- Finding Something You Were Not Looking For…
By Larry Whiteley
I sit on a river gravel bar letting the sun soak its warmth deep into my bones. It’s only December, but it’s already been a long winter and it felt good. Birds were singing. Like me, they were tired of the cold too and were celebrating with song. The sound of flowing water blended with their chorus.
As my mind wanders, I poke around in rocks of all sizes and shapes that surround me. How long had they been there? Where had they come from? How did the holes get in some of the rocks? What are the fossils in some of them?
Did you know rocks are like clouds? If you look real close you see things in them. This one looks like the state of Texas, this one like a heart. Here’s one that looks like Dolly Parton. Sometimes your mind sees crazy things when you sit alone on a gravel bar on a mild winter’s day.
I stack all the “holey” rocks I find in a pile. Some will be slipped on to a length of wire and hung in trees around the house to serve as weather rocks. When you want to know what the weather is you just look outside at the rocks. If they are wet it’s raining, if they are white it’s snowing, if they are moving it’s very, very windy. Others will be used to make things like mobiles, refrigerator magnets handles for drawers, necklaces, bracelets, and whatever else my mind comes up with.
The rocks are dull shades of black, gray, tan, brown and white. Some sparkle when the light hits them just right. Most are worn smooth from being tumbled through the water. The flat, smooth rocks are what I am looking for now. These are “skipping” rocks.
I stand, stretch, and position my feet just right, look out at the water and with a sidearm motion send the first “skipping” rock flying across the water. Six skips! Not bad, but I can do better. Four skips! That was a bad throw. My feet must have slipped. Eight skips! That’s better. As I continue to try and beat my record, I think about how I taught my sons to skip rocks and they now teach their sons to be champion rock skippers. All kids need to learn how to skip rocks.
I bend down to pick up another “skipping” rock and I see it. The sun is shining on it like a beacon guiding me to it. I kneel down, lift it from the gravel and hold it gently in my hand like a precious jewel. “An arrowhead, I found an arrowhead!”
I shout silently to myself.
As I turn it in my hand I think about the hands of the Native American who made it. How old was he? How long ago did he make it? What tribe was he from? Where did they live in this valley? What was it like back then? Was this used to take a rabbit or deer to help feed his family? This was a special moment. This was serendipity.
According to Webster serendipity means to find something you were not looking for. Now, I would have never known that if not for a lady I know that is a big fan of Webster and knows the meaning of words I have never even heard of. The moment she said the word and gave me its meaning, I knew I had experienced serendipity several times in my life. The arrowhead was just another time I found something I was not looking for – serendipity.
On another unusually mild winter day several years ago, I was riding my ATV down an old logging road when a squirrel ran across in front of me. I followed the path of the squirrel as he ran through the woods. My eyes stopped at the sight of something white sticking up through the brown leaves. I hit the brakes on the ATV and backed up. What is that? Probably a limb or just some kind of fungus I thought.
Normally I would have just rode on, but this day I walked toward the white shape to find out what it was. My heart skipped a beat when I saw it was the shed antler of an 8-point buck. As I held it enjoying its beauty, I thought about how unique the antlers of a whitetail buck really are. Like finger prints, no two are alike. Since then, I have learned where and how to look for shed antlers and have found many of them. However, I will always remember the first one and the day I found something I wasn’t looking for – serendipity!
I also remember hiking in the woods one winter. Spring woods are filled with wild flowers and budding leaves.
Fall woods offer a kaleidoscope of color and summer woods are ticks and chiggers and snakes.
Winter woods are quieter with the faint musky smell of decaying leaves.
Trees and bushes are bare allowing you to see things that might have gone unnoticed any other time.
You might see icicles hanging off a rock bluff sparkling like diamonds in the sunlight, a bleached out turtle shell, unusually shaped trees, animal tracks or even the animal that made them.
On this particular day, I suddenly realized I was walking along an old road bed. Trees had grown up in its path but if you looked hard enough you could still see where others had gone many years ago. As I walked, I wondered who had used this road. Was it loggers, lead miners, soldiers, or people who lived here?
I kept following the old road until it crossed a dry creek bed. There, lying half buried in the gravel was the metal rim off a wagon wheel. Here, at this place, a long time ago, they tried to cross this creek and the wagon wheel must have broken. In my mind’s eye, I could see it happening. The wood of the wheel had long returned to the earth but the rusted metal rim remained to be found by me when I wasn’t looking for it – serendipity!
One spring, I was hiking to a special little waterfall deep in the woods that I liked to go to. I had been there many times but this time I went a little different way than normal. As I followed the sounds of the water I came by a big flat rock and sitting upright on the rock, was a soda pop bottle that dated back to the 1940’s.
Like me, someone else enjoyed coming to the little waterfall. The bottle they had been drinking from had remained where they had set it for over 60 years. I came along and found it even though I wasn’t looking for it – serendipity!
I hope there are many more serendipity’s to come in my life and in yours. Those special places, special people, special times and special things that come along when you are not looking for them – serendipity!