It is the sheer extravagance of this passage from the insect chapter where Alexandra Horowitz in her On Looking: Eleven Walks with Expert Eyes captures the imagination and catapults the reader into what amounts to a world of wondrous activity.
To look at insects up close is to see the hasty cycle of birth, violent killings, and death. Few insects are humanitarians, and even herbivorous insects work great damage to the leaves, buds, grasses, and stems they eat. But Eiseman and I were looking less for insects, and more for the traces of insects past. In following their tiny footsteps, we were forensic insect hunters, looking at the evidence of their criminality they have left in their wake. Insects are messy eaters, like to storm a place and live it up and rarely clean up after themselves (except those polite larvae that eat their own egg cases). They shed their skin, excrete willy-nilly, plunder and pillage, and move on: the insect equivalent of a mad party with only hastily removed clothing, broken bottles, and other detritus left behind. Positively uncivilized.
This is a fanciful approach. It works. Especially when punctuated by petulant “positively uncivilized.” Also, the tone is sustained only for this brief passage. The other parts of the chapter while containing touches of humour do not lapse into a romp of describing the insects through human attributes. One paragraph, like a set piece, is enough. A proper civilized measure.
And so for day 1159