Each April, the hills around my school explode with dandelions. Yellow sunbursts pop open next to orange poppies and purple lupines. Tiny bursts of color bob among broken glass, scattered car parts, and non-native grasses. But it’s the dandelions that send up those floating pom-poms of seeds– white and round – to drift everywhere in the afternoon winds.
On one of these wind-whipped afternoons, I met Alvie. I had seen this little guy before – a boy who could not speak, who kick-boxed with his own shadow, and who brought a fond grin to the staff member who supported him. So, when I say I met him that afternoon, I mean that I saw him as if for the first time as a floating pom pom came to rest on his up-turned nose.
He blew the white fuzzy shape up and followed its path as it settled on the bench next to him. Then he lay himself face-down on that bench and put the tip of his nose right up to the fuzz. He blew again and the pom pom wafted, settling a yard farther on. I heard him giggle – a free and high little laugh that spoke of delight. He scooted along the bench until he came nose to nose with the pom pom again. Blow, scoot, go, repeat!
The particular benches that line the playground run along the chain link fence, interrupted only by the main gate and a couple of portable classrooms. That day, Alvie started on the east side of the yard in a counter-clockwise journey of the many benches, puff by puff. The waft, the giggle, and the soft return. I watched as he made the most out of next-to-nothing and I fell out of my worries, tumbling all the way back into this precise moment. That he could do that much meant this little guy worked magic!
When the bell rang, Alvie’s helper crossed the yard to lift him up. She brought along his new-found dandelion friend and carried it indoors as she carried him upon her hip. I could see that she had discovered this little boy long before.
Unlike Alvie, I don’t visit the here-and-now all that often. I experience ‘now’ as one more item on my check list of ‘shoulds’ as in you should spend more time in the present. Being in ‘now’ is a rarity that arrives when the spill over from yesterday and the tug of the yet-to-be lose track of me. In those moments, I can fall into that spacious little in-between.
Alvie inhabits this place with skill as it spreads itself out each day – abundant in its straight forward bounty – free and present. Though that’s not a skill I possess, I have to learn to forgive myself for often flying through days without seeing this splendid banquet – and remember to take stock in a particular gift I do have – the ability to snag fleeting bits of this bounty as they waft by before my open eyes. Universes full, rich, and close as the tip of my up-turned nose.
To have lived and have missed this much would be like not living. Through Alvie, I am finding out how to take a second look.