A bug’s life up close

Peek in a creek - Ten Thousand Hour MamaSpring has come early to Portland. All week the sun has been out, sparking thoughts of running through the sprinklers, popsicle-sticky fingers and sipping wine in the afternoon sun.

Yesterday I threw open the windows and door to the deck. Peeper, of course, darted outside to play in the sun. I took advantage of her independence and Kiwi’s nap to do some dishes.

“What kind of bug is this, Mama?” I heard Peeper ask from outside.

I stepped onto the deck. There was Peeper, lying belly-down on the porch, her nose mere inches from a beetle.

“I don’t know, sweetie. What does it look like?”

“Hm. It’s kind of black and kind of white. It’s very interesting,” she said.

Together, we watched the beetle march up the side of the house. Then it must have tripped over an invisible thread of a spider web. Suddenly, a tiny spider—maybe a tenth of the beetle’s size—darted out. The spider crawled over the beetle, leaving iridescent strands over its hoped-for prey.

Peeper and I watched the drama. Would the beetle escape, or would the spider catch a giant lunch?

The beetle ended up breaking the spider’s hold. After another minute, Peeper pushed herself up off the deck and went back to playing basketball in the planters.

I returned to the dishes. But I smiled as I scrubbed oatmeal from a pot. For a few minutes, Peeper had invited me into her world. I watched the age-old struggle of eat or be eaten with the wonder of a child.

As Peeper notices the smallest of details, she inspires me to see our world anew. She pushes me to ask questions and, when I don’t know the answers, to find out—or at least imagine what could be. She makes me want to get down and examine life nose-to-nose.

We won’t let the bugs win

I’m a big fan of letting Peeper get dirty. I have no problem with grass stains on her pants, hands covered in dust or tasting sticks and pine cones and tree bark.

I absolutely love the outdoors, and I want her to explore, too. But there came a point this weekend when enough was enough.

On Sunday, Peeper, Finn and I met a friend of mine from grad school for this hike on Sauvie Island (which is bigger than Manhattan, if you want to squirrel away that fact for trivia night). The 3-mile loop on the wildlife refuge stipulates that dogs must remain on leash, and I was more than happy to keep Finn on lockdown: Cows, and the poopy evidence thereof, were everywhere. Finn has a disgusting track record with hikes through pastureland.

(Sorry, TMI.)

The scenery was gorgeous. We caught glimpses of Mt. St. Helen’s—or maybe it was Mt. Adams, but I couldn’t be sure because the top was obscured by clouds. Birds swooped this way and that. Old barns punctuated rolling fields.

Catherine Ryan Gregory IMG_4174_2

Halfway through, we stopped for a picnic lunch. Peeper practiced standing on her own and chowed down on tomatoes. Finn waded in the lake. It was perfect.

Until I spotted the tick. Read more