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Wednesday, August 26, 2015

The Turtle or the Kitten

The first living being I saw when I went out for my walk yesterday afternoon -- after being greeted by the kitten, of course -- was a three-toed box turtle on the grassy area in the middle of my internal road.

The turtle kept its head out, but it seemed a little traumatized, and it had white damaged areas on the top of its shell. The kitten pretended at first not to be interested at all, but it did walk by a couple of times.

"I am just minding my own business," the kitten seemed to be saying. "Do not pay any attention to me."

The turtle is alert and wary

The turtle looked alert, wary and concerned. The kitten affected ennui and rolled up in a ball on the road behind me.

The Kitten Pretending not to be Interested
However, every time I backed away from the turtle, the kitten went to examine it.

The Kitten Moves In

And when the turtle finally worked up the courage to walk away, the kitten followed it.

So I picked up the kitten by the scruff of its neck, as a mother cat would, and I let the turtle continue with its progress. But the turtle only tried to hide in the longer grass under the oak trees in the tear drop turn, and I realized it would not really go where it wanted to go until I was out of sight. And yet I could not go back in the house and leave the kitten out there, because there was no reason to suppose it would leave the turtle alone.

The Kitten in Storage

So again, as I had done once before, I deposited the kitten in the little storage shed, and after that I realized I could go for a long walk in the pasture without being followed by the kitten, while the turtle could do it its own thing.

I checked on the turtle on more time. It was still in the same spot, and then on my way to the pasture, I saw a Common Buckeye.

Even though I had seen a common buckeye up close before, this was the first time I was struck with how the markings on the back of its wings make a face, if you just look at it the right way.

Can you see the image of the face on the wings of the Buckeye?
You have to be facing it from just the right angle before it looks like a face. The big circles are like eyes, the medium-sized circles in the center are like nostrils, and the smaller circles on the sides are like ear holes. I don't know what animal the buckeye is pretending to be, but I have read that the circles are meant to confuse predators. So though butterflies predate vertebrates on the evolutionary scale, they must have evolved later to mimic their faces, so as to frighten other vertebrates away. And the intelligence that drives the design on the back of the butterfly is not that of the butterfly itself -- it's ours! Not necessarily humans, but any animal capable of making out that face drawing on the back of the wings, is the true author of the design. Now there is a twist on the theory of intelligent design: that later developed animals shape designs on the back of less evolved animals. It's our ability to recognize the gestalt that made it useful to the butterfly!

The butterfly does not need to think the design looks like a face. But if predators do and are scared, the design will be replicated. And then multiple copies will be available, just as in the case of a best selling book.

As a writer, this idea is very discouraging to me, since it means that it's not the story I wrote that is important, but only what readers are able to understand from the story I wrote. It is not my intelligence that limits the effect of my efforts: it is the intelligence of readers.

Later in my walk I came across a much plainer butterfly. It seemed to be trying to look like a dead leaf.  I think it might be called a Clover Looper. Looking like a leaf is a good strategy right now, as fall is almost upon us.

It's thistle season again, and though many of the flowers are still closed, a few have already opened for business and are attended by very busy bees.

My property is like a park, a nature preserve of sorts.

I go for a walk here the way some city dwellers go to the park. And I get to decide what exotics will share this paradise with me, even if they are not native to the area and do pose a threat to the wildlife.

Letting the Kitten out of Storage

After I got back from my walk, I let the kitten back out of storage. The turtle was long gone by then. Some people say cats belong indoors all day. Some people say humans should not own animals. No matter what you do, there is going to be somebody to criticize it. But I did not ask for this cat. I found a kitten in a stroller in my barn, and I did not want it to die, so I fed it. This does not mean I am a cat lover, but I am not a cat hater, either. I am trying to find some kind of balance between what is right for the kitten and what is best for me and all the rest of the animals on my property.

Bow happily engages Leo
When I returned to the pens, Bow asked to go outside, and immediately went to engage Leo in play. He looked happy.


  1. I never noticed the design before. It almost looks like a frog on the back of the buckeye.

    1. Hi, Julia. Yes, I think it looks like either the face of a frog or a snake. That's interesting, since it seems to be mimicking a vertebrate, but probably not one as advanced as a mammal. I wonder what the target audience for that design is supposed to be!

  2. That is one curious kitten! Animals truly fascinate.

    1. Yes, she is very curious about everything! But then, natural hunters have to be.