Little Dreamer

The pockets of snow are like phantoms trying to save themselves from the light, withdrawing into shade provided by fallen trees, stone walls and ravines. I’ve spent most of winter wishing for the cold to be gone, and now I go in search of what snow remains to photograph.

On the dirt road I walk, there is a woolly bear caterpillar barely moving. I pick it up, and in my hand the caterpillar rolls into its protective ball. Brown and black bristles poke against my skin. The length of these bands of color supposedly foretell winter’s weather. For a short while I travel with my passenger whose folklore is much larger than itself. A fallen tree is dotted from the skilled beaks of woodpeckers. I place the caterpillar in one of the holes. It fits snugly, and I resume my photographic mission.

Through the beautiful Pawling nature preserve I wander. As the hours pass, the woods begin to darken. I climb out of a steep embankment and head back. A small flock of robins rise from the ground. They were right before me and I hadn’t noticed them; brown leaves that turned into birds heralding the arrival of spring. I return to the fallen tree not expecting to see the woolly bear, and find that it is still within its little cave.

If it survives, the caterpillar will spin a cocoon and emerge as an Isabella tiger moth. The vernal equinox is days away and will arrive with a brilliant moon. The last traces of snow are melting into the earth. Transformations will abound. “Sleep Isabella. You are neither a bear nor a tiger. Your dreams of flight are premonitions. Soon you’ll awaken with wings and in the darkness, under the stars, you will fly.”