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Omens of Fortune

August 9, 2011

I am not superstitious. But I am also not exactly non-superstitious. I love black cats (my grandmother has two, named Helios and Selini after the sun and moon, in Greek). Sometimes I have to pass under a ladder to get something done. No problem. And in the spirit of declaring my semi-agnosticism in that domain, I also think insects have had a bad rap for way too long. With all due respect to arachnophobes (and I really mean that), I always find encounters with spiders fascinating. Today, it went beyond empirically verifiable fascination; I found myself feeling positively superstitious, if I may say so with the dual meaning of the adverb.

In the morning when I exited my room in the little house not too far from the Morgan’s Rock lobby, this spider was waiting for me outside. After I showered and got ready to leave, I passed a frantic walking stick attempting to find a tree, perhaps having fallen from the ceiling earlier. As I walked to the restaurant for breakfast, I considered these two arthropods good omens of the sightings I would have on my forest walk later in the day.

When I departed on the trail to find wildlife to photograph, I passed near some weeds on the side of the path that had been ravaged by some insect. I crouched and looked closely at all the leaves to detect the culprit, but found no obvious caterpillar or beetle munching on the foliage. Bending closer, I scanned the plants with a patient eye and finally noticed something that stood out. Inspection revealed the object to be a little hide-away for a caterpillar—not a cocoon, but perhaps a temporary shelter for the lepidopteran larva during some part of the day. Since this was the only such screening that I found in the weeds, I don’t think that this caterpillar was responsible for the damage, but I may have overlooked some other refuges, or underestimated the jaws and intestine of the insect whose sole purpose it is to eat leaves until creating a pupa. While looking around I did see this crab spider though.

Advancing along the trail, I entered the denser forest and had been walking for about half an hour without stopping when I suddenly heard some fast and loud rustling in the undergrowth to my right. I stopped and listened as the source grew closer. I imagined that it was some crazed dog (although they aren’t allowed on property except on the farm) or feline (margay or ocelot) that was running towards me. Then, while I stood as if electrified—this is the first time I have used the phrase, because it really did feel that way—I finally saw the large mammal run onto the path in front of me. It was a sizeable doe, probably white-tailed, panting and grunting for breath as it rushed blindly past me. All this happened in the span of fifteen seconds, and I didn’t have the time or means to turn on the camera until the deer had disappeared. Instead I photographed the scene of the flight, checked the path for tracks (and found none), and advanced on my walk smiling at the fortune that I had foreseen earlier in the morning with the help of the arachnid and phasmid.

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