1. 1.
    traveling from place to place, especially working or based in various places for relatively short periods.
    "the peripatetic nature of military life"
    synonyms:nomadic, itinerant, traveling, wandering, roving, roaming, migrant,migratory, unsettled
    "I could never get used to her peripatetic lifestyle"
  2. 2.
  1. 1.
    a person who travels from place to place.
  2. 2.
    an Aristotelian philosopher.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Looking-Glass Insects

"I know you are a friend," the little voice went on: " a dear friend, and an old friend. And you won't hurt me, though I am an insect."

"What kind of insect?" Alice inquired, a little anxiously. What she really wanted to know was, whether it could sting or not, but she thought this wouldn't be quite a civil question to ask...

--Chapter III, Looking-Glass Insects, from Through the Looking-Glass in Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland--

Though the insect pictured above looks a little unfriendly, a "bug" expert at the Shawnee Audubon Society's Insect Awareness & Appreciation Day this past Saturday informed us that it is merely a moth masquerading as a wasp. I wish I could tell you its correct name, but my hands were too busy with the camera and a water bottle to write down any notes.

I love a welcome that includes a picket fence, and we felt welcome indeed to the diverse gathering of insect aficionados. They included university professors, graduate students, ordinary folks like us, children, and even an Illinois Department of Transportation biologist. I am glad to know the highway folks are concerned about the little critters. I wonder if they have ever thought of doing a random dead-bug count on cars as they leave the state. It would be interesting to find out if vehicles like Hummers or Navigators could perform a really useful service like mosquito abatement.

Now this garden looks like an insect paradise, and in fact it was.

We split up into groups of 10 to 15 people and wandered about the property, guided by some of the experts. They were kind enough to scoop up some of the property's diminutive denizens and display them for our inspection. The children were by far the most enthusiastic participants in the bug safari, not afraid at all to take a step into the tall grass or wade into the water to look for unusual specimens.

A shallow pond added a different dimension to the various areas available for insect habitation.

No, the water was definitely not potable, though I am sure it was not as contaminated as many lakes are these days by farm chemicals. This farm property, which has been donated for the Society's use, has not been sprayed or treated for a very long time. You can be sure we practically bathed in insect repellant before we even stepped foot outside of the car. We have soothed the few, itchy chigger bites that have appeared since Saturday with lavender essential oil.

In addition to the little excursions around the property, we were treated to mini-lectures and insect displays brought by various experts and members of the Society.

If there were names posted somewhere for these specimens, I failed to see them.

"What sort of insects do you rejoice in, where you come from?" the Gnat inquired.
"I don't rejoice in insects at all," Alice explained, "because I'm rather afraid of them--at least the large kinds. But I can tell you the names of some of them."
"Of course they answer to their names?" the Gnat remarked carelessly.
"I never knew them to do it."
"What's the use of their having names," the Gnat said, "if they won't answer to them?"
"No use to them," said Alice; "but it's useful to the people that name them, I suppose. If not, why do things have names at all?"

Of course, the first thing to do was to make a grand survey of the country she was going to travel through. "It's something very like learning geography," thought Alice, as she stood on tiptoe in hopes of being able to see a little further.

Several paths mown through the tall grass beckoned to us to follow them, but the wonderful smells of a potluck dinner being set up on long tables behind the barn convinced us to stay nearby.

After a delicious meal, some entertaining insect jokes, a raffle of donated prizes, and some humorous folk music provided by RognboB, we headed to our reserved room at The Mansion in Golconda. We thought it would be a nice place to stay, and it certainly seemed that way at first glance.

The room was spacious, and the bed looked inviting, that is until I pulled back the sheet and found a wolf spider hiding there. You would think I could appreciate it after the kind of day I spent outdoors, but its presence was not at all welcome. Let's just say I dispatched it quickly with a little help from my shoe.

"Better say nothing at all. Language is worth a thousand pounds a word!"

"I shall dream about a thousand pounds tonight, I know I shall!" thought Alice.

We really should not have been surprised to find a bug or two since the house is an old one, but there seemed to be more than just one or two creeping or flying about the room during the night. The next morning we discovered why they seemed so prevalent. The window behind the bed's headboard had a big hole in the glass which was not covered by anything more than a poorly fitting piece of plastic. That fact explains why it seemed like we were camping outside. The insect noises from outside were quite loud, and there was a dampness in the air even though we could hear the air conditioner running.

The proprietors were nice people, but I don't think we will be staying here again.

After a hearty breakfast at the local saloon in Golconda, the only place serving food so early in the day besides an ice cream place (the saloon is for sale, by the way), we drove a few miles east to Cave-in-Rock, which overlooks the Ohio River. We had not been there since the kids were small.
To get to the cave itself, you have to descend these steps. It feels and looks like you are going down to a hidden grotto filled with cryptic messages.

Chert nodules like this one might not seem like a cryptic message, but there is apparently some mystery as to their origin. Scientists still are not sure what they are or why they adorn the rock. My husband says they might be remnants of ancient sea creatures, since microscopic examination suggests that they have a spicule-like structure.
This passageway was provided by fractures in the rock, which were probably precipitated by an ancient earthquake.

