Anyone who knows me well knows that I have a “thing” for Praying Mantises. They seem to show up whenever I’m under great stress, or whenever there is some momentous and important change in my life – creative, philosophical, intellectual, emotional, physical or otherwise. They show up when I’m changing jobs, when I’m moving, when I’m in the middle of a big creative project.
They show up right beside me, surrounded by nature and greenery, otherwise camouflaged to the rest of the world, but to me they are as big as The David in The Accademia in Florence.
Although I am not one to believe in signs, there is something curious about my relationship with these creatures and their sudden appearance at my doorstep – like spirit guides – whenever there is something, how shall I say it?… interesting going on in my life.
This particular mantis showed up at 7:00am this morning beside my hospital bed (at my home) when I was re-arranging a bookshelf and contemplating repotting an orchid. I sat the orchid’s pot down on the floor next to my wheelchair, saw something move, looked down, and there it was…clinging to the white molding along the floor, and looking straight up at me.
The hospital bed and wheelchair exist because at the very end of June, when I was crossing Broadway at Spring Street in Soho, very calmly, making sure there were no out of control lunatic cars or people I needed to dodge, no racing firetrucks or police cars, no errant bicycle messengers, nothing crossing my path that posed any sort of a city threat…I stepped up onto the curb, which completely crumbled under my foot, and I fractured my right ankle in three places.
The good news was that the fractures were not displaced so I didn’t need surgery. The less than good news was that the surgeons at the hospital put an enormous and very heavy cast on my right leg and sent me home with crutches, which I had never had the pleasure of dancing with in my entire life.
Until that day I had somehow managed to get by – not just in New York, but everywhere else I had ever lived – without breaking anything other than my nose (when I was 10), my little finger a decade ago, and my little toe running to catch a subway.
How many crumbling curbs I have stepped up onto on the Island of Manhattan in the last 35 years, without any incident whatsoever, I could never begin to count. (How many tourists I have pulled out of the path of an oncoming car, taxi, bus or subway car I can’t count either, but that is beside the point). This curb was special.
But what happened next is the real gem of the story and the part that leads, I now tend to think, to a Visitation by My Mantis Friend.
Crutches, to me, are not feet. I am a dancer and I prefer Tango shoes, thank you very much. Within two days the weight of the cast had torqued out my back, thrown me out of balance and whacked out my left hip. Pain was running up and down my spine and in order to be safe, I decided to sit down and scootch up and down whatever stairs I had to traverse on my bum, because there was no other way to handle the weight of the cast and the insanity of the crutches.
Ah, Yes, but that last stair, whether one is heading up or down, must be taken standing up, like a true connoisseur of crutches, which I surely was not. As I mentioned, crutches are not feet. Feet have toes. Toes grip the ground. Crutches do not. But I digress…
The long and short of it is that on July 1st, while hoisting myself up that last step, carefully placing my crutches in the middle of the stair, telling myself to take a deep breath and move very consciously, even so I fell backwards down an entire flight of stairs and badly fractured my left leg.
Thus my absence from social media for the past 10 weeks…because I have been in and out of surgeries, hospitals and physical rehabilitation centers unable to walk or do much of anything else.
I am healing now, and am, in time, closer to walking again than I am to the two dreaded events that necessitated 3 surgeries. I had not intended to write about this at all, partly because there’s nothing anyone can do, but also because I had to focus all my attention on healing. And a good break (pardon the pun) from everything is often necessary and important. So I’m grateful for that, too.
But the presence of this Mantis this morning, and the opportunity to watch its ritual (it is now 5:02pm) all day long of bending and stretching and cleaning and preening its left leg has me thinking about self care. While I can’t exactly lick my left leg, as this creature can do, I do tend to it every day, telling it that’s it’s a good leg, and asking it if there’s anything special I can do for it to help it heal better and stronger.
I wonder if Mantises do that? Or if they are just sharpening everything up to catch dinner? Perhaps animals (I think of cats particularly) are so keen to wash and tend to themselves because they know they are animals and have to keep everything in tip top shape just to survive. At any moment, there might be a mouse, or a bird to catch after all. (At any moment, their might be a curb off of which to fall.)
I leave the window open to get some fresh air and my Mantis friend must have flown in when I was working. I was worried that it would get trapped inside and possibly die, so I fetched a rose my husband had bought me and, balancing it on my hurt leg, took this video of it. It seemed oblivious to me holding it barely 8 inches away.
Is it a sign? I think so. That all things, no matter how painful, can heal. Did the Mantis show up to teach me a ritual, one, perhaps, that I had forgotten…that healing of some sort never ends? That even though my staples have been removed and my scar begun to heal that we must still, at every moment, tend to the inside? There is much to contemplate.
I wish you could see the light outside my window. I can’t go outside. But still, it’s very beautiful.
And my Mantis sits on its rose bloom…contemplating, what?
Who knows? And does it matter? Not to me. It has made me smile the big smile today.