Wednesday, August 30, 2006

a caterpillar's morning

My first-grader found a Woolly Bear caterpillar on the sidewalk this morning. I picked it up for him and it curled, predictably, into a fat spiky ball. I examined its bristles closely: all black means a hard winter; black and orange, mostly mild. Or so I'd always been told. (There are many opinions on the subject.)

I carried the caterpillar in the curve of my palm down to the bus stop, where the other elementary school students peered at it a bit squeamishly. "Put it on the curb so I can squish it," a second-grade boy said with some relish.

"Noooo!" I turned away from him a little bit. "You can't squish these! They don't hurt anything."

"At least it's black. The red ones bite," a little girl further back in the line said softly.

"They bite?" I pretended to recoil a bit. "I've never heard that. Geez, I'd better be careful."

She grinned at me.

"I've seen a lot of those lately," another mom said. "They were all black."
"They're liars," said another heatedly (doubtless thinking of the high heating bills that come with a hard winter).

I grinned at the caterpillar as it stretched upward in my palm, as if in mid-yawn.

"You're a liar," I told it. Then I put the little black caterpillar (as it sensed motion and instinctively balled up again) ever so gently into the branches of a lilac tree.

Thus was the caterpillar's morning blessed.