Sunday, December 23, 2007


How much of your lifetime have you spent closely examining oak bark? Not too many minutes, I'll wager. Scanning even small areas of oak bark is not a general habit among humans of my acquaintance. Until a few years after I moved here it wasn't a habit of mine either; out of the first 60 years of my life, I don't think I spent more than 30 seconds carefully examining oak bark. I can't imagine why I might even have done it for 30 seconds, but you never know, we were all kids once, with hungry minds, nothing to do and an oak nearby.

But then one day you're grown up and having lunch, say, in your house on a mountain in a completely other country like Japan at just about winter solstice, when all self-respecting insects are dead or asleep - you still with me on this? - and a kamemushi (lit: turtle insect, i.e., stinkbug) suddenly comes bungling headlong through the air the way they do and decides on a spontaneous crash landing, also the way they do, but this time right into your fried noodles, soup or salad. At that point, you are likely to ask the air-at-large that timeless question that so often issues from the depths of the human heart: Where in the hell did that come from? And as timelessly usual, there is no answer from the air-at-large.

But as the evolutionary process chugs along, after this has happened a few times and you've tossed out a few soups or salads or cups of tea or glasses of wine you'd been just about to enjoy, and that question is still cooking on your brain's back burner, one day you're out in a cold afternoon loading firewood into the firewood bag and you notice what looks like several bits of oak bark moving around on the oak bark. Thanks to evolutionary experience, you know that this is strange. So you look more closely, this time with your glasses on. Those moving bits of oak bark are in fact kamemushi, staggering groggily in disturbed hibernation.

If they weren't staggering you never would have noticed them until you unwittingly brought them indoors and into your nice fresh cup of tea, for they have developed over the - what is it, 500 million years? - of their evolution the ability to mimic oak bark, ultimately ruining salad and other enjoyables by crawling together in the bark crevices as the weather cools, when they go into hibernation, their combined oaky carapaces then looking precisely like part of the bark-- as if any creature living is going to bother with stink bugs anyway, this is defensive overkill if you ask me.

What gets me (note considerately avoided bug pun) is that the innocent two-legged, fire-using newcomer, having evolved into a woodstove user less than 300 years ago, in all innocence totes the noxious insects into his warm home, where the stinkers wake up thinking it is Spring at last and bungle through the air as is their giddy Springtime wont, spontaneously crash landing here and there on your computer screen, your tv screen, in your hair, ear, soup, salad etc.; it would all be very entertaining as a video I'll never make.

So having evolved to this advanced point through my relentless pursuit of knowledge and non-malodorous lunch, and a preference for nothing crawling over my WORD text, I have learned to scan oak bark in great detail when filling my firewood bag, so I won't have to throw away another glass of pineapple juice.

Evolutionarily speaking, I have thus far managed to slash my kamemushi experience by up to 95%. I'm aiming for 100% and I'm getting there, but as most humans must be aware by now, you can't evolve overnight. Want the rest of my salad?


Tabor said...

Each time we bring in an armfull of wood I am thinking of BUGS. Thus far I have been blissfully disappointed.

Bob Brady said...

Keep watching the skies...