What I love about seed ticks—and there are plenty more reasons to hate them—is that they have six legs for days, and then one day, they have eight. COVID-19 has taken many things from many people, and I will not attempt to recoup those losses here. But imagine.
Do not imagine long, or you must picture the preceding days of questing for a blood meal in preparation for that definitive hour when a larva no bigger than a pepper flake drops to the ground, molts, and emerges with two bonus legs. It’s the emergence that gets me.
There are lovelier metamorphoses and stranger, but change is relative. That this difference is so small only an entomologist might notice it, monumental as it is in a tick’s life, seems relatable—albeit the life of a pinhead demon, as Mark Doty names them.
There are limits to such imagining, but I am encouraged that enough wonder remains in me to look past my alarm (however briefly) to consider that change of state for one so alien to me.
Seed ticks are not the only ones I’ve had the opportunity to study during quarantine. I have also met, with greater interest and receptivity, a periwinkle. I have learned the songs of the towhee, the pewee, the summer tanager, and the Carolina wren. I have watched a family of robins fledge in the elbow of my gutter and a mourning dove claim their abandoned nest to brood. I have counted the cars on SpaceX’s train of satellites. I have eyed a grass named Xyris with a yellow eye the size of a star on the back of a lone star tick, and I have named the bunny that has been eating the lettuces in my garden Stew.
Too, I have learned the names of more of my human neighbors and which ones live in the blue house four streets over and which brothers fight and which houses smoke pot. We wave to each other and stop to talk in yards, across porches, from opposite sides of the street. They stop tossing football to remember being in the Army. They stop throwing darts to ask how I’m doing, and really want to know. They confess that their reticent three-year-old “has been a nonstop chatterbox all day.” Even the ones who drive me to distraction with their frequent buzzcut lawnmowing cause me to tear up when they let me know their dog Murph died.
And now, thanks to this growing community Nicole and Matthew have connected, I am getting to know many more.
I’m not saying we’re drinking each other’s stories like blood, but there is something warm and nourishing about voices rising to commune in hardship, express fear, mourn loss, rescue pleasures, and vent anger. Sometimes, on one of my better days, like today, I imagine something could even come from it, something so startling we don’t recognize ourselves at first, although we seem to be more balanced as a result.