera on and aimed it at the car's side mirror, at the red, seven-pronged leaf plastered to the glass.
I turned the camera this way and that, not certain that the angle or the lighting were perfect. I took a picture eventually and adjusted the camera in hopes of taking another.
But when I lifted my eyes to the mirror, the leaf had vanished.
Less than two seconds had passed by but the leaf had been tugged by the wind and the force of the car's speed, and off it went, spiralling out of our sight forever. Even as I took the lone photograph the leaf must have been on the verge of tearing away, and there I was worrying about capturing the image properly. I very nearly lost the opportunity altogether.
The camera would not, on a typical day, have been in our possession; but we were on our way to meet two people for the first time: Beth, whose stories I read and relish, and her husband Charlie, and it was not, then, an ordinary excursion.
Over the years I have had ample occasion to meet friends I had previously only encountered through their written words, or a friendly gift package or a telephone call.
I have learned that it is one thing to exchange words from the obscurity of a computer, quite another to venture out and share oneself a little more.
As we sped toward the restaurant my restlessness set in, and I thought of times I had waited at airports for a face not quite familiar to me, of how exhilarated and timid and nervous and thrilled I grew as the precise moment for meeting approached. Part of that tension arises from the hope of improving a friendship, that in revealing oneself beyond the pen, so to speak, one might find that on first meeting a person one already knows, the lines become ever more blurred and it happens that the self-doubt was for nothing.
So it happened yesterday, when Spouse and I reached the restaurant. Any observant soul watching the four individuals laughing and telling stories and commenting on the food might think they had all known each other for years on end, and to judge by the rapport and comfort that stirred Spouse and I as we experienced the fine company of Beth and Charlie, it felt that way too.
I suspect that the leaf, as it twirled and leaped and danced into the sky like a pointed flame, considered that its work was done: reminding me gently about taking opportunities, and being bold enough to trust in adventures, in the moment and in the little joys that might lie around the corner.