"She refused to be bored, chiefly because she wasn't boring." Zelda Fitzgerald

Thursday, May 12, 2011

The Pet Stage

We're to the pet stage at our house. Ru is my pet lover. He loves animals of all kinds and companionship and really fancies the idea of a little somebody to take care of and play with. I understand. I also married a man who is quite reticent to own a dog or cat since he's afraid they'll set off allergy atom bombs. I am wistful over this turn of events and have mulled over exactly how in the world I will rectify and resolve this whole conundrum. Truth be told, I'm a wild sucker for pets myself. I'd love to have a tabby on the windowsill and a spaniel at the door.

I've been reading Annie Dillard for the first time. Pilgrim At Tinker Creek. If you love the outdoors and you haven't read her, go do it. You'll be glad you did. She's blowing my doors off. One of the inspiring things about Annie is her insatiable desire to know, understand and commune with all the little creatures of the world.  She raises and studies and collects everything....worms and little skater bugs and tadpoles and insects of all kinds. I was completely inspired. Suddenly the green world seems teeming with pets, our basement pantry with empty mason jars a ready equipment hall and our newly emptied sunroom (all the plants migrated outdoors for the summer) a perfect laboratory for all the pets we could dream of. I promptly took the boys to a pet shop. We had thought to buy one goldfish but we ended up with two bettas instead...one for each big boy along with a bowl for both of them complete with a handy divider to keep them in their own spheres.

The fish are beautiful and the boys are both excited about these graceful little creatures. We spent a good part of yesterday reading together about betta fish and digesting whatever we could about what makes them tick. Purpose driven knowledge hunts are such wonderful things!

Then we discovered that the Insect Lore kit caterpillars that we've been raising were all hanging upside down from the lid of their cup which means that butterflies are in our very near future! How exciting! They found a spot next to the fish.

Somewhere in our internet wanderings, looking for info on the fish we found this wonderful blog full of pictures, information and experiences stalking the author's backyard caterpillar population. I found out that "inch worms" and wooly bears and many other little land worms aren't worms at all....they're caterpillars who will form a chrysalis and become either a moth (many of whom are quite beautiful) or a butterfly! I feel silly for assuming they were land worms. Learning learning. So much fun. So, on our way to get A from work we collected two tiny caterpillars that we found munching maple leaves and cherry buds and they came home with us too and joined the rest of the collection in their own little mason jar condos. Anything munching holes in leaves can be raised in a glass jar for observation! Such a world of possibility!

Suddenly I was remembering keeping a snail in a jar as a little girl and the fact that the nature center we visited had captive ant lions that could be fed stray ants from the sidewalk, and how we sometimes kept earthworms in a glass container with a little soil so that we could watch them tunnel and eat and dig some more through little channels against the glass. The world no longer seem closed to my poor children who can't have four legged, fur bearing friends....they can raise a host of praying mantis' from an egg case or watch a little colony of ants march two and fro between two panes of glass and they every bit as alive, if not quite as affectionate. For now, it will do. Next, I'm planning to take the boys to collect frog's eggs and see if we can raise some tadpoles into frogs. I might need to look into an old aquarium at some point, eh? This morning, after we'd watched one upside-down caterpillar leave his skin in a lumpy pile and sew himself snugly into a cocoon Ru said to me thrilledly, looking around the sunroom, "It's like our zoo, Mommy!" And so it is. We don't have a dog, we have a zoo.
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