June 30, 2006
CENTIPEDES, CATERPILLARS AND OTHER CRITTERS
IT'S a gorgeous morning in middle Canada on the eve of my country's 139th birthday, sunny, clear, and so hot you can already feel the heaviness of the forecast 30C heat and the potential thunderstorms to follow.
It conjures memories of one of my favourite pastimes as a kid venturing out the door on a sunny day, a solitary but so rewarding and intriguing pursuit: collecting insects. Or, more generically, bugs.
The centipede is not an insect, but it fit the bill and was always the most challenging foe. It was the biggest, for one; the most quick and evasive and hard to find, plus most difficult to catch. And it packs a mean bite.
I was like the pith-helmeted hunter heading out into the wilds of Africa or India in my child-like zeal, arming myself with a new jar, a lid with holes poked in the top, a magnifying glass.
The 'pede was my No. 1 priority, my biggest quarry setting out each day on my solo journey. I'd hit the same old spots, lift up the same old rocks, check under the same piles of wood between garages, in my quest.
Beetles, army ants, waterbugs, even worms were my prey. I'd spend hours under the hot sun finding them, protecting them, nurturing them, watching them...and then set them free when it was time for lunch or supper.
The dragonflies, the most amazing and beautiful of them all, I didn't even try to catch, but just marvel at their evolutionary brilliance. Butterflies, so delicate in nature, were impossible, fluttering off gently just as I got so agonizingly close...
When I get the chance, I still find myself lifting rotting logs in the forest to see what explosion of life lives there, still find myself wanting to walk among hundreds of crayfish scurrying along the sandy bottom of a lake.
Oh, to be a kid again sometimes...