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Saturday, May 8, 2021

An Earwig


Female earwig in its nest with newly-hatched young.

As you might imagine, it has been an ‘interesting’ eight months in education, with the future landscape looking to be similarly dynamic. In one of the many ways we prepared for this year at The Sage School, a teacher suggested each of us write a little note to ourselves that we would turn to if we needed a break, or some perspective, or just a little cheering up from our past selves.

My postcard to myself has a picture of a squirrel monkey. On it, I wrote, “Find something small and beautiful and remember.”

This is probably not surprising, as my portion of this column amounts to a long rumination on the power of the natural world to offer an important reservoir of so many things—wonder, magic, beauty, curiosity.

And this natural salve comes in so many forms, from the massive and distant (think Sirius, the Dog Star), to tiny and near (think bird’s-nest fungi—Wait a minute, I haven’t written about them yet? Stay tuned).

This time, the wonder emerged in the form of an earwig. I will admit a certain lifelong antipathy toward earwigs, which invariably scuttle out of some dark corner, or damp crevice, or dog-food bowl at just the wrong time. And the fact that the scientific name of their order, Dermaptera, means “skin wings,” does absolutely nothing to ingratiate them to me.

This particular earwig, though, was entirely different. He, or she, didn’t scuttle at all. It didn’t dart, or dodge, or move erratically. Nope, this earwig walked. I might even say, sauntered, across the carpet during the middle of our faculty meeting. No urgency, no worries, just a very calm ambulation from one corner of the room to the next.

I was transfixed. I have never seen an earwig move so calmly. As it passed in front of me, I took all of it in, marveling at the tranquil beeline this little beast took.

There was something so simple in this drawn-out moment. From recognizing the insect, to recognizing that it was an earwig, to recognizing that it was an earwig walking, to letting all of my earwig past roll across my mind. This was a little six-legged meditation moving through the tight nap of a well-used rug.

It was small.

It was beautiful.

And it reminded me—there is so much wonder in the natural world, one part of which is that so often you don’t even have to look for it, the wonder simply finds you.

Of course, my note to myself is for another purpose, too. It is to remind myself with and through these natural connections that this connection should extend beyond earwigs and fungi and stars, to people. There are many folks around me as inscrutable as the earwig, as mysterious as the jackrabbit, and as enigmatic as the pack rat.

What is their wonder and magic, if I just slow down long enough to take a look?

Harry Weekes is the Founder and Head of School at The Sage School in Hailey.  This is his 48th year in the Wood River Valley, where he lives with Hilary and two of their three baby adults- Penelope and Simon.  The other member of the flock, Georgia, is currently fledging at Davidson College in North Carolina.

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