Sometime in the early 1980s my husband and I were driving down a dusty, remote road along the sea in Mexico’s Quintana Roo when I saw a pretty rug hanging on a line by the roadside. We stopped. (Neither of us knew how to drive a standard shift, but that was the only car we could find to rent, so we had been going at a slow, jerky pace — moving, stalling out, moving again. This, however, had given us plenty of opportunities to take photos and watch waves crash against the jagged limestone shore and sweep across miles of deserted beaches. When the road turned inland everything turned green. The flaming red rug flying amongst the trees was a like a beacon. I had to stop.)
A few of the locals had set up a little stand beneath the palms and there were monkeys for entertainment. They were housed in large, homemade wire cages and became very animated, swinging from side to side and chattering like crazy when they saw us get out of the car. We talked to the monkeys for awhile and then browsed through the pottery and various tourist trinkets. There were several textiles, but the red one I’d spotted from the road was a standout — the prettiest of the lot.
I love it still. It has seen many lives as a rug, a blanket, and a wall hanging. It’s reversible; no stitching shows on either side. It was not expensive. But, over the years, I have browsed through thousands of textiles in Latin American markets and I’ve never found one quite like it. So, I’m glad we stopped.
The blanket, rug, wall-hanging started me thinking. How many times in life do we fail to stop…and talk to a friend, smile at a shop clerk, listen to the birds sing? Or buy something we like? How often do we decide to keep looking — for something better, cheaper, bigger, softer, or prettier?
In my experience these once-in-a-lifetime moments are sometimes easy to recognize; often they’re not, except in hindsight. A moment, a stop, can make a huge difference in one’s life or it may simply provide an opportunity to notice something special.
What about you? When have you been glad you stopped? Or wished you had?