The other day I had gone out to test out a new lens I had got. Since I didn’t have a mirror just then, I don’t know how I looked exactly, but I think it was somewhere along the lines of acne’d adolescent carrying a lens that was at least half as tall as she was. The Canon mark was prominent on the strap and she had a glazed look in her eyes that were, admittedly, already pointed upwards, scanning the skies.
I had barely gotten out the gate when a young girl, our neighbour, accosted me. She was holding a leaf, upon which a green caterpillar (the one above) was precariously balanced.
“Do you know what this is?” she asked.
Ladies and gentlemen, you do not fully appreciate what this question entails. It means that a) she recognized me, and b) she had enough interest in wildlife to pick up the caterpillar in the first place, and c) I am the person to come to when faced with an unknown caterpillar.
This is big, ok? This is huge. This means that I have recieved the fame I have been wishing for since I first picked up a camera. This means fame… as the neighbourhood crazy-nature-person. I have officially wandered around outside bumping into things while scanning the sky and treeline too much.
Naturally, I was thrilled.
I didn’t have any glasses to pull on in a very suave gesture, since they were already precariously balanced on my nose, but I made every effort to fill the role this young girl had placed before me. “Hmm, hmm, hmm,” I hummed, making noises that hopefully sounded vaguely impressive and gave off a faint aura of knowledge.
“Well, it’s a caterpillar,” I said as confidently as I could. She stared at me. No, duh.
“Maybe a butterfly caterpillar? Or possibly an Oleander Hawk Moth.”
I had absolutely no idea what I was talking about.
I puased as she gave me a look. “Umm, let me take a picture of it. Someone on the internet can ID it.” I lifted my camera to take it, only to realize that the minimum focusing distance for the lens I was using was more than a meter away. It wasn’t a macro lens, basically.
I looked at her apologetically. “Give me a moment, I need to change lenses.” She looked at me in disgust. I wasn’t doing a very good job of preserving an image of ‘prepared for all nature crazy person’. I hurried inside and switched to my more regular 250mm. Coming back out, I wasn’t surprised to see she had gone. I heaved a great sigh and went back in to switch lenses (again), when I saw her, still holding the leaf.
“Yeah! It’s me!” I called out, only to cringe moments later at the sound of my over-excited call.
The look on her face was tired beyond her years.
“I’ll just keep it over here. Can you leave it at my house later?”
“Sure,” I replied. “Hey, if you keep it for long enough, you can watch it change into a butterfly or moth!” I smiled winningly, desperate to spread the joy of nature. Best shut up now, I thought, so I changed my fanatic expression into one of deepest concentration as I peered through the viewfinder at the caterpillar. I saw her just behind the leaf, looking at me with a curiosity usually reserved for unusual animals in the zoo and/or patients in mental institutions. I didn’t attempt smiling again, afraid of what the consequences would be.
It was only after one photograph I realized that even this lens would leave the caterpillar too small and cropping it would leave the image to blurry for identification.
“Ummm…” I said, unsure how to phrase it: hey, I need to change lenses again, yeah, I know you’ve been waiting for ages. She adopted the classic hands-crossed-across-chest position of utter boredom. I escaped inside and changed cameras altogether, using my mother’s Leika, with which I could take decent macros of smaller critters. By the time I came out again, she was almost leaving. She cast one look of me and started running away, calling back, “Leave it at my house afterwards!” I raised my hand in farewell, only to drop it when I realized that she wasn’t looking back.
Examining the caterpillar even closer, I wasn’t sure whether it was alive or dead. I tch-tch’d to myself. She had probably dropped it. Kids nowadays had no respect for nature. I reached a wary finger out to prod it, when my grasp on the stem of the leaf slipped, and it tumbled to the ground. Once fallen, it slithered across the leaf. “Sorry,” I whispered to it as I picked it up. I looked around, hoping nobody had seen me; luckily, everyone seemed to have escaped from my general vicinity.
After having photographed it thouroughly and from every possible angle, I went to find the girl again to return the caterpillar. I found her barricaded in her house. Placing the leaf on the table, I walked away, back home to change lenses again.
I don’t need to be telephatic to know that right then, she was thinking, There goes the crazy nature person.
Be warned, parents. Beware. Keep your children away from the crazy nature person.