I had a very charming visitor during lunch yesterday, who kept me entertained with its amusing wanderings back and forth across the picnic table. It was a small, 1 1/2 inch long, green inchworm, which I learned are named not after their size but after their means of locomotion. If you look closely at the photo (you can click it to enlarge it, as with all the photos on this blog) you'll see that it has legs only at front and back, with none of the center legs of an ordinary caterpillar; this causes it to make expressive loops in moving forward.
The front end often waved in the air, looking for a place to touch down.
Here the inchworm hovers in mid air, like a rearing horse, but it's making a decision as to its direction. These caterpillars are the larvae of the Geometer moth of which there are 35,000(!) species. The name Geometridae comes from the Greek, meaning "earth-measurer", a reference to the way the caterpillars move: when the front legs move ahead, the insect then draws its back legs toward the front, making the loop, then the front legs move forward again. This looks just like a measuring motion, inch by inch.
I lifted the inchworm on my bookmark a couple of times and placed it in different locations on the table, curious as to what it would do. It seemed to want to come back to see me each time, finally dangling from the lower edge of the table over my leg. Curiouser and curiouser...why did it do that?
After a few minutes hanging there, it went on its way and disappeared under the table. While I was watching the caterpillar cautiously move about, waving its front end in the air, searching, searching the way forward, I couldn't help but see it as a metaphor for our human lives; not our impulsive acts, but our more thoughtful moments, as we ponder, take a step, and another, test the winds, change direction slowly, move ahead little by little, but steadily.