Train Wreck

One afternoon, I found this monster moving across the decking of my verandah. It was about a metre long and very hairy so it was definitely no snake. On closer inspection, it turned out to be a line of interconnected caterpillars. Each individual caterpillar presented just like the many common and garden caterpillars I’d seen before. But I’d never before seen them in a procession like this.

I was amazed. They seemed to be linked together like carriages in a train. Where had they come from? Where were they going to? Their mission was relentless, but what was it? Why were they linked in this way?

I speculated.

With what human situation can we compare this if any? Is the lead caterpillar an adult and the others juveniles? Is the lead caterpillar the only sighted one? Is it, perhaps, like a teacher taking his/her pupils on an excursion? Or a mother escorting her enormous brood to a safer home?

Before long, this procession of caterpillars reached the edge of my decking, where a one metre cliff awaited them. I watched to see what would happen now.

The lead caterpillar – hesitant – stopped. By way of investigation, he/she allowed half his/her length – no more – to hang over the treacherous gap. Then he/she pulled back. Then he/she tried again. Pulled back again. This happened several times.

What was his/her entourage doing while he or she was testing the waters? Well, it tried to press on, but clearly couldn’t. So, like a derailed train, the whole box and dice collapsed in front of me. Thrown into confusion, caterpillars were strewn in all directions. It was mayhem.

A train wreck of monumental proportions.

I couldn’t continue watching. I had to leave them to their fate. I had an appointment: doctor, dentist, or some such thing. When I arrived back, several hours later, there was no sign of the critters. They had somehow sorted out their problem, and moved on. I really wish I’d been around to see how they did that.

Once again, they animal world had amazed me. Their world(s) are mostly alien and incomprehensible to us. But clearly their ways, unfamiliar though they be to us humans, mean a great deal to them in their everyday dealings with life. Who is to say which species has the superior culture?

It’s worth remembering that those unprepossessing caterpillars are destined to become beautiful butterflies in some future miraculous transformation. Where are our miracles?