Finding Inspiration in the Weird

As a writer, I’m always looking for inspiration.  Fortunately, Mother Nature is a wonderful muse, especially when she presents us with creatures just as wondrous as any the most imaginative among us could invent!

Aye Aye

Take for example, the Aye Aye, cutest critter in the animal kingdom.  OK…maybe not so cute.  In fact, I’d say it might be the ugliest animal on the planet, and the Aye Aye’s looks alone are pretty deserving of the title “weird”. AyeAye

The Aye Aye uses echo-location to find prey, similar to bats and woodpeckers. They engage in what is called “percussive foraging”;  they knock on a piece of wood and evaluate the resulting sound for presence of prey (most often grubs and bugs).  Once they’ve located dinner, they gnaw a hole in the wood, then use their super-long middle finger to fish out the insects.  In some areas, the Aye Aye is considered an omen of pending death; if one points its middle finger at you, you are marked for a visit by the Grim Reaper.  Alternately, an Aye Aye might also sneak into your home and puncture your aorta with that long middle digit.

The Aye Aye can knock 8 times per second, which is many times faster than a speeding vacuum cleaner salesman.  I was surprised to find out that these gorgeous creatures are MUCH bigger than I had thought – they can grow up to three feet long, with a tail as long as their body!  It was thought to be extinct in 1933, but was rediscovered in 1957.  Perhaps it was just wishful thinking by the scientists from 1933?

Barreleye Fish

Speaking of odd-looking, most of us have seen pictures of Anglerfish, with their toothy grins and a handy little fishing pole hanging out of their forehead.  However, I contend that the Barreleye Fish is the oddest looking sea creature around.  The fishy body is pretty typical, it’s the head that belongs in a Sci Fi movie:  it has barrel-shaped, tubular eyes which are enclosed in a transparent dome.  The eyes are typically focused upwards to detect prey above, but they can rotate them forward as well.  Our fishy friend also is the only vertebrate that uses mirrors as well as the lenses in its eyes for focusing.

BarreleyeFishAnd to put another nail in the weird coffin, the Barreleye has bio-luminescent organs, which are used to confuse predators by breaking up its silhouette in the water.  This is why Barreleye fishes often conduct raves in the deeps of the ocean. (It could happen!  Or was that just a dream I had?)

 

Axolotl

Another odd critter that’s all wet is an amphibian called the Axolotl.  I love saying their name:  Axolotl, axolotl, axolotl.  Just rolls off the tongue, doesn’t it?  These salamanders, also known as “Mexican walking fish”, are closed to being extinct in the wild, but they are bred widely and kept as exotic pets.  They are “neotonous” (which means that the adult retains juvenile features); in the case of Axolotls, they never form lungs, instead keeping their gills (which are on the *outside* of their bodies) and continuing to live an aquatic life.Axolotl

The coolest thing about the Axolotl is their ability to regenerate: they can re-grow many parts of their body, including some parts of their brain!  I’m thinking that regrowing parts of the brain might be helpful for those of us who may have done a little much partying in college…

Duck-billed Platypus

Finally, what could be stranger than a semi-aquatic, egg-laying mammal with a duck’s bill, a beaver’s tail, otter’s feet, and a venemous spike on it’s hind foot?  The Platypus (also known as the Duck-billed Platypus) is so odd that when it was first discovered in 1799, scientists thought the animal was an elaborate hoax.

Platypus.jpgSimilar to dolphins and the echidna (also called the “spiny anteater”), the Platypus has electro-receptors in its head, which it uses to detect electric fields generated by the muscle contractions of its prey.  Hm….wondering if we could make a horror movie starring a Platypus?  The tagline could be “Just. Don’t.  Move.”

Do you have a favorite oddball-life creature?  (And by the way, brothers and sisters don’t count…)

The Seeing of Things: Living in a Mythological World

I grew up in the woods in a time when kids were allowed to wander aimlessly for hours on end without a parent in sight.  And in those woods I saw creatures.  To be fair, a lot of people see creatures in the woods: birds, squirrels, bugs, foxes, wolves, bears, yada yada yada.  But those weren’t the creatures that I saw.  The creatures that greeted me were nothing you’d find in any zoo in *this* world.  If I’m to be honest, here, I must admit I still see them.  Everywhere I go.  It’s a little disturbing sometimes, but I figure SO FAR, none of them have tried to hurt me, so I should probably be fine.  Probably…

I See Tree People…

Whether it’s faces peering out at me from within a twisted trunk, roots reaching for my feet, or sinewy bodies wrapping and twisting, reaching for the sky with their skinny arms, the tree people beckon to me.  I swear it!  Tell me you DON’T see Happy Tree Dude reclining on the hillside here!

MorroBayTreeMan

Or these lovely ladies twisting and reaching for the sky?

TwistedTreeTrunk

If you’ve ever read JRR Tolkien, you might remember the Ents, keepers of the forest?  I assure you they are alive and well in our modern world…although this one looks a little shorter (and more surprised!) than most I usually see…

sunkenEnt

The Moss is Alive…

And in case you’re thinking I’m nothing but a tree-hugger, the hallucinations don’t just end there.  Have you heard of moss mice?  The little critters who live in the forest looking all innocent and immobile until you piss them off, then they swarm and mass into a giant ball of moss, cover you from head to toe, then turn you into stone?  No?  Well neither did these poor souls, who just sat down for a little meditation.

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And for crying out loud, if you EVER run across a building that looks like this DO NOT ENTER!!!  Those Moss Mice on the roof are just itching to drop onto your head and turn you into stone!

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And speaking of Stone…

Oh, yes, there’s more.  One day I was minding my own business watching the waves crash on the beach.  I felt eyes on me.  My hair stood on end and goosebumps covered my body, but there was no-one around.  Then I saw him…the Stone Giant who lives at the beach.  Fortunately for me, he was pretty well ensconced in the clay soil so I was able to hightail it outta there before he got me.

Rock Man

Who knows?  One of these days one of these creatures might actually reach out and drag me (or you!) into their world.

Best keep your eyes open…and report back to me if you see any woodsy, rocky, tree-y, watery, or other well-hidden creatures that the rest of the world has missed…