Creatures Great and Small

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My first moose sighting occurred in Glacier National Park a few years ago. For several evenings, we walked from our campsite to a nearby lake to watch for moose. You can imagine my delight when, in the waning light of day, one appeared at the edge of the water, then walked into the middle of it. It wasn’t the only moose sighting during that trip, but the novelty and proximity made it the most exciting.

Closer to home, the smaller things tend to get more attention. There is an anecdote (possibly apocryphal) about Vladimir Nabokov chiding a college student for not knowing the types of trees on campus. True or not, it speaks to the tendency to go about one’s daily life without noticing the details. We can’t notice them all, of course; to do so would be overwhelming. Still, it’s worth taking a closer look at what’s around you in the spaces you usually inhabit, rather than just on walks to “Moose Lake” while on vacation.

A few weekends ago, when it was supposed to rain but didn’t, we ended up doing house and yard work in the absence of other plans. In the midst of it, we encountered these three.

First, the Eastern eyed click beetle. (I’ve been unable to determine whether “Eastern eyed” should actually be hyphenated. Most sources don’t hyphenate it, though that wouldn’t have been my inclination.) This was the first time I’d seen this beetle, or noticed it, at any rate. Although I didn’t hear its click or see it move, it was worth several minutes’ attention just to observe.

Eastern eyed click beetle

The next morning, an Eastern box turtle at not far from where we’d seen the beetle. It’s not unusual to see turtles around here, but this one was a surprise as it was just out the back door and not in the roadkill form I’d seen on nearby streets this past month.

Eastern box turtle

Later in the day, its mulch hideout having been disturbed, we saw what I believe was an Eastern American toad. I have to be honest, I initially labeled it a frog. Then I did my homework, and I think I was wrong. Just goes to show the limits of typical attention on setting.

Eastern American toad

Arguably, anything you give your attention to can become more interesting the closer you look. Yes, that is a remarkably trite statement, but sometimes it really is good to remember the little things.

Finally, a note on this post’s title reference to “creatures great and small.” I first knew these lines as part of a poem before I learned the poem was actually an Anglican hymn, written by Cecil Frances Alexander in 1848. Here it is in full, as printed in the 1983 Random House Book of Poetry for Children, where I first enjoyed reading it as a child.

Happy Friday!

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