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Retired publishing executive ecstatic with the idea of spending most of his time on the coast of Maine

Monday, September 3, 2012

A very determined caterpillar

Ever wonder why a caterpillar moves so purposefully? I do, and when I saw one crawling along the edge of the deck, I decided to watch for a while.

It was the black and white kind so common lately in Maine, the Hickory Tussock, and it's in the news besides, for its hairs are allergenic to some people. Panic! Don't let anyone go outside ever again!

Here it is.

So it crawled to the end of the edge, waved its head and front half in the air as if Googling, and turned back. It crawled all the way to the other edge, at a rate of speed I estimated would not exceed 200 feet per hour, manfully (bugfully?) straddling the multiple chasms between the deck boards with hardly a pause. Upon reaching the other side, it Googled some more. Thinking it wanted a somewhat more productive surface than my recently painted deck, I played God and flicked it onto the grass. This was a fall equivalent to more than 100 feet to a human, but the caterpillar rested only a moment before resuming its pursuit of...I don't know what. Obstinately, it pushed through the grass and started climbing up the latticework below the deck, went upside-down navigating the lip that the boards make, and greeted me again on the surface.

Now what? You can't fly yet, you silly bugger, so why the obsession with altitude? For a while it was more of the same, exercising on the moon, but then it must have sensed more appropriate climes, for it made for the back edge where a fern overhangs a bit. I cheered its successful transition from chemical to vegetable, although stupidly, it bumbled about for a while, looking for the highest frond, which it eventually found. It stayed for a while, upside-down, maybe hiding from God. I watched until dinner was ready.

Very boring to some but not to me. While it crawled, I admired its coloring and symmetry (also, I had the beautiful bay to look at if bored). I learned basically nothing, except that, sorry Eric Carle, it didn't seem to be very hungry. According to the books, it's supposed to end up in the leaf mat on the ground, forming its cocoon for the winter. It probably did - at least it wasn't on the fern in the morning. All in all, an excellent half hour of pure observation, little philosophy, few facts, no wisdom - better than watching what was on TV at the time, allergenic network news.

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