When I was bored as a child, and my mom kicked me out of the house, I would go outside and search for roly polies. On the tiny island where we lived, they weren’t easy to find. When we camp, or when we traveled to my grandparents’ house in the country, they seemed to be everywhere, but they were not abundant on our little coastal island.
I’d walk up and down the sandy road, along the edge, where grass hung over the rutted dirt. The edge was where roly polies seemed most likely to crawl out. It often took a half hour or more to find one, if I found one at all. When I did finally see a grey armored oval trundle out, I’d poke its hard shell and watch it roll into a ball. I loved that quick, protective reaction.
Some people call roly polies pill bugs, I’m not sure whether for their oval shape when they’re open, or the spherical shape when they’re rolled up. Either way, they were fun to play with, the way they instantly reacted to touch.
I remember a plant that reacted the same way — a mimosa plant, I think it was called. The “sensitive plant.” It has feathery compound leaves, like a fern. The leaves are light and delicate, so that the green is more of a yellow-green because sunlight shines through them. When you touch the fronds of a mimosa, they fold up instantly, just like a roly poly. Just like shy person when attention is called to them. Duck and cover, to protect the vital parts.
I touched and smelled and picked and poked at all the plants and small creatures I could find in our neighborhood. Poor caterpillars. I always wanted to watch them build their cocoons. I punched holes in the metal lids of jars, stuffed in leaves and a twig to build a crysalis on, and placed the caterpillars in their new glass homes. God only knows how many caterpillars I killed.
I’ll make it up to them in the spring, when we plant our butterfly garden.
For the month of November, I am participating in NaBloPoMo and plan to publish every day of the month. Usually, I will publish a 10-minute free write, initiated by a prompt from my prompt box. Minimal editing. No story. Just thoughts spilling onto the page. Follow along with the tag #NovemberDaily.