If your heart is in a garden - any garden, anywhere, including that one in your imagination that you're going to create one of these days - you almost certainly welcome the sight of a ladybug. Unless you're an aphid. If you're an aphid, you may be less likely to feel that same lift of the heart. If you're anyone else, though, you look closely at those tiny black spots on their field of bright orange-red and marvel at how different they always seem to be. You put your finger in the path of the ladybug, and are delighted when the ladybug treats it like a stalk of grass and marches aboard. And if you're walking on the beach and see a ladybug clinging to a piece of debris, you may be inclined to rescue: would not a ladybug stand more chance of finding food and shelter within the waving dune grasses and wildflowers and prickly pear than down by the breaing surf? Inspired by this little hero of all gardens, and by a tale of rescue recently heard I scooped ladybug, sand and all, and walked westward from the breaking surf to the dune line, placing it carefully within reach of waving sawgrass and sea oats. I crossed the distance in perhaps 25 or 30 steps. To what do those amount, I wondered, in ladybug miles? Had I saved the ladybug an exhausting trek across vast terrain? Would her wings have let her cross the distance easily, even in a strong eastern wind? Was it a momentary and certainly transigent rescue? It was no more than the projection of my own thoughts about rescue, a theme peculiarly resonant in my own life just now, illustrated simply in an exchange of stories in a parking lot not an hour earlier.
The tale of rescue, shared by a couple of perfect - and perfectly delightful - strangers just before our walk, ran along these lines, more or less. Two dogs were surrendered to the shelter together, their owners given a painful choice by their landlord to get rid of them or move out. After they took the dogs to the local shelter, they continued to visit. The older dog was a tranquil, sweet-natured red pit bull, bearing no small resemblance to Cesar Millan's avuncular canine assistant, Daddy. The younger was a small dog, a mix of excitable breeds: part Jack Russell, perhaps, maybe some Pomeranian? The pit bull's calm demeanor acted as tonic on his more excitable sidekick so the staff boarded the two together and nicknamed them Rocky and Bullwinkle. When the prospective adopters arrived to take the pair to their new home, they found the surrendering family had come for a visit. They spent a few awkward moments in conversation - here they were, after all, to take away the obviously well-loved dogs, and here were people who clearly didn't want to say good-bye forever. Everyone did their best. Rocky, the original dog-mom said, was a great dog. What about Bullwinkle?, the new dog-parents wanted to know; what could they learn about him that would help? "Bullwinkle?" First Mom asked, eyebrows raised. "This dog's name is NOT Bullwinkle," she said emphatically. "This dog is named Kevin." She eyed New Mom thoughtfully. "Or Devil Dog. But mostly Kevin."
Rescued: one Zen-like red pit bull, with a white mark above his shoulders that looks just like the Loch Ness monster, rising from cold Caledonian waters. Name? Loch.
Rescued: one slightly hyperactive terrier mix, with a plume of a tail and a quick bark. Name? Kevin. Or Devil Dog. But mostly Kevin.
Rescued: three ladybugs, carried from surf to vegetation.
Equivalent in ladybug miles: unknown but worthy of consideration. Do we ever know the truth of our rescues?