It was an ordinary Wednesday morning, and I was running late for work per usual. There I was, juggling bags near my car while keeping an eye on my hound, who usually wanders toward the food bowl of our neighborhood cat to see if he can scrounge a second breakfast.
I lifted the hatchback and piled my bags in. My eyes were immediately struck by a giant green stick figure on the stubby antenna of my Prius C. There is was in all it’s green, graceful glory: A Praying Mantis. Delighted, I rummaged for my iPhone to take the picture you see above. Coming upon such an exotic entity is very rare, having only come across one once before. Surely, this random sighting of this glorious creature is a symbol from somewhere?
Ever since my parents died, I keep looking for signs and messages in this world. A Monarch Butterfly makes me feel like a loved one from above is looking out for me. A series of tear jerking songs on Pandora can send me into a trance where everything around me folds into meaningful moments of strange coincidences and connected visuals. Surely these moments mean my dad is trying to comfort me? Or maybe the brush of wind on my shoulder is my Mom trying to give me a kiss? So seeing this lovely creature sitting so still and serene gave me pause. It also brought me back twenty years.
In the late 1980’s, I was fresh out of college and working at NBC Affiliate Relations as a Coordinator. I shared an office on the forty six floor at 30 Rockefeller Plaza with my colleague Daniel. The office had a small terrace outside our triple windows. It wasn’t really a terrace you used for sitting and staring at the downtown view of the Empire State Building and the old World Trade Center towers in a distance. It was windy up there. We weren’t allowed to have furniture lest a heavy current would lift and hurl them down forty six flights onto 50th street. Who knows why there was even a balcony out there? A entry door didn’t exist. To go onto the terrace would mean climbing over our desks, lifting the old heavy glass panes, and climbing out the window. (One Friday evening, we forgot to close our windows before a major weekend storm moved through. Come Monday morning, we walked into the site of a paper war zone – Nielsen computer ratings wallpapered to the wall and press releases carpeted the floor.)
One ordinary day – perhaps it was a Wednesday – in summer, Dan had noticed a green stick figure outside on the railing of the terrace. It was a Praying Mantis. Damn. In the middle of Manhattan, thousands of feet high. We were gobsmacked.
Our incredulous office mates joined in, and the rush of questions began:
“How did she get all the way up here? This insect doesn’t really fly.”
“Did someone accidentally bring her in from the suburbs?”
“How? In someone’s purse or something?”
“Would she would have survived a train ride?”
Dan climbed out through the window with a shoe box he found under his desk, next to the sleeping bag he kept under there (don’t ask), and brought her back inside. She wasn’t afraid. Her lovely green prayerful front limbs held on to Dan’s finger as her heart shaped head slowly moved left to right.
We observed her little details: Her little pinpoint eyes, her antennae, her long graceful legs that remained still. She was meditative, peaceful…beautiful. When you gaze upon a Praying Mantis, there is something about her presence that calls for an otherworldly meaning. Some people just see an insect. But their sightings seem so rare in the U.S. and in my life, that the surprise of coming upon one leads me to explore its symbolism.
I came upon this quote today:
“The mantis never makes a move unless she is 100% positive it is the right thing for her to do. This is a message to us to contemplate and be sure our minds and souls all agree together about the choices we are making in our lives.
Overwhelmingly in most cultures the mantis is a symbol of stillness. As such, she is an ambassador from the animal kingdom (*Note: I’m pretty sure they’re insects – not “animals”) giving testimony to the benefits of meditation, and calming our minds.
An appearance from the mantis is a message to be still, go within, meditate, get quiet and reach a place of calm. It may also a sign for you to be more mindful of the choices you are making and confirm that these choices are congruent.”
On that day, many years ago, my friend Dan took the Praying Mantis and laid her out within the green plant life surrounding the restaurant summer garden, beneath the statue of Prometheus. We hoped she find safety and peace as she turned her head 180 degrees to watch the surrounding diners. My sense is that this creature lived out her summer well, fading among the dieing plants that gave way to the ice skating rink in the fall.
This morning, while in the midst of trying to carry on with the day, I got in my car and hoped this lovely creature would fly off my hatchback and find a safe place to nestle. I’m sure she did. I drove off slowly in hopes that she would gently take off. The message she gave me – fully taken in.
Perhaps I’ll find her when I get home, munching on a palm leave next to the garage?