I’ve never been much of a formal student of science. In high school, I had to take the state exam for Earth Science four times before they let me leave the class, barely passed biology, failed out of chemistry, and was asked to leave physics before I failed out of that too. My college science career was just as dim, and I don’t feel like depressing myself with a full recap. Imagine ‘bad’ and you’ll be close enough. I wasn’t a complete bone-head, I was just a better student of history and literature. (Pronounced in this case as ‘Lit-Ra-Cha’ and spoken in an accent as to accentuate sophistication.)
That being said however, as a casual observer of the world around me, I am constantly amazed, fascinated, and sometimes terrified by what I find.
Yesterday I regaled you all with a short piece about a creepy set of stairs where I work that seems to be a place where small animals go to die.
This morning, despite the odds being stacked against me and it only being a matter of time before the Stairs of Death claim their first (probably?) human victim, I decided to park in the lower lot and climb them anyway. As I parked, the part of my brain that is fascinated with the macabre told me to look for the newest victim of the stairs, the mouse-kin (hereafter will be referred to as “the mouse”…proper taxonomy be damned)
Ah. There he is. Right there on the….bottom step? Odd, he was two or three steps up yesterday. A bird probably tried to drag it down and eat it. Ah well. Circle of life. Nature is…GAAAAAAAA WHAT THE HELL IS THAT?
The dead mouse is moving. Undulating and twitching as it if were trying its damndest to reanimate and seek the flesh of other living creatures. I watched the head raise and lower, the body heaving as if it were gasping for breath.
I’d seen these movies before. I know I was supposed to back away slowly shouting something like “No! It can’t be! You’re dead! I watched you die!” …then immediately be attacked myself.
Bullshit. I wasn’t going out that way. Not me. Zombie Mickey wasn’t going to take me without a……what the hell?
Turns out two of these little a-holes:
…were underneath the carcass of the mouse and doing their best to haul it off so it could be eaten/have eggs laid in it. Satisfied that the twitching corpse wasn’t about to start gnashing its yellow teeth at me, and amazed by what I was seeing, I closed in for a better look, and watched this event for a full five minutes before I went in to work.
I of course had no idea what sort of bug it was that had tried to convince me of reanimation and zombification, so the very first thing I did this morning was furiously google things…which sounds dirty, but it isn’t. I finally found some literature on the burying beetle, http://majikphil.blogspot.com/2011/10/burying-beetle.html
Now, again…scientifically I had no idea what in hell I was watching until Google came to my rescue, but I am smart enough to know that what I was seeing was amazing and interesting.
Here’s where I try to make a lesson out of what I hope was a moderately amusing post.
When I was a kid growing up in the Catskill Mountains of NY, this sort of thing was all around me. We would play and hike in the woods as often as possible. Thanks to the encouragement of my parents, I was just as at home under a canopy of trees as I was under a roof, and while I never took much of an interest in the textbook side of what I observed every day, there nevertheless grew an amazement and appreciation for it all.
We should all borrow a page from my mother’s book. During the summer time when my father was at work, she would quite literally throw us out of the house. We were allowed in for lunch, and to use the bathroom. Video games? TV? HAHAHA….no. Instead, our summers were filled with riding bikes, climbing trees, falling into streams, and figuring out just what the hell was happening in the world around us.
I’m not saying my upbringing was any better than someone else’s- but what I am saying is that if we want to appreciate and understand what is around us, as well as have the opportunity to observe zombie mice and voracious beetles who use mucus-juice to turn dead animals into balls (check the link, its a good one) getting the hell outside is the only way to do it.
Of course, this sort of lifestyle might not lead to the MOST well-adjusted kids on earth, who knows….they could end up growing up to post pictures of dead animals on the internet for the amusement of perfect strangers.
All I know is, that I’ve already started calling The Narrator over when we are outside to observe some phenomenon or another, and while the child-like squeamishness is still there if the bug is big enough or the snake is long enough, the light of genuine curiosity is obviously there…and I need to make sure that light isn’t out shined by the glow of the likes of Peppa Pig and Spongebob.