When Sue Hubbell moved from her longtime home on a farm in Missouri to a house perched on the rocky coast of Maine, the first thing she did was investigate the living things in her new environment to ease the loneliness of a new place. She peered under rocks, in dark crevices, and beneath mounds of leaves, looking for members of nature's secretive ruling class--the invertebrates.
In Waiting for Aphrodite, Hubbell first trains her microscopic gaze on camel crickets--"They grew a bright orange bump on the back of what we would like to call their necks but mustn't, because bugs don't have necks"--and sea cucumbers--"cool and leathery and limp, a little like a damp, deflated football." From there, she continues her tour with millipedes, sponges, periwinkles, corals, earthworms, horseshoe crabs, and other underappreciated earth-dwellers, describing each species in lushly metaphoric prose and a perfectly appropriate sense of wonder. These are strange beasts, and their ways are mysterious. Yet Hubbell seeks, and finds, common ground between invertebrates and humans. She writes that the first useful behavioral mandate for isopods such as pill bugs is "Walk toward shelter," a rule that applies easily to vulnerable humans as well.
The thing that binds all animals is the constant search for the necessities of life. And for Hubbell, a sense of place and knowledge of her neighbors is as crucial as food or shelter. Hence the heart of the book--her search for a glimpse of the elusive sea mouse, Aphrodite aculeata, a small, soft-bodied sea creature with a velvety, iridescent coat. While waiting for Aphrodite, she finds gorgeous bits of life all around her and begins to feel at home. --Therese Littleton