A dozen years ago, sore-footed from maneuvering Dublin's cobblestone streets, I popped into a little specialty shop and bought a cool walking stick. Made for serious hikers, of a lightweight metal the astronauts invented on one of those long dull circuits, it worked well, kept me from stumbling into harmless Dubliners, some of whom had their own stumbling to deal with anyway.
Then, a few years later, when arthritic knees started bothering me, I switched from the chic, outdoorsy stick to a plain, dowdy cane for occasional use. More than cobblestones seemed to make walking harder, and the cane helped. I thought.
Recently, I pulled into a Target supermarket, and since I planned to use a shopping cart, I just left the cane on the front seat. I am compulsive about locking the car, but apparently this time, I forgot. Returning to the van, I discovered the cane was gone. Nothing else was missing--sack of books to be recycled, dog crate, coats, box of groceries for the local food pantry, toolbox, CD's and tapes, gym bag and shoes--everything present and accounted for, except the cane. Exasperated with myself, I bought another cane the same day.
Three days later, back at Target, I carefully locked the car and took the new cane with me. Put it safely in the shopping cart as I trundled around the aisles. Driving out of the parking lot, I rounded the corner onto the main thoroughfare only to realize the cane was gone. I must have left it in the cart when I loaded things into the van three minutes earlier. I zipped swiftly back into the parking lot, earning three honks and one raised finger from fellow drivers, and searched the carts where I had parked. Nothing. Did gymnastics and peered under nearby cars. Searched the lines of neatly stowed carts. Talked to two different employees who herded carts back into the store. Talked to Customer Service. Called Customer Service twice over the next few days. Not a trace. So I bought cane #3.
Why in the world would someone lurk in Target parking lots to pinch thirty-dollar folding canes? Yes,I've heard about the importance of finding a niche when establishing one's business, but really--canes?
Denoument: Visiting some old stamping grounds a couple of weeks after the Great Cane Caper, I make an appointment with a chiropractor who has helped me for years. Mostly I wanted a 100,000-mile checkup. Told him about using the cane. He said, in effect,"Lose the cane." Pointed out that the cane created an unnatural gait and was also counter-productive in strengthening the muscles around the knees.
Because long experience has taught me to trust this man, I stopped using the cane at once. And of course--need you ask?--I am doing amazingly better, walking with almost the old verve much of the time.
The Universe (Life, God, the Spirit, our Inner Guide, the Oversoul) gives out messages all the time. About small things and large. Mostly, we're not paying attention. So the message is repeated, a little louder the second time. Sometimes the Universe has to get pretty in-your-face, pretty dramatic, to get through to us. To me, anyway.
Here's how Will Shakespeare puts it:
"And this our life . . .
Finds tongues in trees, books in the running brooks,
Sermons in stones. . . ."
And, perhaps, prescriptions in hapless happenings. Revelations in random reactions.
Served up, frequently, with a dash of cosmic irony.