Crawling With Life

Very early one Sunday morning, my wife came in the bathroom to find me sitting on the floor with my legs splayed out in front of me. An open bottle of rubbing alcohol and a bag of cotton balls were within reach and I grasped a pair of tweezers. She took one look at the strange rash covering my legs and thighs and asked, “What happened?” With tears in my eyes, I began to explain, how I reached this point. It actually the week before.

cicadaI walked out of my front door one Monday morning to find this cicada sitting on my porch. I quickly went back inside and grabbed my camera. I had always wanted to try my hand at photographing insects and this seemed like a good opportunity. Delighted that it was still there when I returned, I squatted down on took this picture. I’m proud of how it turned out. Not only was I able to get close enough to capture small details, but it is a bit artistic as well. I love the way the morning sun strikes the cicada. As I made my way to work, I knew I wanted to try for more pictures of small creatures.

That week I researched and learned how to use and existing lens for macro (close up) photography. I planned on working toward capturing not just minute detail, but also interesting compositions and lighting. I wanted to make Art.

The following Saturday I went out, camera in hand. I traipsed around my yard but didn’t really find anything interesting. I thought it would be easy to find interesting insects and bugs, but I only saw a few flies and one dragonfly that was way too fast for me. I went back and sat on my steps. I hung my head in discouragement. I was disappointed I hadn’t found anything. It turned out that, while I was diligently looking, I wasn’t doing a very good job of seeing.

After a few minutes, I happened to turn and look at one of the dwarf sunflowers we had in a pot on our steps. Several small leaf-hoppers were perched on it. Then a saw my shot: A leaf of the sunflower helped frame my subject. Backlighting highlighted its thin body. I held my breath, moved in and clicked the shutter.

Leaf Hopper in Repose

I then looked down into one of the other pots and saw a small jumping spider and faced a serious decision. Should I attempt to overcome my extreme arachnophobia and go for a shot, or leave well enough alone to go elsewhere. I swallowed hard, and went for it. As I peered in the viewfinder, I had to control my breathing and repeat that it was not only smaller than me, but also not as close as the monster looming in the lens. It took several attempts to steady my shaking hands, quit jumping back, and take the picture. It turned out OK, but was not of the same caliber as the others had been. It was partially because I didn’t compose the shot as well, the lighting was more flat inside the pot, and it was a much harder angle. Mostly it was because I was terrified (yes, of something smaller than my thumbnail).

Nightmare Fuel

I took a moment then to sit still and look around my yard again. This time, I stopped looking and started seeing. What I saw was life. Everywhere. The air was full and the ground was covered. My little corner of the world was crawling with life.

I walked into the yard slowly, determined to find another great moment to capture. This time I took notice of just how much life buzzed, jumped, flew, crawled, creeped, inched, and spun around me (I tried desperately to ignore that factoid I heard about there being approximately 20,000 on an acre of land). I made my way to the fence row where leaves had already started falling. There was a band of dusty ground with a few blades of grass poking through. Finally, a small movement caught my eye. I looked down on a strange insect walking down a twig and knew the picture I wanted to capture.

Slowly, methodically, I made my way around the creature and tried not to spook it. I didn’t know if it could fly, or how fast it was so I took no chances. I carefully lowered myself until I was laying on the ground. I flattened myself as much as possible to be eye level with my quarry. I ignored the dust, the leaves and twigs digging in to my bare legs, and my general discomfort. I settled in to position, focused the lens, clicked the camera, and got my picture. I snapped a few more, just in case, then got back up and dusted myself off. I was just in time to go back inside before we had to leave(we had plans with friends that evening, but I didn’t take a shower since we would just be outside again).

It was a good evening and sleep came easily once we got home. Unfortunately, sleep would not last and I woke up around 4:30 feeling wrong. My legs were extremely itchy and didn’t feel normal when I scratched them. I made my way to the bathroom and turned on the light. I had to squint, but I could see from the mirror that my legs seemed to be covered in a rash. I went back and got my glasses. When I returned to the light of the bathroom, I quickly wish I hadn’t put them on.

My legs were covered in angry looking red bumps from my knees all the way up my thighs.  I looked carefully and noticed small black specks in the center of each bump. Closer examination revealed, to my horror, that I was covered with seed ticks. I really, really hate arachnids. I had been amazed by the amount of life in my yard, but I was none to happy when I was crawling with it.

With nothing else to do, I got out the rubbing alcohol and a pair of tweezers and began ridding myself of them. It was about an hour later my wife came in and asked what happened. We spent another hour our so completely removing them. We stopped counting at a hundred (I hadn’t thought to count when I started alone, I just wanted them off). They were concentrated on my legs, but there were several on my backside and inner thighs. At least they hadn’t made it anywhere really, um, precious.

I spent a miserable month of not wanting to walk, always being itchy, and wondering if amputation was a good course of action. The first week was the worst of course. I wasn’t comfortable standing or sitting. I was also afraid I may have missed just one and forced Chrisie to help check me each night.

It was a wonderful Saturday and a deeply disturbing Sunday morning, but I made it through, and at least I had my picture. Was it worth it? I’ll let you decide.

Charging, um, Something

© Leighton Brown and Stories Now Told, 2010. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from Leighton Brown is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Leighton Brown and Stories Now Told with appropriate and specific direction to the original content. For more information, please see the Copyright page.

About leighton

I could be considered a true Renaissance Man after having a long and storied (seriously, people actually tell stories about it) college experience and varied careers. I am also a shameless self-promoter (who did you think was writing this anyway?) who is prone to flights of fancy, an abundance of passion on any given subject, ,obsessive behavior, spontaneous storytelling (whether anyone listens or not), and making parenthetical references. I would also be thrilled if I heard someone use the word "raconteur" to describe me.
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2 Responses to Crawling With Life

  1. Terry says:

    Haha… I’m not sure if it was worth it, but it’s an interesting one. It looks like the bug is almost all head and legs, with no real body to speak of.

    Also, I would warn against amputation. Sometimes you end up with a phantom limb syndrome. I don’t know if it’s possible to end up with more just than non-discriminant pain in the phantom limb, but, I’d imagine you could easily end up with itchy legs that weren’t there for the rest of your life.

  2. Cindy says:

    Heck, no! A thousand times, no! No! No! NO! I’m itching just thinking about it. But WOW to Chrisie for helping you get rid of the ticks. What a woman! 🙂

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