Blue star, Keene, NH

There is, of course, a story behind this star. Today’s Photo Friday theme is “Discovery.” When I learned this week’s theme, I immediately thought of an entirely different photo I’d taken yesterday when I headed to the woods to look for spring wildflowers. It’s too early here in NH for any wildflowers to be blooming, so I’ve settled for admiring the crocuses and grape hyacinth on campus and in our neighbors’ gardens. But yesterday in the woods I was cheered to find a small hardy plant with one tiny red berry nestled in a crevice of a lichen-covered stump: a tiny spot of red amongst April’s green and brown.

Red berry, Keene, NH

Fully intending to post the red-berry photo for today’s “Discovery” theme, I flipped through the photos I’d taken yesterday along with a handful I hadn’t uploaded from Wednesday. Imagine my surprise (a moment of discovery!) when I remembered taking the above photo of a blue star nestled in the dirt and dead winter weeds outside the local elementary school. Since that blue star–and my re-discovery of it–seemed so serendipitous, I had to give it top billing…

A bit of backstory to explain why I was particularly tickled to find a tiny blue star in an overlooked corner of dirt. My former grad school office-mate, “Dr. P,” had told me that when he’d gotten his dissertation approved by the “Ruler Lady,” she’d opened her desk drawer, grabbed a handful of confetti, and tossed it in the air. So each time I met with said Ruler Lady on Monday and Tuesday, I was secretly awaiting “the moment” when I’d be so coronated…

Spring crocuses, Keene, NH

When I met with the Ruler Lady on Monday, I wanted her to look at a draft version of “Bill” the diss. I hadn’t yet defended and my diss wasn’t yet printed on fancy paper, so I wasn’t yet expecting confetti. But as the Ruler Lady was poring over my draft, ruler in hand, I looked down at the floor under my seat and saw a tiny purple star: a sole remnant from someone else’s confetti.

When I met with the Ruler Lady on Tuesday after defending and then printing out a final, fancy-paper copy of Bill the diss, she signed the requisite forms while I filled out an official survey about my grad school experience. Again, the process wasn’t entirely completed since I still had to deposit the diss at the library, collect another signature, then return one final piece of paperwork to the Ruler Lady. So again, there was no confetti, but again I looked at the carpet and saw a heartening sign: a tiny purple star.

Grape hyacinth, Keene, NH

So when I finally returned to the Ruler Lady after depositing my diss at the library, she was on the telephone. Technically, all I had to do was drop off that final signature sheet: she had told me to leave it in her inbox if she wasn’t there. But as I rooted around in one of several bags to find the form whose delivery would mark the official moment when my dissertation had been completed and successfully delivered, the Ruler Lady gestured for me to wait…

I knew, of course, what was coming, but that didn’t make it any less special: how often do you get to cherish the precise moment when a decade of work comes to its adrenaline-soaked culmination? I sat in a chair and braced myself for that confetti, telling myself to freeze-frame that exact moment when I went from “in process” to “complete.”

Spring crocuses, Keene, NH

It wasn’t like I had planned to do it: it just happened. Sitting with my hands cupped in my lap, palms up, my left hand naturally snapped shut when it felt something small and nearly weightless alight. When I looked down and opened my hand, you of course know what I saw there: yes, a tiny purple star, my purple star, nestled right in the center of my palm like a single stigmata. And because I’m a sucker for signs and random accidents, I kept that star: even now it’s tucked away in the pocket of my latest Moleskine, a memento for some other decade.

So as I was walking home from teaching on Wednesday, the day after those confetti stars, how could I not snap a photo of someone else’s forgotten remnant of splendor? True, the Universe got the color wrong: this should be a purple star to match the others, and to match the hue of that purple hallway. But I’ll overlook the oversight. Purple stars, blue stars, gold stars: they all betoken the same basic thing, as do white crocuses, lavender crocuses, and clusters of grape hyacinth. Discovery is where you find it: there’s probably a tiny bit of it underfoot or in a lichen-covered crevice nearby. And today’s confetti is tomorrow’s trash, so relish it while you can.