A few weekends back, the weather was turning warm, and I started noticing inchworms everywhere. They would dangle from trees on their little silken strings and let the wind carry them somewhere. I found it incredibly beautiful (and probably pretty fun for the inchworm too). I’m not sure if anybody’s ever filmed inchworms dangling before. I found YouTube videos of their incredibly cute walk, but not of them dangling about, so I decided to make a few. These are quite long and possibly boring, but that’s why they’re experiments:
Not of silver nor of coral
But of weather-beaten laurel
Carve it out.
Make a body long and thin
And carve hairs upon the skin.
Make a snout.
On the order of a tower
Faintly wrinkled like a flower
On the paws
Carve out heavy feline toes
Make each claw an eagle’s nose.
Carve great jaws.
Bonus: this from a letter Marianne Moore wrote to Robert McAlmon on September 2, 1921, found on page 179 of her Selected Letters:
You are right; the intellect has not the last word today—any more than it ever had. Sophistication is no match for nature and as I have written Bryher, I have a respect for nature, blind or conscious. The blind instinctive behavior of old fashioned unenlightened society has many advantages over our conscious behavior today; psychoanalysis is a fascinating study and in some ways a useful one but it pre-empts too much of the mind and people tend to feel that a situation analyzed is a situation solved. In rapping marriage on the head as it sometimes does, it is unscientific—when you consider the evolution of the marriage relation and the instinctive tendency to idealize it, and to explain religion away is ludicrously superficial. Religious conviction, art, and animal impulse, are the strongest factors in life, I think, and any one in the ascendant can obliterate the others. We see different phases of them, for example, Bryher’s interest in education and in securing freedom to the race, are a tangent of religion. Religion may be pigeonholed as a transference but religious conviction in operation has always made room for itself over the head of every obstacle. It is apparent that sincerely religious people are contented and are not easily at their wit’s end.
I had a great weekend with M & D in Milledgeville, GA. One of the highlights is seeing this armadillo by the train tracks. Luckily, I had my little video recorder with me:
Armadillos are often used in the study of leprosy, since they, along with mangabey monkeys, rabbits and mice (on their footpads), are among the few known non-human animal species that can contract the disease systemically. They are particularly susceptible due to their unusually low body temperature, which is hospitable to the leprosy bacterium, Mycobacterium leprae. (The leprosy bacterium is difficult to culture and armadillos have a body temperature of 93°F, similar to human skin.)
The Nine-banded Armadillo also serves science through its unusual reproductive system, in which four genetically identical quadruplets are born in each litter. Because they are always genetically identical, the group of four young provides a good subject for scientific, behavioral or medical tests that need consistent biological and genetic makeup in the test subjects. This is the only reliable manifestation of polyembryony in the class mammalia, and only exists within the genus Dasypus and not in all armadillos, as is commonly believed. Other species which display this trait include parasitoid wasps, certain flatworms and various aquatic invertebrates.
Armadillos (mainly Dasypus) make common roadkill due to their habit of jumping to about fender height when startled (such as by an oncoming car). Wildlife enthusiasts are using the northward march of the armadillo as an opportunity to educate others about the animals, which can be a burrowing nuisance to property owners and managers.
Update September 4, 2009 When I saw this armadillo, I was thinking of a passage in a book I read recently (I highly recommend it by the way) called Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience by Mihaly Csikszentmihaly:
Animals’ skills are always matched to concrete demands because their minds, such as they are, only contain information about what is actually present in the environment in relation to their bodily states, as determined by instinct. So a hungry lion only perceives what will help it to find a gazelle, while a sated lion concentrates fully on the warmth of the sun. Its mind does not weigh possibilities unavailable at the moment; it neither imagines pleasant alternatives, nor is it disturbed by fears of failure.
Animals suffer just as we do when their biologically programmed goals are frustrated. They feel the pangs of hunger, pain, and unsatisfied sexual urges. Dogs bred to be friends to man grow distraught when left alone by their masters. But animals other than man are not in a position to be the cause of their own suffering; they are not evolved enough to be able to feel confusion and despair even after all their needs are satisfied. When free of externally induced conflicts, they are in harmony with themselves and experience the seamless concentration that in people we call flow.
The psychic entropy peculiar to the human condition involves seeing more to do than one can actually accomplish and feeling able to accomplish more than what conditions allow. But this becomes possible only if one keeps in mind more than one goal at a time, being aware at the same time of conflicting desires. It can happen only when the mind knows not only what is but also what could be. (p. 228)
“‘Holothuriae, the ‘mizzen’: they have many names, small galleon, Portuguese man-of-war, sea cucumber’–they have little sails, wide at the bottom, small at the top–listen to this! ‘The mizzen can lower or raise this little sail when it feels the wind and wants to sail. Under water a mass of streamers, four or five feet long, hang down from it; the color is a beautiful blue, through which however something green plays. The body is transparent, as if a crystal bottle had been filled with blue-green aqua fortis. “‘The sails are milk-white with an upper edge of purple or violet, beautiful to behold, as if the creature were a precious jewel.’ “And this: ‘it is miraculous to see a whole fleet of them, a thousand little ships–all together!’”
I looked online for this creature and of all its names referenced above, the only one that fit the description was the Portuguese man-of-war:
I think it rather looks like a human brain! Here is what that website says about this creature (I wonder if this information was known at the time (1955) the above novel was written):
The Man-of-War (also known as a bluebottle) is not one creature, as it is commonly assumed, but a complete colony of numerous polyps…each performing their own functions. There are polyps which do nothing but digest the captured food and distribute nutrients to polyps which are not capable of digestion on their own. There are polyps which produce the Medusa, a disc shaped organism which produces eggs and sperm. This organism breaks away from the main Portuguese Man-of-War and floats off to produce many more polyps which, in turn, gather together to form another complete creature. There could be hundreds of polyps which make up the creature we know as the Portuguese Man-of-War.
So the Portuguese man-of-war is large, it contains multitudes. Also, those streamers are poisonous so avoid.