A Caterpillar and the Centipede’s Dilemma

Saltmarsh caterpillar (Estigmene acrea)

After stopping for a closer look at the lemon beebalm (Monarda citriodora) overflowing a roadside ditch, I discovered a dozen or more saltmarsh caterpillars roaming among the flowers. Most were munching on leaves or moving along stems with what passes for caterpillar haste, but one had curled itself around a grass stem and seemed to be holding on for dear life.

For the ten minutes I was in its neighborhood, it never moved. It might have been resting, or pondering a drop down into the leaf litter to begin pupating, but it reminded me of this verse from childhood:

A centipede was happy – quite!
Until a toad in fun
Said, “Pray, which leg comes after which?”
It threw her mind in such a pitch
She laid bewildered in the ditch,
Considering how to run.

Even though the caterpillar lacks the numerous legs of a centipede, and despite the fact that its movement depends on muscle contraction rather than the legs it does have, it still amused me to imagine my little friend pondering the verse attributed to Katherine Craster in her 1871 volume called Pinafore Poems. Whenever I grew indecisive as a child, one parent or the other would recite the lines: a bit of cautionary advice to prevent dithering.

I assume the curled up caterpillar ceased any dithering and moved on eventually, but it pleased me that others of its kind were available for photos.

Salt marsh larvae are highly variable in color, ranging from yellow to brown or black, but whatever the color of their bodies or hairs, I find their little faces charming.

 

Comments always are welcome.

The Dawn Crier

Boat-tailed grackle ~ Aransas National Wildlife Refuge

 

“The Town Crier Calls at Dawn to Announce the Feast” ~ Pueblo ritual chant

All people awake, open your eyes, arise;
Become children of light, vigorous, active, sprightly.
Hasten clouds from the four world quarters;
Come snow in plenty, that water may be abundant when summer comes;
Come ice, cover the fields, that the planting may yield abundance;
Let all hearts be glad!
The knowing ones will assemble in four days;
They will encircle the village dancing and singing songs
That moisture may come in abundance.

 

Comments always are welcome. The chant above comes from The Path on the Rainbow: An Anthology of Songs and Chants from the Indians of North America, ed. George W. Cronyn (1918).

 

Remembrance

Memorial Day Weekend, 2019 ~ Old City Cemetery, Galveston

 

The last sunbeam
Lightly falls from the finish’d Sabbath,
On the pavement here—and there beyond, it is looking
Down a new-made double grave.
Lo! the moon ascending!
Up from the east, the silvery round moon;
Beautiful over the house tops, ghastly phantom moon;
Immense and silent moon.
I see a sad procession,
And I hear the sound of coming full-key’d bugles;
All the channels of the city streets they’re flooding
As with voices and with tears.
I hear the great drums pounding,
And the small drums steady whirring;
And every blow of the great convulsive drums
Strikes me through and through.
For the son is brought with the father;
In the foremost ranks of the fierce assault they fell;
Two veterans, son and father, dropt together,
And the double grave awaits them.
Now nearer blow the bugles,
And the drums strike more convulsive;
And the day-light o’er the pavement quite has faded,
And the strong dead-march enwraps me.
In the eastern sky up-buoying
The sorrowful vast phantom moves illumin’d;
(’Tis some mother’s large, transparent face,
In heaven brighter growing.)
O strong dead-march, you please me!
O moon immense, with your silvery face you soothe me!
O my soldiers twain! O my veterans, passing to burial!
What I have I also give you.
The moon gives you light,
And the bugles and the drums give you music;
And my heart, O my soldiers, my veterans,
My heart gives you love.
                           “Dirge for Two Veterans” ~ Walt Whitman

 

Comments always are welcome.