No-Pants Lady has a new hair style.

She certainly didn’t do it for me, but I appreciate it, because it makes her even easier to spot. Now, in a sea of tourists and locals, her shock of white-blonde hair is a beacon.

Sometimes, days will go by without seeing No-Pants Lady. This unsettles me. I worry about her. Precisely because I know so little about her, I worry. The routines I’ve witnessed are the same ones that scare me, but when I don’t see them, I’m concerned.

She’s often in a rage. She’ll appear to be surrounded by enemies who don’t understand her on various levels. Imagine all the profoundly unhelpful tech support reps, snotty receptionists, idiot drivers, various infuriating family members and put them hand-in-hand around you as you’re walking and that might feel slightly like it. Oddly, for the most part, she obeys pedestrian traffic signals, even when she’s yelling and punching the air.

She possesses, absolutely, an invisible shell. Everyone understands this, and everyone respects it. Her foes have made her beyond surly, so people bend around her. The handful of times I’ve walked past her on the sidewalk, I hold my breath, scared she’ll notice me. I have very little imagination about what might happen if she did, but the blank possibility of it makes my arms tingle.

Last week, I watched her cross the street holding what looked like a fairly new pair of slip-on shoes. She held them casually and almost sauntered through the intersection. She was wearing an enormous brown t-shirt and her short hair stood straight up. Under her clothing, her body is small and hard and soft in places that don’t quite make sense. I have never seen her wear shoes.

Most recently, as I was stopped at a red light, I saw her across the street. She was lying at the edge of the sidewalk, on her side, in another huge t-shirt, her head propped on her hand, her knees bent a little. The same position as someone lying on a towel in the sand, or on the carpet reading, or next to their lover in bed.

And suddenly, I had the urge to run to her and place offerings at her feet. I mean, maybe we’re all missing the point, here. At this stage in my life I’m very comfortable with the idea of no God, but who are we to say what gods actually look like? No-Pants Lady comes and goes with the kind of mystical efficiency I can’t explain, but I’m sure if I followed her around I’d find a mundane set of facts. Or would I?

Maybe some of the answer is in the way people all over the world approach a temple, a statue, a shrine – with humility and hope, with gifts and placations – tiptoeing around the sacred, with fear and love and respect. But someone still has to maintain the place. Sweep it out. Polish it. Replace candles, flowers, remove offerings. Make way for the next set of visitors who, for all the reasons, are seeking something outside of themselves.

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