I ride my bike up to the Blue Sky Lodge pool, which is located in another building a couple streets over from where my mother and I are staying. My goal: a quick dip in the pool and then relax in the hot tub. It is a beautiful sunny summer day, although the fog is visible a few miles down the valley. In an hour or so the sky will go from California blue to grey and white, and the temperature will drop dramatically. Northern California is locked in a coastal battle between fog and sun. Who wins each day is sometimes a coin toss, but the fog usually envelopes the valley by evening.
By the pool it looks like a few oak trees are dying; leaves shredded to their veins, they look sick. I see thousands of webs in one tree and assume spiders have moved in on the dead branches. The webs are, in a strange way, beautiful: they sparkle in the sun and shimmer in the wind. After a dip in the salt-water pool, I dash over to the jacuzzi. Sinking into the warm embrace of bubbles, my mind starts to chatter as it normally does. I breathe, then notice one caterpillar suspended from a tree on a thin strand of silk. It almost reaches the deck surrounding the hot tub. I watch for several moments as the worm twists and turns like a trapeze artist in the light summer breeze. It swings over the hot tub deck, then over the water and back.
Looking around I see hundreds, maybe thousands, of worms – oak worms – in and around the trees. They have reached infestation levels and are eating the California stock down to nubs. Their silk strands attach everywhere and groups clump together in odd sexual cluster fucks. There are no spiders, only worms. Most trees will survive this onslaught, but it is not pretty to watch.
I continue to observe the small worm as it contorts itself in a maddening dance above life (the deck) and certain death (the caldron of water in which I rest). Of course, the worm cannot understand his situation – from his perspective, he cannot tell where he is. He (or she) is simply driven by a primal urge to leave the tree above and find something (a mate? more food?) below. How many times have I felt like that worm? Barely hanging onto a thin strand of transparent silk that leads up to a world I can no longer see while the wind and world has its way with me.
Sitting in the tub, my perspective is different, larger. I can see the tree that is full of worms, the bubbling blueish water where dead brown specs float, and the deck where caterpillars inch away. Not only can I see the situation, but with a slight nudge, I could move the bug one direction, towards life, or the other, towards death. I wonder to myself if my perspective of the worm is similar to the one that god or the spirits have of us: able to see the bigger picture that we cannot given our limited sight.
I wont say what I do for the worm (if anything). But it gives me a lot to think about, especially when I watch someone close to me go through tough times. As I leave the pool and hot tub, I feel a certain amount of camaraderie with that tiny bug who has left the tree for adventures into the unknown. From my perspective, whether he survives or not, it is well worth the journey!