Monday, September 29, 2008


Courtney here: this entry is a personal indulgence, rather than the usual TamFam adventures this blog is meant to record. I mentioned awhile back wanting to do some blogging regarding my own spiritual and intellectual quest, but that blog, while in full swing, is actually a forum for a whole writing group; accordingly, we post drafts of all stages in multitudinous volume. Thus, for the benefit of people with limited time, here is one excerpt from It is a composed observation, in which I spent about 15 minutes recording empirical knowledge within a 4 inch frame of reference. I recommend the activity to anyone seeking a meditative moment in her day.

4x4 Inch Square

The second one today--a lifeless preying mantis catches my attention, and I squat like a toddler to peer at it more closely. It has gone to a final repose on its back, with twiggy limbs bent at odd angles. These limbs seem to form a protective arch above the hollowed belly below them. But all inner clockworkings of this little fellow are now either dry and rattling or sucked gone. His skin surface, a simple shell jacket for now-empty innards, reflects a light amber hue. A tawny autumn leaf resting near his head seems painted from the same palette. My eyes blink appreciatively at nature's color coordination.A sidewalk forms his backdrop, and I note how the pale gray cement accessorizes itself with a curving crack, forming dark gray angles to cross beneath the center of the mantis abdomen. I shiver when a breeze makes my cheek feel cool. This moving air holds strong enough force to transport the mantis. I watch as the breeze moves him about half an inch forward, sliding his dry outer membrane which makes scratching sounds as it stirs. His head has now slid to touch a portion of the sidewalk marred by a purple stain. The blot has a circular shape which, when positioned behind the mantis head, resembles a two-dimensional halo, like the ones behind faces of saints in medieval tapestries. But I have never been one to promote insects to sainthood, and the head seems even less regal now that I notice the antenna springing from it. The little feelers have become attached to the crusty yellow leaf somehow; this remnant of tree and bit of insect cling together in their mutually dehydrated state. I have realized now he is not dead, but has just shed his exoskeleton.
Author's note: I remember playing with these bugs as a kid. More recently in my adult life, I saw a preying mantis and tried to hold it in my hand for old times' sake--but a shuddering, involuntary reaction made my hand jerk away at the last moment. What changed? I'm still not sure, but chalk it up to one more lost element of childhood innocence.
Second thought: In the Incheon, Seoul Korea airport, I noticed a woman with a few bags at her feet. She stood akimbo, in a manner suggesting solemn sentry in the midst of rushing crowds. As we neared her apparent post of duty, the object of her protection became apparent: a preying mantis was meandering between her feet, and she evidently had intentions of keeping the small life from getting crushed by heedless travelers. I wonder now if she contemplated picking up the insect to move it to safety--but then she might have experienced the same aversive reaction I had in attempting to touch a mantis with grown-up fingers.
Final Addendum: I do not have the citation for the mantis photo above. Sorry; all I can say is, I did not take it myself. I got it from some random place online and do not recall where. Charming though, isn't it.

No comments: