I didn’t notice them until well after I had arrived. The entire morning my singular focus was on getting to dance class by 9 am. I’d gotten up at 3, was on the road by 4 and drove 389 miles from Half Moon Bay to Los Angeles in a personal best 4 hours and 45 minutes. The class was so great and so full of life that it only made their death that much more shocking.
I had said goodbye to my friend Sukha after class and stepped off the curb and into the street. The late-morning, early July sun was hot on my forehead and earlobes. A steady stream of three lanes of cars was plowing west just a few feet away. I was feeling nourished by the ritual and deep play of the class; I was feeling gratitude for seeing several dear friends during and after the dance; and, catching a glimpse of the front of my car, I was feeling stunned and guilty at the sight of so much death.
I kneeled down before the light blue bumper to inspect it more closely. Splattering the full width of the bumper’s arcing nose, in a band close to 20” high, hundreds and hundreds of tiny black flies lay cemented in the blood of their own demise.
A moment of intense shock and sharp sadness rippled out from my heart. Then there was an injection of visceral fissures running in the opposite direction; for the briefest of moments, I was fucking pissed.
I was pissed because just hours before, I’d been bombing along Interstate 5 through the golden, flat and arid Central Valley of California, completely oblivious to the mounting death toll. I’d been busy listening to music on my iPod; busy following the Wimbledon’s Men’s Tennis Final on the Sportacular app of my iPhone; and very busy passing cars on the left and right of that two-lane stretch of road, fully unaware that scores of flies were ‘passing over to the other side’ as I sped along.
That sense of outrage moved through like a flash flood though, and before I knew it I was pulling out my iPhone to make a short video of the front of my bumper. It was such a spectacular and fascinatingly sculptural sight, I felt compelled to capture it and, until just this morning and nearly a week later, I still hadn’t washed my car. That I had been busy was no excuse, nor is it the real reason why. It’s because every time I caught a glimpse of those flies (they’d also peppered the front of each side-view mirror), it called me to pause and breathe. Not out of guilt or shame, but out of appreciation for being, itself.
I know it is part of the cycle of life that something must die for something else to be born. I know those flies didn’t consciously ‘give’ their lives over so that I could keep living. But, I also know their presence reminded me that I am alive.
In this aliveness, there is gratitude, but even more there is this challenge to wonder; "So, what would I be willing to consciously give my life for, so that something else may live?"