Wednesday, February 02, 2005


So there I was up in the loft doing some editing on this winter night, while Echo was downstairs talking on the phone, when I heard a rapid and rhythmic clicking - like that made by the piezoelectric igniters that light our kerosene heater and our gas stove burner - but Echo was right there and would certainly notice the kerosene heater trying unsuccessfully to start, ditto the burner, but there was indeed a message being conveyed of an urgent impasse down there somewhere, so I went to investigate.

When I got downstairs, I noticed immediately that the ticking was coming not from over by the heater and burner, but from the woodstove. I went over there. It wasn't the woodstove. Beside the woodstove. The kindling board, with kindling on it. The rhythmic clicking continued. I picked up the pieces of kindling one by one. When I picked up the small quarter-round of cherry wood, the clicking faltered.

Must be a bug on the other side. I turned it over. No. It was coming from the other other side. Right there. On the bark. But there was nothing on the bark. I carefully pried up an edge. As long as I didn’t move the wood too abruptly, the clicking went on. I lifted off a section of the bark. Underneath was a cambium layer-munching wood beetle larvae, white, about a half-inch long and with a brown head, now going Huh…? Wha…? Where…? When...? As he (?) looked dazedly around for the cause and reason for this inappropriate light… as the clicking sound continued.

So, that piece gone, I pried up the bark directly above the very spot. There beneath the bark was a now half-revealed and much larger larva of the same family line, who had been knocking her (?) hard brown head firmly against the dry-leather-like cherry bark, making that very sharp staccato click I had been hearing. Apparently the wood, lying next to the stove, had gotten too warm, so the larva had begun to sound that frantic alarm. She went on banging her head against nothing now, not at all stymied by the fact that the noise and the shock to her head had abruptly ceased.

As I watched, the why of it puzzled me. To whom had she been communicating? Evolutionarily speaking, surely she hadn’t expected some puzzled human being to come along and move her away from the non-evolutionary woodstove? (Though it worked this time, for the nonce of curiosity…) For what ear was that click intended? The only thing I can think of is a surely not: a woodpecker…?

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