Chapter 3 Page 3 of 3

The boys were under the loose supervision of a young woman who may have been a sister or perhaps was just a babysitter. She was sitting on a bench nearby. Her knees were pulled up to her chest and her bare feet were up on the bench. She had a book propped up on her knees.

I leaned my head back and half-closed my eyes to shield them from the sunlight. It was nearly 5:00 now. The sun was still high on the horizon and quite warm. I slid over on the bench a couple of feet to be under the shade of a tree branch hanging low over the left side of the bench. Immediately I noticed a difference in temperature. The tree was a Norway Maple and the leaves were quite dense and served as a cool awning, with only a twinkling of sunlight penetrating through as the leaves gently moved in the breeze. After four sleepless nights trying to analyze message protocols, I was exhausted. As I sat there in a state just this side of consciousness, I studied the shape of the tree canopy. The bark was smooth and light brown. I followed the trunk with my eyes up to the point were the lowest branch forked away and then followed that branch until I reached the part directly over my head. The leaves were only a couple of feet from my face. As I gazed upward I noticed a small inch-worm on one of the closer leaves.

A jogger ran along the path in front of me, tossing a greeting my way as he went by. The two boys continued to throw the baseball in the vicinity of one another and chase after it. I leaned back again and rolled my head a bit to get the stiffness out of my neck.

The inch-worm was still on the same leaf, but was determined to explore other parts of the tree. It moved from one side of the leaf to the other. Upon reaching an edge, it extended itself outward into space, seeking a foothold. Curling backward upon itself, it continued to wave about in a vain attempt to find a walkway to a place more attractive than its present location. Giving up, it put its front feet firmly on the leaf and pinched its way across the surface toward the opposite edge. A passing squirrel caused the branch to shake wildly, leading me to wonder how long it would be before the inch-worm would be caught fully extended in mid-breeze and be liberated to the ground below.

Left, right, to the point furthest from the stem, and back again. Every part of the leaf was explored, sometimes more than once. Working blind as it was, and apparently unable to recognize where it had been previous, it seemed an eternity before the inch-worm was able to stumble upon the stem. Having done so, it made a bee-line down the stem and along the twig from which the stem originated. It moved from that twig to the stem of another leaf.

With a twinge of sympathy for the poor creature, I realized that, if indeed the ground were its goal then the vast complexity of the branches of the entire tree dwarfed the recently solved problem of navigating a single leaf. The difference in scale between the full tree and the recent small accomplishment was staggering. Its goal seemed insurmountable. It would take ages for the inch-worm to find the right branches using the same trial-and-error method it had used to get off the one leaf.

As I watched the progress of the inch-worm in the warm afternoon sun and listened to the chatter and laughter of young boys at play, I slowly drifted into sleep.