Joco 913

A bug’s life: Credit the smallest creatures for capturing the beauty of our seasons

An insect, taking in the beauty that is autumn.
An insect, taking in the beauty that is autumn. Special to The Star

There’s a new guy at my office I’ve been looking at kind of funny.

He’s only an insect — some type of leaf-footed bug, maybe — but even cutting him the generous slack in the brains department that you have to give anything smaller than your pinkie, he just didn’t seem smart to me.

He first showed up yesterday, hanging out on the less hospitable side of the sixth-floor window behind my desk.

It’s not unusual to see bugs out there hiding from whatever responsibilities fill up their days, but they never stay long. Even when the weather’s perfect for basking, they sit a minute or two, tops, before leaping back into the breeze.

At this point in the calendar, basking weather looks to be gone until spring. Nevertheless, this new bug stayed put all through the chilly first day and hadn’t budged by the time I turned out the lights. When I got to work this morning, his long brown body was still clinging to the glass.

I kept looking over at him today while I worked, wondering what could possibly be keeping him out there in the cold and wind, until I left the building for a long lunchtime walk.

The trail outside my office is busy whenever the weather’s good. This afternoon, though, with the temperature right around freezing and the first snowfall of the season expected at any minute, I had just about the whole stretch to myself.

The folks I nod to out there on sunny days couldn’t have known the glory they were missing. If they did, they’d have all been shivering on the trail with me.

Drizzle-shiny autumn leaves studded the path underfoot in emerald and amber.

Off to the sides, biting wind rippled the creek and little lakes I passed while light rain shot through their surfaces, the actions working together to turn them into kaleidoscopes of slate-gray water and glinting light.

And all around me, what scant sunshine filtered through the heavy clouds bounced around the turning leaves to soak up autumn hues and pour golden light over everything.

Not long after I turned back toward the office, light fluffy snow overtook the rain and draped the scene in an extra layer of splendor. Mother Nature was clearly showing off at this point, but I was too awed to criticize.

It was tough to take that first step back into the building.

When I got back up to my office, the bug was still out in the weather on the other side of my window, perched right in front of my view of the landscape I’d just left.

On one of my lunchtime walks the other day, when the afternoons were starting to tip toward the coming winter chill but the trail was still busy, I noticed a pair of newcomers fishing at one of the lakes.

I’m no good at identifying birds without a guide, but these two looked a lot like snowy egrets, birds that I later read don’t usually live around here but do cross over during migration. They were striking creatures, sleek and snow-white, and I was hoping to see them again the next day.

No luck. As far as I can tell, they’d stopped just long enough to grab a bite in the sunshine and take off before the weather turned.

That’s understandable. Wind and snow drive us off as naturally as fair weather beckons.

But every time I ignore my instincts and get out in miserable cold weather to really look around, I’m impressed by the show.

It makes me think that bug on my window might have more sense in his tiny head than I gave him credit for.

Sure, maybe he foolishly stopped too long and hasn’t been able to warm up enough to move. Maybe the mistake even sapped his life while I was watching him out there, and his body just hasn’t blown away yet.

Or maybe he knows that winter’s coming and his time is almost up, and that there aren’t a lot of prettier views for a bug to go out on than quiet woods shimmering with wet leaves below and drifting snowflakes above.

Richard Espinoza is a former editor of the Johnson County Neighborhood News. You can reach him at And follow him on Twitter at @respinozakc.