“I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.”
-Psalm 139, 15
Wander to Wonder
At the Harvey Najim YMCA I am struck by the quote that stands out on the wall, “I am wonderfully and fearfully made.“ What a thought! I know that the psalmist was talking about us humans, but it can be equally applied to all forms of life, especially insects.
The advantage of our size is not enough for many of us to keep from recoiling from the nearness of an insect. The alien appearance of their exoskeleton, our uncertainty about whether or not they are harmful, and our cultural lumping of insects as pests doesn’t encourage any relationship. But if you can get over these hurdles, you might be awed. I recently found the molted skin of a Texas Bush Katydid in my yard, and it seemed like a gift, encouraging me to look closer.
The skeleton hung daintily from its back legs. The scythe like feet held on to a blade of Gulf Muhly grass. The skeleton was so light that the wind rocked it subtly.I was able to slide the skeleton off of the blade of grass and take the time to study the structure. The katydid had molted its skin leaving a transparent empty case.
The iNaturalist app helped me identify it as a nymph Texas Bush Katydid or Scudderia texensis. These were once called longhorn grasshoppers due to the length of the antenna, but they are more closely related to the cricket. Their antennae have sensory receptors that allow them to touch and smell. Under the jeweler’s loupe, I wasn’t able to detect any of this in the jointed segments of the antennae, but it is possible to see the tympanum. Male and female katydids are able to hear one another through vibrations on the tympanum. This is not anatomically located on the head, but on the foreleg. It appears as a dark oblong spot.
Forms and colors that are not so obvious to the human eyes are revealed through the magnifying glass. The transparency of colors, the variations in the surfaces, and the depth of forms are challenging me to experiment with new techniques to capture these in paint and drawing. I am not near to what I am seeing. Although, I believe the more opportunities I take to looking through the loupe, the more this way of seeing will become present in my art.
This is the first year that I have seen the katydids in the yard. Dragonflies were also very predominant this year. I think it might be due to the native grasses I planted in the spring. When most birds and insects fly over the traditional St. Augustine lawn, they see nothing of value to eat. The saying goes “if you plant it they will come.”
I love being able to build biome next to my painting space that extends my research into unusual life forms. The season is almost over for the insects. The nights are getting colder and they are disappearing into the ground. Now that the grasses are yellowing and bronzing and the seed heads are becoming more prominent and dropping in preparation of spring. My attention is turning to other subjects in the yard.
Wander to Wonder