Thursday, July 16, 2009

Blind Perseverance

A many-legged caterpillar-like creature (dark brown, one-inch long, as thick as a coat-hanger wire, but ribbed and bendy) crawled across the bathroom tile with tiny feet rippling, miniature cattail-like antennae waving in wild frenzy. When presented with a towel laid in its path it eagerly climbed aboard. I carried it outside to examine during today's nestwatch before letting it go. With the towel spread flat on the slatted seat of the swing, the centipede made a beeline for the unfinished wood. Once off the towel, it refused to climb back on, no matter how thoroughly I blocked its path with the edges of the towel. It must not smell or see, b/c it didn't veer from its path on the swing until its tiny antennae came into actual contact with the towel. But try as I might, I could not get it to accept the towel in this setting, likely more preferable than the bathroom, which must have seemed disastrous to "him."

I can only imagine the discouragement of such a creature, with nothing to guide it but feelers, finding itself on an endless trek across a wall of ceramic tile. In that circumstance, the towel must have seemed an oasis in the desert. But not here, with hope of live greenery nearby. At one point, crawling deep in the groove between the slats of the swing with no forward route other than the corner of the towel, it rippled its feet in the opposite direction and reversed into a remarkable straight backward path along the groove as I nudged it from the front with towel corner.

Eventually I let it crawl away, not wanting to further torture it, and feeling a little like J.J.Audubon who, for the sake of study, killed and wired his birds---but not without new respect for the coordination and relative intelligence of that poor blind deaf but not senseless centipede. dkm

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