In the spring, the guest bath on our first floor is a magnet for ladybugs. The walls in the room are bright yellow, the window made of glass bricks, and I’d expect the ladybugs could fly in, but the room is around a corner and down a hall from the outside door. I’ve never seen anything quite like this mild swarming and I cannot figure it out. The tiny red insects appear on the walls, the window, the mirror, and the ceiling. At the peak, in the middle of May, I find a half dozen crawling around and another few inert on the floor. Because the bathroom is adjacent to my writing room, I see them every day.
Each tiny life grabs my attention, and I think, she’s so small, it won’t take long to usher her outside, I’ll save her life. So, for several weeks I keep a folded piece of paper on the counter, a soft tool to scoop up each delicate lady. Once I have one, I walk slowly down the hall turning the paper to prevent her from scurrying off the edge, and outside, protecting her from the breeze as I walk to the garden where I try to tip her onto a leaf or flower. They aren’t always willing to jump off the paper airplane, so I coax them off with a gentle nudge or a whispering breath. Sometimes they fly off the paper before I’m outside and I lose them.
Yes, this rescue activity interrupts my writing, because it takes more than a few minutes to corral one and walk in a way that ensures she doesn’t fly away. It is slow work and requires patience. Just like writing. And with each walk to the garden I contemplate the fact that I’m saving lives, one by one, although I never know for certain. That’s what writing is like. Maybe I’ll write one sentence that can save a life, but I’ll never know for sure. Maybe, with each sentence, I’m saving my life.