ISSUE No. 4

Clerestory

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The Clerestory Podcast S1 E19

Taking Care of Ourselves
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The Yellow Ladybug Effect

It was crawling next to Sara for a few seconds before she noticed it. She was telling a story, but I was preoccupied by the tiny creature. It wasn’t until it’s torso ascended the gap between Sara’s thigh and the grass that she sensed the yellow ladybug. She jumped at first, but eventually lowered her index finger and let it explore the hills of her knuckles.

“Doesn’t it mean something when you see a yellow ladybug?” she turned to me. “I’m not sure,” I shrugged, “We should make something up.”

She turned back and stared at the bug for a few silent seconds before replying, “it means you’re gonna have a good night's sleep.” The ladybug opened its wings and jumped back into the grassy forest from which it came.

“Sounds good to me.” I said as I stood up and brushed the dirt off my back pockets. Sara followed, and we started back on the path out of the park. In just a few seconds, we traversed the white lines that officially signaled the end of Riverside Park and the entrance to Riverside Drive, where the hot air from the passing cars and the scent of urine suck you back into the New York City vacuum. Swirling in the urban debri, we fastened our masks and returned to our apartment. After finishing the cheap red we uncorked the night before, we said goodnight.

I noticed that something had changed immediately when I awoke. After rolling over in bed and reaching for my phone, I realized that I had woken before my alarm. What was even stranger is that instead of curling back up in bed and catching an extra fifteen minutes of rest, I hopped out of bed, pulled up the biker shorts that I spent good money on but hadn’t had the confidence to wear yet, and marched upstairs to find Sara sitting in front of her computer; a fresh cup of coffee already made. Without a word, I opened my laptop and started work.

“Guess it was that ladybug,” she muttered, and I smiled.

The next week, my friend Emilie moved in with us. I was buzzing with the adrenaline of introducing two friends. Sara was a friend from college that I had been living with for the summer, and Emilie was a childhood friend who came to spend a month with us. With multiple worlds on the verge of colliding, fear of disaster was at the front of my mind. I could feel tension steaming off of Emilie the minute she stepped out of the cab and into the un-air conditioned lobby. As small-town natives, the Concrete Jungle was quite the undertaking for us. At home, I usually start the house tours with the front porch and end with the chicken coop in my backyard. In the city, I start with the doorman and finish with the beat up sneaker designated for Roach Extermination.

I was showing Emilie where to sort the recycling, when she pointed to the floor, “a yellow ladybug!” she cried. Indeed, when I looked down, I saw the tiny bright spot sprinting across the grey tile.

“You know, it means you’re gonna have a good night’s sleep when you spot one” I declared.

“Oh really? I didn’t know that,” Emilie laughed a little, “that’s good to know I guess.” I could tell she didn’t think much of it, so I laughed along and quickly forgot about it.

We spent the rest of the day in and out of subways, jaywalking between taxis, and unsuccessfully attempting to blend in with the locals. The volume of people distracted us from the grandeur of the skyscrapers, so we decided to walk home through Central Park. Sitting beneath a shady tree, we found peace in observing the diversity of activity. Two women danced without music near an elderly man who shared a sandwich with a family of pigeons. A horse carriage carried a young family across the street. At the same time, the bikes whizzing by reminded me of home, like the way a dream can take place in two places at once. I could sense that Emilie was feeling the same way, so we sat silently for at least an hour before packing up and bustling back to Riverside Drive.

As expected, Emilie woke up in a rave about the great night’s sleep she had. The city sounds that had kept me stirring in my bed for days when I first arrived seemed to have taken a hiatus for Emilie’s first night. The lights that have a knack for slinking under the blinds and illuminating a dark room abdicated to the stars for a few hours. Whether she realized it or not, this seemingly insignificant occurrence helped relieve some of the pressures of a big city.

After that, Emilie, Sara, and I told everyone we knew about the Yellow Ladybug Effect. The number of peaceful sleeps in a chaotic world multiplied with each tiny creature that dared to approach. I came to learn that this phenomenon is just one instance where we assign meaning to the nature around us, and it keeps us going. It’s easy to forget that every rat in the subway has a life of its own, problems of its own, and something of its own that is worth protecting. When we realize that Earth is a free museum available to every life that occupies it, we can coexist with our natural environment, even in the greatest city in the world.

The Yellow Ladybug Effect reminded me that every myth is derived from human tendency to make sense of the world around us. A friend sees a butterfly on the anniversary of her mother’s death every year. A deer walks up to a man with depression and he gets a job the next day. A woman narrowly avoids a lightning strike and reconciles with her sister she hasn’t spoken to in years. A rainbow at a picnic inspires a lover to propose. A yellow ladybug sat with me on a Central Park bench. I woke up well-rested and wrote this down.

Sophie Bolinger is an aspiring writer looking for small publications to launch her career. She currently studies English and Psychology at Middlebury College, where she’s developed passions for mental health awareness and non-fiction writing. In her spare time, Sophie enjoys writing fiction, playing sports, singing, and volunteering as a Crisis Counselor for Crisis Text Line. Her life goal is to acknowledge her specific skillsets and discover how to use them to promote social justice in the most impactful way. Magazines like Clerestory give her the opportunity to achieve her dream.

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