I often wonder what is going on behind the eyes of critters I observe as I wander the creeks and forests within range of my home. I went wading in a local stream this week and found a whole feast of mud puppies – it would have been a feast had I brought along a net – and an assortment of bugs and fish of multiple species.
The crawdads were what got me thinking again about brain power. As I approached, they rocketed away from me, snapping their tails to propel themselves – backward – to the next hiding spot. Most of them landed next to a rock they could snuggle under, but some either landed on top of a rock or could not completely hide. As I moved my GoPro-on-a-selfie-stick close, they would open and clench their claws like a boxer threatening destruction on a potential opponent.
Was it simply because nothing familiar in their world would dare invade their space with peaceful intent? On the other hand, the water-borne arachnids (crawfish are submerged spiders) are known to attack each other. Indeed, several of the ones I found had only one claw – a result, apparently, of internecine clashes that did not work out well.
But the underlying question remains. We humans are used to using “instinct” as the explanation for what makes “lesser” critters do what they do. Mothers feed their babies? Instinct. Fleeing from danger? Instinct. We do the same things, for versions of the same reasons. It’s the way we are programmed.
But imagine you always moved around by walking backward. Looking where you’ve been rather than where you are going. How does a creature who leads with his butt find a suitable place to land? There probably is a scientific answer, and I likely will find it, but it is one of the points that makes leading with my eyes so interesting as I wander outside my abode.
Meanwhile, I continue to be enthralled by the regular cycling of color taking off from bare trees to bare trees.
First to appear are bright yellow daffodils surfacing from the forest floor, proclaiming, in hues as great as the trumpets they resemble, the coming rebirth of the planet. The first to bloom generally are all yellow, followed closely by the white-petaled variety tooting an orange trumpet.
Outside my window, tiny buds on the flowering dogwood burst into a great cloud of pinkish ivory, expanding almost as I watch them into four-petaled flowers nearly two inches across.
And now, Mountain Laurel – the Pennsylvania state flower since May 1933 when then-gov. Gifford Pinchot signed the designation – decorate the South Mountains is currently in bloom, presenting blossoms that look like bone China teacups in great explosions of red-speckled ivory interspersed with buds that look like molded white candies left over from decorating a wedding cake.
Diversity. It seems an overused word these days, though it is doubtful another word could describe the multitude of colors and shapes that decorate our home planet and our resident population, including us humans.
Granddaughter returned from a walk in the woods to report to the rest of the family that I had pointed out the variety of shapes and colors of the leaves adorning the trees. She was, at that age, less than excited. Now she hikes with someone else, and soon with a youngster. I’d like to be along when she points out the diversity of life and celebrates the beauty with which it garnishes all our lives. We would be poor, indeed, to be all of us a single hue and form, all of us simultaneously announcing our presence.
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