From his posture, I thought at first that he was hunched over a phone or gaming device, as people so often are these days, but as I drew closer, I realized that wasn't the case. Whatever he had in his hands was much smaller than a phone, but whatever it was, it was certainly holding his attention.
Knowing that children sometimes view strangers - even short, round, older ladies like me - as a potential threat, I usually approach them with a smile and make eye contact, but I rarely speak to them unless they're accompanied by an adult. I needn't have concerned myself this time though. As soon as he noticed me, the boy greeted me with "Look at this! Isn't it cool?" and held out his hand to show me what he'd been examining so carefully.
It was a small, bright green sphere covered with scary looking spikes that were actually quite soft to the touch. I had to smile because they'd fascinated me as a child, too.
We have a number of magnificent horse chestnut trees along our streets and they bloomed spectacularly this year. The bees were busy there and apparently did their job very well, pollinating the blossoms so effectively that the trees are now over-laden with chestnuts. Because nature is much better at recognizing the need for balance that we are, the trees are now shedding excess fruit from their branches, retaining only an amount that they are likely to sustain.
Chestnuts' green casings grow tough and thick as they mature and, when they fall from the tree, they dry and harden. The spikes on the dried casings become quite sharp
but when they're shed from the tree early, like the one my young friend was examining, the spikes are often quite soft and flexible.
As a child I found those immature drupes a tactile delight. I was also amazed that they could change so much over the course of the summer. They intrigued this boy that way too.
We chatted a while, and then my new friend's grandma joined him with her bicycle and they headed off together to enjoy the trails by the river. I continued on my way too, cheered by the thought that no matter how much new technology surrounds us, children will still find time to be intrigued by nature.
It was a happy thought with which to start to my day and now, as I sit here in front of my computer, it reminds me to tear my eyes from the screen once in a while, to pause and drink in the beauty of my surroundings, and to consciously give thanks for the glories of the day.
I hope that your Wednesday is off to a joyful beginning and that, however busy you may be, you find a moment or two today to experience the wonders of your world.