As I write, Saskatchewan’s Echo Lake, only yards from where I sit, shifts restless in the breeze, its surface strewn with whitecaps, sun-diamonds and the occasional boat. A robin rushes to and fro from a nest only a few feet above my head, worm in beak each time.
Three trees face me. Jack pine, Manitoba maple, and elm. The slender pine has only a few needles higher up. The maple wears a full set of chartreuse leaves. But the elm hovers over the water – not a single leaf adorning its twisted dark bones; just a few clusters of round seeds and a stark collection of leaf spines. It mocks the sense of summer, standing naked like that.
But the elm isn’t to blame. It has big problems. For the third (or so) year running, an army of forest tent caterpillars (some call them tent worms, others, canker worms) has risen to feed on spring’s tender leaves. Beside the highways, stands of elm, ash and poplar stand bare. In places the road itself glistens; slick with carcasses of worms crossing to reach the next tree stand. In some places, and in some yards, the voracious wigglers with the parallel blue lines and pale diamonds down their backs are so numerous that people have used their snow shovels to remove them.
The caterpillars transport easily on shoes and luggage and clothing. One tried to get into bed with the Preacher and me last evening. It didn’t last long. (I don’t mind killing them, though I hate the pop).
Not everyone minds the worms. The birds seem happy with their fast food, and children don’t mind fast money. A country friend pays his grandchildren a penny per squashed worm. “They’re making five to ten dollars a day,” he tells me.
Some of our grandbeans have made pets of the pests. Sherah shed tears over at least one. Her mother overheard a little friend offering to kill it, and a few minutes later Sherah rushed inside crying uncontrollably,”Did your friend kill your caterpillar?” Amanda asked.
“No,” Sherah bawled. “I squashed it, so she WOULDN’T!” To which my quick-thinking daughter responded, “Well, at least it got a friendly squash!”
“Yeah,” said the five-year old, brightening at the thought.
Considering that, we don’t pay our grandbeans to squash worms in our yard. For weeks, the Preacher and I have hunted them down ourselves. Our favourite tree, the ornamental plum, has had the worst infestation. We’ve battle it daily, think we’re winning, but they keep coming.
The other day we sat on our swing, looking out over the yard, still beautiful. (Fortunately, the worms dislike maples.) “It’s hard to enjoy all this, thinking about those worms, isn’t it?” I said. We both agreed we should change our focus.
I wonder how many of God’s blessings we all miss because we concentrate instead on negative things; those that block our vision of Jesus’ unchanging loveliness. Quite a few, I suspect.
Lord, when life gets wormy, remind us to change focus.