[I’m such an idiot; I wrote the original Dying alone intending to post it with the photos seen in this post; now more than four months later, I’ve only just realized I never posted the photos; oops; the text below is a minor rewrite of the original post; all photos are of the same male cicada-killer wasp (Sphecius speciosus) taken over the course of two days; I couldn’t find him on the third day or any day that followed it and could only assume his time had ended]
He is the last of his kind. I wonder if he at all realizes that in the vastness of his universe that encompasses such a small part of my own, he is utterly and completely without a clan. It is a wretched curse for one so small.
He stands guard ready to challenge other males of his species. There will be no such challenges for there are no other males. He is the sole remaining example of these gargantuans. Diligent in his resolve to protect his space from enemies, those enemies will never come. He is the lone sentry from a generation of sentries that already perished.
He hopes to propagate his species, to continue the family line with available females. There are no such females. The last one died earlier today. If he did not mate before then, he will never have another opportunity. His lifetime is now one of aloneness.
He protects the now sleeping children, the last traces of his generation, and the offspring of his colony. They are children he will never know and will never see. Safely entombed in the ground, they will sleep for a year before taking up the dance he alone dances. These children will never know their parents as these parents will never know their children, and yet he does not waver in his resolve.
He is the last bastion of a dying race whose hopes rest solely in the ground he surveys from time to time as he answers his own genetic programming by still giving chase to anything that floats or flies by him. Because there are no others, he wrestles only with time as he awaits his own end.
There are no witnesses save himself who know of the life and death struggle of his kin, the members of this vast settlement who have already expended what little time they had on this planet. With so many burrows scattered about, one can only hope he shared in the brief tumult that is their existence. He will never have another chance.
He is heartbreakingly alone now. There will be no others before he dies. The purpose of his life can no longer be fulfilled, so he stands on his own waiting for death to embrace him. He will die alone much unlike the rest of his kind; instead, they faced death in the company of others, something he can only dream of.
Watching him patrol a territory now devoid of his species, I wonder if he is lonely. Perhaps I am projecting human emotions onto this creature. Perhaps. One cannot help but feel isolation and solitude when looking at him. I sit and watch him as we both bake in the simmering heat and unending sunshine of a Texas summer. Part of me wishes I could help him in some way, make him feel that his final days are not unnoticed, help him see the promise of progeny tucked away all around us.
But I cannot tell him such things just as I cannot make him comprehend the magnitude of the situation. He must face this on his own.
Seeing his last days in the barren landscape that once gave rise to a great many of his siblings causes me to feel for him insomuch as his last moments will be solitary. I do not know how much longer he can survive, but I do know he will spend these final days waiting for death, and the wait will stand upon its emptiness, and when death finally comes, he will face it here in this place where so many have already come and gone before, this place where he must already understand to some small degree that he is by himself.
He watches me as I watch him. I am now able to get close enough that I can see his head moving to follow my actions. A part of me weeps for him. It was only a few weeks ago that the air and ground all about me were filled with these goliaths. It was only a few days ago that others of his kind still came and went. It was just yesterday that the last remaining female arrived to finalize her nest, her hope for future generations, before she finally left never again to return alive but instead to be discovered by me near her burrow with all the life drained from her body.
And now he is alone. Alone waiting for his own death. It is the same unstoppable end responsible for wiping out everyone he ever knew. He is alone. Just alone. And that is how he will die.
He is the last of his kind.