Sunday, June 7, 2015

Darwin's Darlings

Yesterday's ride:

There are only so many places to go within biking distance of the house.  When I start out on a ride, small camera in the behind-the-seat pouch, I think I'll likely not see anything I haven't seen before.

But the roadway and its margins always seem to have something astonishing in store.

A favorite segment is the unnamed road between Peaceful Lane, home to the old, neglected Bethel Cemetery.  Not neglected by everybody.  A plot or two will sport a spot of color where someone has laid some flowers.  And the rain hasn't forgotten it, either, as it has washed away the names on so many of the old markers.

It reminded me of "Spring and Fall:  To a Young Child" (Hopkins, 1918, but written in 1880); all mourning does:

Margaret, are you grieving
 Over Goldengrove unleaving?
 Leaves, like the things of man, you
 With your fresh thoughts care for, can you?
 Ah! as the heart grows older
 It will come to such sights colder
 By and by, nor spare a sigh
 Though worlds of wanwood leafmeal lie;
 And yet you will weep and know why.
 Now no matter, child, the name:
 Sorrow's springs are the same.
 Nor mouth had, no nor mind, expressed
 What héart héard of, ghóst guéssed:
 It is the blight man was born for,
 It is Margaret you mourn for.

 *     *     *
Back to the ride's surprises:

(1)  I have never seen a salamander or newt in Texas, and can't remember the last time I saw one in the wild anywhere.  At first, I mistook this guy for a dying or dead centipede in the middle of the roasting gravel road.  I got off the bike and still thought it was centipede until I gave it a nudge and four little legs popped out.  I haven't been able to identify him or her -- probably a juvenile, no markings.  But plenty slimy despite the dry roadway on which it found itself.  What was it doing there?  Heaven knows there's plenty of wetland hereabouts after our recordsetting rains in May.  It made no move to escape and I easily picked it up and put it on the seatbike for its portrait.  But when I picked it up thinking I'd find a better place for it than the sure-to-be-fatal roadway, he squirmed out of my hand and into the roadside weeds.

(Photo is somewhat misleading -- bike seat and 'mander both black.)

(2) I pulled up to a stop light on Panther Creek on the way to Little Elm.  I happened to glance down and saw what appeared to be a rolled-up t-shirt or other garment.  And on it, a green moth caterpillar of some type.

And I thought:  miles and miles of greenery and this moth larva finds the one item of clothing on which to feast.  The world, I guess, is really just one big closet.

(3) Most of the time, roadkill isn't flat.  But sometimes  .  .  .  .

(4)  I'm fascinated by the funnel web spider, which appears sometimes to be called the grass spider.  This one let me get close enough for a spectacular shot as it decided to stand its ground rather than scuttle off to safety.

(5)   Why do bad things happen to good birds?  If you saw a sheet with a picture of every American bird, your eye would be drawn instantly to the painted bunting.  I've never seen one before.  And I guess I've still never seen one, as this unfortunate specimen was lying in the road on County Road 23, another of my frequent stops.

I felt very bad about this bird, which made me wonder why I feel any worse about this bird than I would about any old grackle that improvidently crossed a hot gravel road one fine day.  There's a lesson there somewhere but I don't know what it is.  My head started to hurt so determined that was quite enough for one ride. 

Keep looking down!