Dec 2, 2005

Ovipositor: A Cricket's Tale

We talked yesterday a bit about perception. Yesterday meaning the first post, the one about the fog, not the one about the ficus tree, which was about perception if you get it, but not really on topic particularly.

Perception. Roight.

I was thinking about perception again this morning, but under a different set of circumstances. Two, actually. One was the cold, and made me think about how the human body adapts to it's environment, so that when it is staying cold, the body perceives the temperature as being higher than it actually is, while in the middle of summer we perceive it as not being quite so cold.

This morning's trip in was in short sleeves and 37 degree temps. Foolish, but not unbearable. When I walk outside to get the mail around 11, it'll be up to around 60, which will feel comfortable in a T-shirt. If you took the Irrelephant from mid-summer and stuck HIM in this 60 degree temperature he'd be freezing his trunk off.

So, enough of that. Anyone can experience that sort of thing.

The second (and more comical) circumstance came a few minutes ago. I was sitting here at my little desk working on entering visits in the computer when I noticed that I was being spied upon from my port bow. A cricket's antennae were carefully swishing the air from around the corner of a vertical support on my hutch, testing for surface or vibration or what, I know not. They were soon followed by a cricket head and a pair of pedipalps, and then finally one front leg. The antennae never stopped swooshing, but the rest of the cricket never hove into view, and then finally retracted.

I gave it no more thought until I noticed a small brown body making it's way steadily across my desk calendar, antennae going like a crazed metronome, pedipalps steadily beating a tiny tattoo across my paperwork. It was no adult, but certainly not a newborn; brown and satin-finished, I could see each little spur on it's high back legs, and the layered armour of his (no ovipositor) abdomen almost gleamed. I couldn't help but intervene somehow in it's steady, determined progression.

So, I stuck my hand in his path. He immediately froze, as fast and as still as only an insect in fear for it's life can freeze. This went on for quite a few minutes, while I leaned in and watched closely, trying not to breathe on him and startle him into a potentially suicidal leap off my desktop.

After an interminable wait, my stilled companion decided that what seemed to be in front of him might or might not be worth visiting, so in preparation for the venture he started cleaning himself. First, his left foreleg reached up and captured his port-side antennae and cleaned it from base to tip. Then the left leg passed through busy mandibles, cleaning it up. Then the left eye got a polishing by the newly-cleaned left leg, and after that was complete the left leg needed a cleaning again.

While I patiently waited for this sinister-sided bath to be over with the right leg popped up without warning, lashed out and seized the starboard antennae and passed IT through his overworked mandibles, polishing up each tiny section, letting the tip end finally go, whiplike. When that was done it was the right leg's turn to be washed, then the pedipalps needed a thorough going over, and the right eye stayed filthy because some demented neuron fired off in his mad little cricket-brain and he decided that it was time to be back on the exploration road.

He carefully approached my hand, now nearly asleep, and ascended with the care that a sun-suited ropeless climber would approach Everest. One antennae, then both, then one pedipalp, and a careful backdown to assess the situitation, then a second approach involving the whole body, and after interminable minutes I could feel the tiny rasp of mandibles checking my callouses for edibility. Finding them wanting he moved on into the lowlands of my palm, and it was at this point that I made a dome over him with my right hand and carried him out into the parking lot's leading edge of grass and tossed him underhanded into it.

I'm certain his perception of the event would be as alien to me as mine would be to him, but I could only wonder what it must have felt like to approach and then ascend this curious wall of warm pinkish-tan material, decide it was harmless and therefore worth investigating, discover that it was coarse enough to easily offer traction for tiny sharp claws, find that it offered many interesting crevices and creases, decide it was, sadly, inedible, and then to be ignobly cast into darkness only to be recast into light and cold and a long gentle fall into familiar grass.

What a ride it must have been.



Such a detailed discription of the little cricket. He would be impressed, I'm sure.

Males & the things that fascinate them.


Nancy Dancehall said...

Sounds like life.