Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Bear, Crows, Snake

I've been thinking about timing lately. The way events can occur as if chance were planned, for good, ill, or odd. Today was a small example. I went out to Arlington Great Meadows with my friend and fellow meadower Helen Byers. A mild, musing day, in the sixties. October in grasshopper mode, afizz with a few somnolent crickets. We didn't have a lot of time, and she had to come a fair drive away. I was hoping the walk would yield some rewards.

We were walking along the marsh boardwalk that I mentioned in a post last Friday. I said to Helen: "It was right about here that I saw the woolly bear caterpillar that wasn't an actual woolly bear caterpillar." I was just guessing, in fact, but Helen looked down at the spot and pointed, with a laugh. There was a perfect woolly bear caterpillar in the weeds—a real one, with the rusty red band and the two black ends (short: a mild winter).

A bit further along, we heard a telltale raucous gang-cawing of crows, deep in the woods. They'd almost certainly gotten hold of a raptor—a hawk or owl. Whatever it was, it was staying hunkered down. Probably an owl; hawks tend to break loose, take spectacularly to the sky, pursued by the mob. Call it caws and effect. This one wouldn't crack under their pitiless interrogation (various kinds of caws: excited yips, coarse drawls, snide rasps). There must be a folktale explaining the hard feelings between crows and hawks or owls. If I find it, I'll insert a link; if I don't, maybe I'll write one.

Then there was the snake. We were walking back along the bike trail. Helen stopped at what appeared to be a very long worm or a very short brown snake on the path. A snake it was, a little one, maybe seven inches long, and possibly dead. But, no, it moved. She picked it up gently, carried it to the edge of a paved hollow filled with rainwater. Lay it down with care. It immediately formed a coil, curling around itself in a series of concentric circles. It didn't seem well, poor guy. We left it on a sumac leaf in the grass to an uncertain fate.

Three random encounters: woolly bear caterpillar, mob of crows, unwell snake. Timely events for seekers of event. Disparate characters in a ViewMaster called Wednesday. Somewhere near the end of . . . the October zone. (Cue caws and theme music)

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