With Legs Outstretched

I don’t remember where I read it, but I do remember reading that most ticks die without reproducing. They don’t really move very far, just pick a spot on the top of grass and wait with a pair of outstretched legs, hoping that they can grab onto a passerby. (Although it might be a bit much to ascribe an emotion such as hope to a tick, it is semantically much simpler than a scientifically-accurate explanation.)

This behavior, reaching into the air with their legs, is called questing. The ticks can’t jump or fall from their perch, all they can do is hang on if a suitable host makes contact.

While hiking recently, I bent to tie my shoelaces and caught a brown lump on some grasses right in the middle of the trail. I saw a large tick, two legs held aloft – evoking a superhero pose, presumably waiting for an unwitting host to brush against its patient legs. I poked a little at the tick with a twig, to see how it responded. The legs reached forward to grasp it, and I flipped the tick-occupied side of the twig onto a rock off the trail. I uneasily continued on the trail.

Blurry brown lump, a tick, is towards 11 o’clock on clump of grass. (Best a phone could do.)

I have been casting about recently, prodded on by a restless feeling, making lists of my values and goals and what would comprise a life well-lived. I keep writing and thinking and going about my daily routine and waiting for change to happen to me, for an opportunity to pop up, for a crystallized vision to strike me as I doze off.

Meanwhile, years have passed.

This semi-lazy opportunism has worked for me in the past – a college brochure directing me to the midwest, an instantaneous decision over breakfast conversation that I wanted to go to grad school, working various internships that others recommended, doing a U-Turn into teaching, etc. But the magic sauce seems to have run out.

Clearly stepping past the caution tape surrounding the academic sin of anthropomorphism, I identified strongly and reluctantly with the tick. That moment with the tick made me clearly aware that I am questing in my current life, hoping that something will happen to me and move me towards my purpose, hoping that a lumbering opportunity will pass by and let me grab on with my outstretched legs.

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