Over time, flood waters have carved out a spacious cavern, supposedly used by river pirates from time to time. If you listen closely, you can almost hear the clink of coins and drunken laughter echoing off the cave walls.
I wanted to explore the back part of the cave, but for some reason the batteries in my camera showed signs of weakening, which was strange because I had just replaced them a week earlier. I had to seek out some light to preserve what was left of the battery power. Fresh batteries, of course, waited for me in the car. There were just too many steps between us to even think about going to get them.
It's too bad this cave floods every now and then. Otherwise, it would be valuable as waterfront property with a breathtaking view of the river.
My husband has told me some wild stories about his spelunking adventures before we met. I'm just glad he doesn't get excited by those kinds of activities anymore.
We left the way we came. There is no other passage in or out of the cave large enough to accommodate humans.
Just above the opening of the cave, we spied this name and date carved into the rock ceiling. The Coles must have either used a very tall ladder or been standing in a boat during a flood.

Outside and back on top of the bluff, we saw a barge being pushed up the river.
I wonder if the crew members ever think about the pirates who once hid out in the cave nearby.

At least these days, river workers have cell phones and radios to keep in touch with family and the authorities during the long periods of time they have to be on the water.

The scenery here is quite beautiful and unlike anything else in this Land of Lincoln.

I guess Sunday was too muggy for many people to be visiting the park or having a picnic. By noon, we were ready to head back north and take a nap in the air-conditioned apartment.

Before we left, hubby spied an unusually colored caterpillar in the grass beneath our feet. I wonder what its final form will be after it undergoes metamorphosis. Will it become a simple moth or a gorgeous butterfly?
"Crawling at your feet," said the Gnat (Alice drew her feet back in some alarm), "you may observe a Bread-and-butter-fly. Its wings are thin slices of bread-and-butter, its body is a crust, and its head is a lump of sugar."


  1. I love how you tie in Through the Looking Glass to these interesting insects. My kids have always enjoyed Audubon camps, and I love their sanctuaries. The cave shots are cool. It look like you've been having fun.

  2. Sarah, the weekend was interesting and full of wonder. We had so much fun watching the kids at the Audubon gathering, even though none of them was ours. It made me think how much our grandson will enjoy an outing like that someday. I guess that's why Carroll's piece seemed so appropriate.

  3. I agree with sarah laurence about Alice in Wonderland and your insect connection. Found the post very interesting. Having a particular day set aside is a great idea for learning.
    The butterfly specimens were so pretty. Loved the Cave-in-Rock pics and the view of the Ohio river from the bluff.
    Thank you visiting my blog and leaving your comment. That was interesting too...about the horseflies.
    Have a lovely weekend!

  4. You certainly spend your weekends productively! I'm not sure I would have been brave enough to go searching for insects if I knew it meant coming home with chigger bites, but this looks like a very interesting workshop. I would like to be able to name more of the insects I see each day, especially the butterflies.

    I, too, loved the intertwining of Alice--it's been a long, long time since I read this, and I didn't remember the part about the insects.
    Seeing your cave pictures, though, I couldn't help but think of Huck Finn. Who knows who might have spent time in the cave you visited!

  5. Thanks, Kanak and Rose. As for the Alice connection, I was thinking about Weeping Sore's post a while back, something about "go ask Alice," thinking about the insects' world in miniature, found the old book in my bookcase and started leafing through it. Then I saw the chapter about insects. I had not remembered that particular part either and was surprised and delighted to find it. It was a day of life reflecting art, I guess.

  6. W2W, what a thoroughly wonderful way to spend your time, if I say so myself.
    You certainly post about the very things I love to spend my time on. I can still get lost in looking at bugs and plants and the tiny world that can be missed unless one slows down.
    Love the looks of the cave and the bluff. The night spent in an insect-rich bedroom wouldn't appeal to me either! Perhaps those inn keepers should be made aware of the hole in the window?

  7. Hi, Greeny. Apparently, the innkeepers were aware of the hole, as they had tried to cover it with the ill-fitting plastic. The window pane must be expensive to replace because it is a curved piece of glass. I heard from a reliable source that the owners may be waiting on funding related to historic site preservation before they do any more repairs to the house. Anyway, we did enjoy the day and the fellowship with all of the other insect enthusiasts. I felt bad about killing the spider in the bed, but I didn't have a jar or anything to trap it in, and I was kind of squeamish about just scaring it off and letting it run loose in the room all night.

  8. Hello W2W !
    Thank you for visiting my blog ! In answer to your question about my driftwood .. my husband has brought home all of it while he was on his fishing excursions .. some which was very heavy and almost didn't make it home .. haha
    I spent some of my childhood by the Atlantic Ocean .. Nova Scotia .. and I love water anything like driftwood is very special to me. Blending it with the garden is a happiness.
    I'm amazed with your pictures and the adventure you have had in the land of insects ! You are a better person than I .. a lot of screaming and running would occur with me : )
    Wonderful pictures .. great commentary and quotes !
    Joy : )

  9. Thank you, Joy. I'm glad you enjoyed the post. I guess I liked your driftwood so much because I feel like a piece of one sometimes: moved about here and there and looking more and more weathered!

  10. Dear Walk 2 Write,
    I have been enjoying reading your journal! This was a wonderful oost. I love bugs of all sorts and do a Bug Safari every Sunday. Your entire trip looks to be amazing. Adding Alice in Wonderland to your post was an excellent idea. "Go ask Alice" shall be something I will remember.
    The "wasp or bee look alike" is a Clearwing Moth. Also called a Hummingbird moth.
    It has been a delight getting to know you. I shall come visiting again soon.

  11. Thank you, Sherry! I thought it looked a bit like a hummingbird as it hovered in place with its wings beating faster than my (lack of) skill with a camera could capture. Those bugs are tricky things. They don't like to sit still very long while you fiddle with settings. I will look for your safari post this Sunday.

  12. Hi, Patience. Are you interested in the insect aspect of the post or the Cave-in-Rock tour? How did you find my blog, if you don't mind my asking?