In AP Biology, we were given the task of collecting pill bugs (aka rolly pollies, but I am unsure of the plural so we continue to use “pill bugs” for the present) for an animal behavior experiment.
As you may know, I am not usually one to enjoy the outdoors. However, I was extremely excited to collect pill bugs this Saturday, for reasons unknown. I explored the outer reaches of my backyard, where there are several trees (and therefore the rotting vegetation pill bugs love), for some sign of the cute little arthropods, but to no avail: the ground was as dry as British humor. What was I to do? I watered the area copiously and covered it with garbage bags, hoping to catch some pill bugs.
I checked back on Sunday, perhaps even more eager to see the elusive isopods. My efforts were all for naught, however, as there was no sign of any pill bugs. Of course, one can always find worms, beetles, ants, frogs, silverfish, mosquitoes, and numerous other creepy-crawlies, but not the one thing I actually wanted. It was a major disappointment, to be sure.
Today, Monday, it rained extremely heavily. Not only was the downpour wonderful in terms of aesthetics, it also meant that I had a second chance to catch me some pill bugs! After Final Jeopardy! was over, I rushed out to visit the trees.
I found beauty there. The smell of the freshly-fallen rain was magnificent, refreshing, tranquil. The sun was gently floating to the horizon, but it was nowhere close to dark. The sunlight struck the leaves and the trees at just the perfect points, creating breathtaking contrasts and rich, superb coloration.
Each step I took made a muffled, damp crunch on the leaf-covered ground. I discovered a new world below the degrading, brown leaf layer. Insects buzzed about, keeping just out of sight as I revealed more and more of their world to mine.
I left the deeper reaches of the trees — not that that is saying much — in favor a more independent tree. I searched among its roots, but not a single glimpse was had of the object of my desire. My hair stuck in the branches (I had forgotten to fasten my hair), but there was a charm to that too.
I found a raspberry. It was not ripe yet — it had yet to achieve a deep red or even soften. I found many raspberries, but I picked this raspberry alone. I stuck it in my back pocket. I had planned to put it with the other fruits in the kitchen, hoping the ethylene would speed the little fruit’s ripening. The raspberry is not there anymore. I lost the raspberry, it seems.
I was losing hope, beginning to look in more and more obscure places. I wandered into the grass proper, delighting in the rice paddy appearance of a good portion of the lawn — the rains were torrential, indeed, leaving huge puddles in their wake.
I returned to my original spot, losing hope. I sat there, uncovering more and more of the soil beneath the decomposing matter. And then, I caught a glimpse of a pair wonderful pink bands, journeying across the wide expanse of the leaf sea. Selfishly, I captured the second, longer one on a pair of sticks and transported a few meters away, for closer observation. I was overjoyed. I began to sing to the earthworm, even as I wondered in my mind whether I had separated a worm from its mate (they do not mate for life, but you know romantic thoughts rarely adhere to logic).
“You are gorgeous; I love you!” I sang. The worm was gorgeous. I loved it.
I could see its dorsal artery’s constant contractions. I identified its clitellum. I noted its characteristic inching motion. I had secretly hoped my seduction of the earthworm could cause a jealous pill bug to finally make an appearance, but I was wrong. I continued to gaze in wonder at the gorgeous worm as I serenaded its efforts to return to its beloved, perhaps long gone by now. It slowly sank into the grass, into oblivion, searching.
The magical half-hour was ending. The sun was jilting me, forcing me to continue my explorations another day. I checked my watch. Time for The Big Bang Theory.