One July afternoon, when I was ten, a classmate and I bicycled through the hills outside of town.
We rode through a tippy landscape of slopes and valleys, where brown-and-white Herefords grazed in green meadows, and maple and sycamore leaves riffled in the breeze.
In a small pond, on a floating log, a line of painted turtles sunbathed.
I took it in without noticing, the way we breathe.
And then, in a bush, a flash of blue—it startled me.
One sneaker planted on the road to balance, I stared.
I knew what it was, because my father had just returned from his annual session at furnace school, learning the new models, and he'd brought me a gift: The Golden Nature Guide to Birds, 112 Birds in Full Color.
I'd never particularly noticed birds. Now, having gone through that book, page by page, mesmerized by the golds and oranges and scarlets, and the sharp black eyes, I knew what I saw in that bush.
Blue as the zenith.
In a moment, it vanished, deeper into the foliage, I suppose.
Many decades later, I still remember that indigo flash, so stunning it seemed a message.
Message received, but never fully understood.
Keep alert, I guess. That would be one thing.
Because, any time, you could pedal past a marvel, thinking about something else.
You'd miss it.