The Great Blue Heron and The Editor

heron

If tent caterpillars were something of a leitmotif for the earliest blogs, this entry’s icon is the heron. This poetic bird is both above and below, both transcendent and inside the natural world. Obviously, there is everything to say about the wonder felt for the great blue heron.

History of the Heron

The word heron is old and of uncertain origin. It appeared in the English language around 1300 A.D. Some say it may have originated from the Latin aerius, meaning aerial, or from Old French’s hairon.  The species called the great blue heron — Ardea herodias — was originally described by Carl Linnaeus in his 18th century Systema Naturae.

This highly mobile bird is cosmopolitan (almost). Additionally, the heron exists on all continents except Antarctica, and it is present in most habitats except the coldest extreme of the Arctic, the high mountains, and the dry deserts.

heron
No one eats the heron.

Associated with water, but essentially a non-swimmer, the heron feeds on the margins of lakes, rivers, swamps, ponds and the sea. Earth-bound, the neck and beak kink into an S-shape, but upon lift off, with wings outspread, its legs and feet held backward, its long neck retracts.

Literary Affects

In Surfacing, Margaret Atwood calls a heron in flight a “bluegrey cross” http://margaretatwood.ca/books/surfacing/. Similarly, when the central character Yasmine in Dionne Brand’s “Ossuaries” crosses the Niagara River into Canada, her arrival is heralded by this quintessential image:

“Call it heron, great blue, long-legged migrating alone

North, it broke off, it took air,

Flew into an apostrophe,

Heading to the wet marsh of another lake.”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hVsNnrEJxB0

I love how she makes the bird into a punctuation mark.

The Symbolic Heron

The image I chose for this page is not the heron in flight but the motionless bird mirrored in shallow water.  Calculating, probing, peering beyond the surface, this bird is a cryptic symbol of editors. We also take a wide field of view , do a lot of foot stirring, and move our heads from side to side to read the depths.

Therefore, the surface is my computer screen, a portal through which I communicate with you. The text is our mirror, both of us working on it from our two sides.

heron
The heron’s other doubled self–a shadowy mirror.

 

 

 

Punctuate (like) this!

punctuate

There is only one way to punctuate this!

Punctuate (like) this!

Neither commas! nor em dashes! can rein in my enthusiasm! The caterpillar has become a moth!

The psychic journey undertaken saw it completely pupated. In this torpid, passive state, the muscles went to jelly: they shimmered, they glowed. Searching within itself for a more authentic identity, the seamed body split at the core. It folded once, twice, then flapped about, rehearsing a new role. At long last, shedding the final traces of its old larval self, the flesh went iconic. More symbolic changes returned it back to muscle, flesh and core. Finally, the moth emerged from the magic closet, a flying cliché.

The Reupholstered Product

Editorial metamorphosis performs a similar kind of magic. Just as the wormy caterpillar symbolically ceases to exist even as it seems to give birth to its own wingéd self, so too a first draft can morph into descent copy. The cosmic oneness that occurs between writer and editor in the swaddled depths of cyberspace bring good writing into being. In the World Wide Web, the dualities of first draft/final copy, larvae/imago, writer/editor simply disappear. Then, as the perfectly formed adult insect bursts from its fibres, in a similar way, new concepts about copyediting and proofreading punctuate the online world.

Like a Moth to A Flame

punctuate
Fly, fly, towards love’s truest light!

Avoiding false porch lights, delusional street lamps, acting as both body and soul together, the moth soars through the stratosphere, seeking out a mate.

Surely we all know that insects have no need of speech; however, I wish I could lay their pheromone pillow talk on this page in little punctuated snippets.

 

(Would they whisper sweet everythings, grant certain permissions, make enquiries regarding certain acts or most favoured positions?)

 

punctuate
One tetchy moth.

The Last Chapter

Of course, the adult imago (plural: imagines) live life large, having a total lifespan of one human day and one human night. There are many comparisons to draw here, but quickly, quickly, I will make two links. Firstly, there is James Joyce’s Ulyssess. Secondly, Virginia Woolf’s Mrs. Dalloway. Both modernist novels imagine what their caterpillars characters get up to over a 24-hour timeframe. For added enjoyment, Joyce even describes two moths flies mating.

punctuate
Oh la la!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mating over, the female — laden with eggs — will oviposit her frothy load in a preferential tree. After that, she’ll fly away, and die.

The End.

 

Editing, Pupating, Migrating

editing

Our little caterpillar will eventually become a moth and the outline or first draft will find its own ideal shape through editing. A good proofreader or copyeditor can be crucial at this stage, helping the emerging text find its wings, fly, fly…toward the light.

Editing

Last week, the tent caterpillars left the natal tree, crawled hither and thither, and now are trying to hang themselves  pupating in a protected area.  [P.S.: the strike through is intentional–obviously, this was the wrong choice of words! To find the right word “pupating” I needed to do some research. It’s also a technical term, so I’ve italicized it. This example of self-editing is similar to the way I use TRACK CHANGES to edit a document. The MARK UP is always done with red ink.]

