Curiosity is, in great and generous minds, the first passion and the last.
I discovered this curious creature on my mimosa tree one spring day a few years ago. At first I thought it might be a pod, a nest or a cocoon of some sort. In the years I have spent exploring nature both in the woods and in the confines of my garden I have seen many ingenious delivery mechanisms for seed and larvae. Something told me not to touch this furry little bubble though, in spite of it looking rather soft and inviting. Upon carefully twisting the branch to look at the underside, it revealed itself to be a caterpillar.
When I investigated the critter further, I determined it was the caterpillar of the Southern Flannel Moth Caterpillar – Megalopyge opercularis, also known as a Puss Cat or Flannel Cat. It’s a variety of stinging caterpillars that can leave a nasty rash and painful sting, or even cause a dangerous reaction in people with histories of asthma or allergies.
So when I read the quote from Johnson about curiosity being the first and last passion, I thought of the dangers and rewards of being a curious soul. Where does curiosity take us? To the peaks and valleys, to places that test and reward, to new understandings and painful dead ends. It stretches our perceptions in every direction.
Would this “cat” have killed my curiosity about him if I had touched him? Probably not, but I dare say it would have been one of those painful stretches of perception!