Last Friday, I accompanied my brother on a quest for the Appalachian tiger beetle (Cicindela ancocisconensis), which inhabits sandy river banks of wilderness-quality creeks and rivers, and is thus rare throughout its range, though locally common. We went to Penn’s Creek, a world-famous trout stream that winds through the Seven Mountains north of State College, Pennsylvania. It’s one of the few places in the state where C. ancocisconensis has been collected. We found one beetle within the first half-hour of searching, but it eluded Steve’s insect net. We spent the next hour and a half clambering over slippery rocks and around huge hemlock trees to search the few, small beaches in the Penn’s Creek canyon in the vicinity of Poe Paddy State Park.
While Steve concentrated on his quarry, I found myself composing riddles in my head about everything I saw. I don’t think these are especially difficult.
I’ll post the answers tomorrow in the form of an update to this post Answers are at the end of the post.
A dark waterfall of fur
slipping down the rocks at
the river’s edge, soft yoke
no neck will ever wear.
Though green, I am no plant.
Two kingdoms live in me, but no ruler.
I’m a colonist of places
where nothing else can survive.
Death comes to the hemlock trees
in grayish white clots the size of pinheads.
We combed the banks of a rocky peninsula formed by a sinuous loop of the creek. The water was muddy from the rains the day before, and few fishermen were willing to try their luck in it, so we had the creek mostly to ourselves. The flowering dogwood appeared especially brilliant against the dark hemlocks, and wild geraniums, Virginia bluebells and white wood anemones bloomed among the rocks. Unfortunately, I knew we didn’t have the time or the proper vehicle to drive the rough road up to the view of the gorge, which is quite spectacular.
I have lived for two years, but this
is my first full day. I have a mouth,
but no stomach. I will die before dark.
Condemned to live outside
my true element, I curl up & hide
until the urge to hunt stretches me
to my full length, & I curve
into the current like an arrow
crossed with a bow.
The roof of one large fishing camp at Poe Paddy makes room for a tree in a manner reminiscent of Frank Lloyd Wright’s architectural masterpiece Fallingwater.
Temporary fishing camps were rising on poles at the state park campground, as well. Solemn-faced men got in and out of pickup trucks, or stood around in small knots by the shore, staring at the turbid water.
Rubber udders, two long nipples each,
for the cow called Land to offer its milk of men to the creek.
Nymph on a silk leash,
creature of knots,
deadly desire given angelic form.
Grain routed through fire, water & air
lands at last on ice: two temporary containers for light
resting in a third, which was once a handful of sand
but now offers smooth resistance to the fingers
& culminates in a screw where lip meets lip.
At last, Steve caught a single specimen in the front yard of the fishing camp pictured above, near where we parked. One of the owners of the camp, who was relaxing on a bench by the water, gave us permission to collect the beetle. Some better pictures of C. ancocisconensis are here. And by the way, in case you’re wondering about the Latin, Steve told me its intended meaning is a complete mystery.
Answers: a wild mink; a green lichen (see here for factoids about lichens); hemlock woolly adelgid; mayfly (see “Ephemeral” at Chronicles from Hurricane Country); northern water snake; hip waders; an angler’s fly; whiskey in a jar (what the old fellow at the fishing camp appeared to be drinking)