A walkingstick comes wandering to my garage today, all slender-like and tentative, his woodsiness sorely out of place on the white vinyl door jamb. The pincers at the bottom of his abdomen give him away — only males have those.
I think it odd to see a four-legged species — an anomaly for sure, given that his kind sports six twiggy appendages, but as I gaze at him, he takes a few lumbering steps. Ah, there they are! Two legs splayed directly above his head like thick, stick-like antennae, obscuring the more delicate feelers below.
I marvel at my visitor, for it’s been years since I’ve seen one in nature and not pinned in pseudo-life-like poses beneath glass at the West Virginia Department of Agriculture, with taxonomy neatly scribed beside it. He’s a Diapheromera femorata, I think, of the Northern Walkingsticks.
I shut my door, reluctantly leaving him on the doorjamb to go about an afternoon of errands, but when I return, I slip over again, curious to see if he’s had enough of vinyl and hot sun. Gone! But then I look up. He hangs above my head, clinging to the lintel, still in stark contrast to the white vinyl. I’m ridiculously glad he’s still visiting, but I can’t help but think he’s vulnerable on my vinyl since he normally prefers the leaves of deciduous trees and shrubs in the woods, where he blends in and camouflages well with nature. I’ve yet to see vinyl thriving and growing in the woods, and luckily those woods are mere yards from my door. Better yet, I’ve a red maple tree a few steps away.
I glance around and spy several leftover spokes of straw from our spring grass seeding, and I thrust a few up toward him. His legs wave in alarm but then grasp at what must feel more familiar to him, what must jog his memory, perhaps. He climbs aboard for the short flight to my tree.
I don’t know if that journey seems miraculous to him or is just another moment in his life that simply spans a few walking stick football fields. I hold his transportation up at the intersection of a small leafy branch, and he daintily — but quickly — steps off that straw vessel and onto what I think must feel like home to him.
Within seconds, he clambers underneath a small leafy umbrella, lifting one leg as if saluting some benevolent spirit for carrying him to safety … or perhaps simply searching for the next step. With a pang, I watch him blend in, knowing I’ll not find him again in his own habitat. While I may be a little bereft of his uniqueness, I’m infinitely more wealthy for having spent time in his company. And I’m grateful that he chose to grace my vinyl sided doorjamb today.