The crazy things we do

After hoping to get more nature photos posted yesterday, I promptly fell asleep following the egret collection and spent the rest of the afternoon napping.  But I certainly feel better today, which leads me to…

No two mornings are alike, yet they are all the same in many ways.  Routine, for instance.

Being Monday, I started my routine early in preparation for work.  Shave.  Shower.  Time with The Kids.  Food and water for said felines.  Get dressed.  Spend more time with The Kids.  Make sure I have everything for the day.  Say goodbye to The Kids.  Open the garage door and prepare to depart.

I press the remote to unlock the car, wait for the telltale flash of the lights and the accompanying beep, open the door, put my laptop in the passenger seat and take my place behind the wheel.

Key in ignition and turn.

Nothing.  Well, there was this one little thing: the check engine light weakly appeared and seemed more a specter of itself than an actual indication of something.

Certain I had somehow bungled the whole process of starting the car, I remove the key, take a deep breath, put the key back in and turn.

Same thing.  Or rather, same nothing.

I retrieve the laptop and get out of the car, go back inside, have a drink of water, play with The Kids a bit more, and think happy thoughts.

Several minutes later when I return to the garage—thinking somehow circumstances had changed dramatically during my brief absence—I climb back in the car and try it all over again.  To which the car replies with stoic and deafening silence.

Knowing less than nothing about cars, I open the hood and take a look around.  I jiggle a wire here and push on some fuses there.  All the while, I keep thinking happy thoughts.

Despite my expert mechanical attention, my next try proffers the same results.  The doggone car won’t even cough or sputter.

For perhaps 30 minutes I walk through this procedure, each time changing one or two things in what I do to waste a few more minutes, and in response the car sits there like a rock making not one itty-bitty noise to let me know it’s still alive in there somewhere.

Jenny kindly explained the true sign of insanity is this silliness we do when our cars don’t act right.  We think happy thoughts, we give it a few minutes, and we hope something magical takes place in the interim so everything will be okay when we go back to the automobile.

I think she’s right.

Needless to say, I started my day with forced vacation.  My efforts notwithstanding, I finally broke down and called Lexus roadside assistance.  If the battery has indeed jumped off the electrical cliff overnight, they can replace it and be done with it.  If a fuse has blown and needs a proper burial, they can do that too.  Hoping it’s one of those two problems, the car will be resuscitated shortly after they arrive and I won’t be out significant amounts of cash.

On the other hand, anything more complicated and my beloved vehicle will have to be towed to the service center, I will have to fetch a loaner car, and both of us will have to wait and see what kind of drama and financial fiasco all of this will turn out to be.

But grace has blessed me with a much better outcome.  Roadside assistance just left after replacing the battery.  That in place, the car started right up and hummed like the day it was new.

Could have been worse, which leads me to this…

Many times while standing on the patio, whether or not the wind was blowing, I would hear a noise coming from one of the photinia bushes, a noise like dry paper rattling against parched wood.

When first I heard it I suspected an insect.  I looked and looked and looked, yet I couldn’t see anything that could be making the noise.

Then it kept happening.  Not always, but daily, and usually several times per day.

My keen observational skills seemed daunted by an invisible noisemaker.  Either that or I was hearing things.

And I don’t mean the voices.  They’ve always been here.  Once I realized they wouldn’t leave me alone, we made a pact to get along and not bother each other too much.  Now only five or six speak to me at one time.

That aside, however, the noise in the shrub vexed me.  Perhaps dry leaves rattling against dead wood?  Nope.  The noise happened even if the air was still.  An occasional insect sweeping through the hedgerow from time to time?  Nope.  The noise always came from the same general location and I never saw an insect in that area.

I should explain this particular photinia bush has some dead branches.  Several of them, in fact, all hidden on the back side of the bush and surrounded by livelier fare that shield it with foliage.

Well, on one recent occasion when I heard the noise, I saw a black-and-white wasp (as yet unidentified) flitting about the dead limbs.  Each time it landed on one, I would hear the noise.  Sometimes the insect didn’t have to land; it would skirt one of the limbs too closely and immediately that same parchment-against-wood vibration would fill the air.

I ran inside and put on a shirt (since I’d be standing in the sun and didn’t want to burn).  To keep me from getting too hot, I chose one made of bright red, blue and yellow, something that would reflect more sunlight than it absorbed.

I then grabbed my camera before stepping back out on the patio.

The wasp continued its investigation of the dead photinia branches.  The noise continued responding to its presence.

Then I spied the creatures who so carefully planned to make me insane with their incessant yet unidentifiable noise: carpenter bees.  Large, furry, dark bees, much like a bumblebee.  Only when I realized they lived in the dead branches did it occur to me I should have known as much.  I’ve seen their kind around that bush for years, usually one or two who magically appear or disappear behind the verdant greenery.

I always assumed they were bumblebees looking for food or some other staple needed by their nest.  Little did I know the bumblebee’s cousin in fact had occupied the bush and made a home within its ligneous arms.

Regrettably, I couldn’t get any photos since the entry holes are all in positions shielded by branches and leaves.  I tried, though.  I leaned over the fence, knelt next to it, and generally contorted my body in all sorts of uncomfortable positions trying to get more than a photo of a dead branch.

No luck.

I did have luck elsewhere, though.  It has to do with the shirt.

You see, bright yellows and reds and blues seem to attract certain insects.  You know, like the same insects who visit flowers of similar colors.

So there I stand like a beacon in the night, sunshine making the shirt’s hues even brighter and more appealing, and all the while I’m leaning into the territory of paper wasps, carpenter bees, cicaca-killer wasps, mason wasps, cuckoo wasps, honeybees, and a great many other creatures.

What do you suppose happened next?

Why, yes, you’re right!  I found myself the unwanted center of attention for several winged visitors, each adamant about sampling a bit of that enormous, brightly colored flower I had wrapped around my torso.

Needless to say, I beat a hasty retreat into the house as I swung my baseball cap madly at everything buzzing around me.  I then made a very permanent mental note that one should not wear bright colors when trying to photograph stinging insects in close quarters.

Thankfully I didn’t get stung, which leads me back to…

Because I didn’t fulfill my self-imposed obligation for Nature Photography Day 2008, I intend to see that plan to fruition today.  I’ll post a few goodies here and a few goodies at xenogere unseen.  Now that I have the rest of the day off and don’t have any life-threatening insect stings to address, the least I can do is offer some eye candy while I catch up on chores.

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