14 October 2000
My hat is looking good: red and orange maple leaves, a pretty brown red oak leaf, red clover, Michaelmas daisies, a sprig of arbor vitae with seed pods, grass fronds trailing off the back brim like the plumes in a Musketeer's hat. Neat.
I wear a hat when I go walking. It's a canvas "vintner's" hat I bought at Banana Republic in Danbury, maybe fifteen years ago-- or did I get it in Princeton? Anyway, I've had it a while. The front is all sweat stained and I can't get it clean, even with heavy duty stain cleaners (and, truth to tell, there's a bit of mildew, too), but it's still a good hat, with a brim that keeps the sun and rain off; and it has a sewn on band with a loop on the left side that's just right for displaying all the "found" stuff I come across in my travels. Some folks laugh when they see me after a long autumn walk...
I got my walk in early today. It's a gorgeous day. Warm. Indian Summer. I couldn't stay inside any longer. I went up Mowry Street-- it's pronounced maw-ree, by the way, in case you ain't from around here. It's the best walking street within range. It's quiet enough, and woodsy enough, and there's the heron's pond at the near end, and then it climbs and winds just right up to Lapham Farm. There's plenty to see and lots of places to poke around. Today I found a bunch of checker berries (Bru used to insist they were "wintergreen," but I know a checker berry when I see one!) on the mossy bank on the south side of the turning on the second "uphill." I ate a few.
And I rescued a bunch of woolly bear caterpillars, too. I hate driving this time of year. You can never tell for sure whether you've missed running them over. I saw a lot of squashed ones today...
Have you ever really looked at a woolly bear? They're pretty neat. The seem to be constructed of ringed segments of fur. Usually, I find, there are five black segments at the head, followed by four or five of those pretty red-brown segments, followed by two or three black tail segments. The head is very tiny and insect-like, the eyes shiny black and big, and it looks like they're wearing an alien's space helmet, really. And there's a tiny mouth beneath.
The three frontmost segments have pairs of very delicate, pointed, black legs. They seem to be more for sensing things than for gripping or bearing weight. Then there's a space of a segment or two-- depending on the individual, as far as I can tell-- and then the brown segments have pairs of tan gripper feet, sort of spatulate in shape, with very tiny, delicate little gripper fingers-- it's hard to see them clearly... next time I'm going to have to bring a magnifying glass-- anyway, the endmost tail section also has a pair of gripper feet. The caterpillars move by rippling their bodies and changing the position of the grip of their feet a pair at a time as they ripple. Very cool to watch.
Pick one up and do just that. At first, of course, being picked up, it will curl into a ball. Give it a minute, though, and it'll uncurl and start exploring your hand. Let it walk up your finger and you'll feel the feet. The grippers are really strong and articulated. It's really amazing. And notice how the caterpillar rears up when he comes to the end of your finger and seems to look around to see where to go next...
They say that the wider the brown band, the worse the winter will be. But, as far as I can tell, the caterpillars are pretty much the same year to year, so I don't put much stock in that lore.
The thing I do wonder about is, why do the woolly bear caterpillars always seem to want to cross the road?
15 October 2000
A night so warm, a sky so clear a midnight blue, a moon so bright, I had to take a walk. I retraced my steps of this morning. Moonlight playing in the leaves... stars... Beautiful. If only I had Nicky Holroyd's (the warlock brother of Gillian Holroyd from Bell, Book, and Candle) gift of being able to make all the street lights go out at will! But, even so, I love walking at night and I've misssed it...
Ma would have a fit if she knew I'd started walking at night again. So don't tell her, okay?
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