Female Oblong-Winged Katydid resting amidst the underbrush, White River Junction, Vermont, U.S.A., 1989
Spring is ratcheting by (yes, I know it’s not a real word, but it sounded so descriptive of the occasional glimpses I make out of the window… if I was a camcorder the whole world outside would pass like time lapse film) outside my window, not too different from Rod Taylor’s 1960’s “Time Machine” visions of his world fast forwarding and fast rewinding. The two Zelkovas that I planted two years ago have sprung out into a surprise of light green leaves, already waving a meter above my head. I peek out the curtain between bouts at the computer, while hard at work on the last spurt of the hotel design project, and lament yet another passing of Apollo’s chariot across the rooftops.
The other parts of the connection to sunlight and green things and air living in freedom come to me in little gifts of passage while on the trains, going to and from work. I stand on the train platform of the station near my home, looking over a tree nursery of flowering dogwoods and take a few moments to hear the last rays of the sun tinkling into the corners of my eyes, seeping in like warm honey. Or I sit transfixed, staring across the breadth of the train car at the hard lavender sky building up muscles among the clouds. When no one objects I pull open the window behind me and close my eyes as balmy fingers of wind buffet my face; at times I inhale deeply, seeking traces of sweetness in the night air. Or better yet, the living room sliding door rattles open to my hand and I step out into the dawn light, mist still screening the neighboring garden, while a flock of one of my favorite birds, the Azure Winged Magpie (Cyanopica cyana) (Pica, a very interesting curiosity about this species is that they live only here in Japan, parts of southeastern China, western Spain (in the Extremadura), and in Portugal. ) keep watch in the Magnolia, their long, azure tails pointing down beneath the branches.
Perhaps the most delightful moment occurred four nights ago on my way home on the train from a long day of morning at the doctor, afternoon at a design review meeting, and evening of teaching English… I was so tired that the moment I sat down I drifted off into sleep. For some reason I woke one station before my stop and opened my eyes straight into the face of a young woman staring at my… knee. My knee? My eyes followed the line of her gaze and I nearly jumped out of my seat: there, doing a pretty little pirouette, she was, a female katydid (Holochlora japonica), green as green be. That was not something I had expected to see on a late night train, a chilly spring evening, while half subdued from nature-deprivation. And yet there she was, saying hello, waving at me with her antennae. I thought she was delightful, though I think the woman staring at me must have felt she was witnessing the coming of the body snatchers. I reached out to grab the katydid, and she hopped to the floor. In front of everyone and just not caring what anyone thought, I leaned down and caught her, bringing her to the window, which I promptly pulled open. I stood with the wind blowing in, my back to everyone on the train and waited until the train passed through an open area where the katydid would be sure to find the company of leaves. I tossed her into the night, wishing her well, and somehow wishing I was tossing myself out with her. She disappeared into the darkness and I closed the window, sat down, and closed my eyes again.
Nature is not some foreign dreamworld that only the initiated can attend. It is all around us, every day, wild and free and vital. It may be harder to recognize it in this concrete lab experiment we’ve decided to call “good living”, but if you peer between the cracks the denizens are moving, going about their own lives. And occasionally they look up and see us, and when you’re lucky, they wave hello.