Over the last couple of days, the tent caterpillars have emerged. I've seen thousands of them in the water, wriggling around as they drown. Several have also landed in the boat with me, including this little guy. For miles, we played a game of fetch: it would wind up near or even on my feet, and to avoid crushing it inadvertently, I'd move it back up onto the tub in front of me. At some point, it would fall onto the floor of the boat again, and we'd repeat. When I reached Palisade, I placed it on some nearby grass and wished it good luck.
It must be a lovely time to be a fish, with all of these free juicy caterpillars throwing themselves into the water with you.
It's reminding me again just what a crapshoot nature is. A numbers game. These caterpillars evolved some behavior where they fall out of trees. This must work well enough, on average, because there are a hell of a lot of them. But some small proportion - which still equals a huge number - end up in the water, to feed the fish.
Similarly, the mosquitoes and ticks I've been fighting. They throw themselves at me in huge numbers. Most of them don't get a meal. Many end up crushed, or cut in half. But the small number who get through my defenses have won the evolutionary lottery, and make enough more to create shocking clouds of new mosquitoes.
It's a gauntlet, and all of us who are alive in this moment are heirs to some truly incredible ancestors, who beat these tremendous odds.
Evolutionarily speaking we're all tied for first place.