I stepped out the back door this morning to light my pipe and promptly encountered a pale-green horned caterpillar, with black markings, about as long as my index finger and almost as thick, humping its way across the raised concrete walkway between the house and the garage. It lowered itself painstakingly down the step to the sidewalk and rippled onward toward the back yard. At that point a lizard dashed up to it, looked up at me, and dashed back out of view — a flick of lizard lightning which almost made me jump.
Absent-mindedly trying to honor the Prime Directive, I stepped back into the shadow of the garage, hoping to see without being seen. I should have known better. The lizard dashed up again, looked me directly in the eye and dashed back. The caterpillar continued humping slowly along, oblivious to its approaching doom. When the lizard deemed the relative distances between himself, the caterpillar, and me to be propitious, he dashed up yet a third time, neatly nipped off the caterpillar’s head, and dashed back to his hiding place under a sprig of rosemary beside the long wall of the garage.
The dying caterpillar’s reflexes coiled its body into a tight spiral. The lizard peered intently at me from under his rosemary sprig. I watched for a minute or so longer, hoping to see the final disposition of his prey, then relented and stepped back inside the house. When I went back out again an hour later, all evidence of the preceding melodrama had disappeared.
How does it go, Nature red in tooth and claw…? I suppose I should be grateful that there aren’t any tigers under the rosemary.