In this cocoony other world, things take a supernatural turn.

editing
The cocoon’s total atomic weight must be somewhat less than a seedless grape.

Much of the strange awesomeness of this turns on the fact that I find metamorphosis fascinating. For haven’t we all had to tunnel down into our own dark parts? Don’t we all emerge slightly changed? I know I have. Ripped and torn, heart still beating, still trying desperately to fly, fly…up and away.

 

Fact Checking

Tent Caterpillars have been in Canada since the early 1600s. According to http://www.thecanadianencyclopedia.ca/en/timelines/100-great-events-in-canadian-history/  as Champlain was establishing a fortified trading post at Quebec in 1608, and Maisonneauve founding Ville-Marie, the future city of Montreal, in 1642, and the Huron Nation was being weakened by disease and cultural interference by the French, caterpillars were thriving.

Map of Canada

During part of my wild youth spent in Ontario’s Haliburtons, it was more common to see Eastern Tent Caterpillars worming their way across the dirt (and through my waking nightmares). They are the ones that build nests in forks, close to the main stem of the tree. I recall the candy cotton webs. I also recall the throbbing hairy larvae inside those webs. Something from the Alien movie all wrapped up in a gossamer package.

editing
Sigourney, I can relate.

Of course we all know by now the tree in my backyard has been invaded by Western Tent Caterpillars. They build smaller nests at the ends of twigs and leaves. But I ask you, why the Western in this slightly Eastern part of the world? Is this a new immigration? How odd. These caterpillars are not “foreign” exactly, but they’re also not indigenous to here. Maritimers would call them CMAs (“Come From Aways”). Such are the unsolvable mysteries of Canadian nationhood. We might think regionally in terms of culture, climate, history — but bugs? They hold no such “Mind-Forg’d Manacles” (to quote William Blake).

Patterns of Migration

On top of that, in Canada, we usually see influences (or in some cases, infestations) moving from East to West (then North). Not vice versa.

Whatever the case, outbreaks of Tent Caterpillars — whether from the forest, the west, or the east — are yucky. Apparently they happen every 10 years, and sometimes last up to 2 years. They stress out the trees, and gross out the neighbourhood.

Without getting too bogged down in specifics, they must make a good protein supply (if you can stomach them). I’ve heard some birds find them toxic, but if you are human editing editing editing

you might be happy to learn they do not transmit diseases to us, they do not bite us, and they are not poisonous to us. [P.P.S.: more intentional strike throughs because I’m self-editing again. Isn’t the reference to “us” somewhat redundant?]

Metamorphosis: Caterpillars & Editing

metamorphosis

The Metamorphosis

Who knew the metamorphosis was so near? Today was the last day for the larvae to chomp on ash leaves and bask in the early morning sun. In my backyard, where half-a-dozen tents are slung, the whole colony entwining each cousin-nest in the Lasiocampidae family tree, the brothers and the sisters are dropping from the branches.

For starters, they are social creatures. Since they’re born together (in one egg mass),

metamorphosis
larvae wriggling in the centre of the tent

they leave camp together (in one larvae mass).

 

 

Where the herd turned right, this one went left, eventually finding itself a tree length beyond reach.

metamorphosis
propelling itself at an engaging clip across the deck

 

 

 

 

 

 

Allow me to describe what that lone ‘pillar looked like! You can see from the picture that it sports long tufts of hair along its humped back. Closer now — are those really bilious brown streaks down the spine? Yesssum. Additionally, our dashing little bagworm has a blackish-yellowish check pattern edging the torso.

The Paradox

How UNLIKE the fabulous blue caterpillar in Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (1865). In that surrealist story, after a girl named Alice falls through a rabbit hole into a scary world populated by peculiar anthropomorphic creatures, she meets up with this paradoxical creature. How self-contradictory! How illogical! Why its human face appears to be formed from the head and legs of a real caterpillar!

metamorphosis
Illustrated by John Tenniel.

 

Additionally, Alice’s caterpillar puffs from the hooka, screams at her, blows smoke in her face, ignores her. Later, after he turns into a butterfly, he flutters away, not caring if Alice makes it out of Wonderland dead or alive.

“Whoooo…are….you?”

 

Writing and the Rabbit Hole

The process of writing is like venturing into the rabbit hole with Alice, going from small to large, learning logic along the way. For Alice there’s the initial state of confusion — following this, a sort of inner paradoxical dialogue.

“What does it all mean?” you might also ask yourself.

When the self gets challenged it stays that way until the mysterious metamorphosis. Then — voila! The caterpillar transitions from a slow-moving ugly creature to a colourfully winged butterfly. And, the first draft is transformed into final copy. Also, Alice becomes open for persuasion.

The Helpful Editor

UNLIKE the blue caterpillar in Wonderland, I am a helpful editor. Rest assured, I’ll guide you out. How? By paying attention to the multiple meanings of words, in particular, the paradoxes. As a consequence, you will avoid the pitfalls in writing that frustrate expectations, that resist interpretation, that leave you in a rabbit hole.