Nothing, the boy’s choice of word got me thinking. So wired we are to ascribe insignificance to living things smaller than us, and their milieus and architectures. Had I not, in the past, been quick to cast down spider webs, stomp on creepy insects, destroy trails of ants with jets of water, feeling superiority? It was not until I learnt photography that I saw the beauty in all living things, birds, beasts and insects. Beyond towering trees, dramatic mountains, cavernous volcanoes and the like, nature promises a multitude of mini masterpieces, if we are willing to take things slow our pace and hunker down.
Each globe of fallen raindrop holds in its refraction its environment. Everywhere, there is life thriving on life: white and orange bracket-shaped fungi on mossy tree stumps. And a high-wire act: ants, trailing one another, poised and steady, ambling on a narrow stem to the treasure centre: nectar. The playful Plain Tiger, its bright orange forewings stippled with white spots, flitting from rose myrtles to Indian camphorweeds then seashore purslane, stopping only fleetingly. A lone brown centipede, making an enduring journey, traversing what must feel like a sandplain, its body flecked with the debris.
The yellow-spotted millipede, crawling hither and thither, burrowing its way into and out of holes, feeding on leaf litter. The black-yellow juxtaposition is splendid, but it belies a deadly weapon: hydrogen cyanide. Laden with toxins, the secretion is only enough to irritate a human being’s skin, but it can bring down the millipede’s predators such as rodents and pigeons.
There was a leaf that bore a tear in the middle, and I chuckled as I thought: “Batman was here.”
And what of the island’s varied stories, some never told, many never chronicled? A bough lies buried in the sand — was it razed by lightning, or was the wreckage the work of a man’s axe? There was a bucket lying very near to the waters — was it washed ashore or was it the remnant of an inconsiderate visitor? And the ladder, decayed beyond repair, strewn with weed and twigs … was it at some point lost in the depth of the sea?