Here in this thing called civilization where one can be alone standing on a crowded sidewalk, mingling in a roomful of people, or dabbling on an internet where countless souls meander to and fro in search of what they know not, that which behooves me to feel oft times comes from the uncivilized, the natural, the landscape of Gaia filling every moment with discovery and companionship.

I fail to grasp the totality of whatever darkness now besets me.  Something amiss, something foreign invading those places where it does not belong.  Whatever the cause, I find myself looking more to the camaraderie of those alien to too many.

A pair of cardinals for many years has nested not too far from my garage door.  This year, for reasons I can’t explain, the female died.  Many a day this past week have I spent weeping with the male as he called from shadowy places that lonesome song begging for answers, begging for her return.  Soon he must take leave of her absence, move on from what he presently denies.  And still I cry thinking about it.

When finances allowed, I spread a veritable buffet outside my patio that many species far and wide enjoyed.  I know I glimpsed a sort of pride in the adult robins as they brought their young to feast upon raisins, a treat beyond compare for such avians.  Only in my own stillness would they approach and dine as I watched.  I respected them for such attentive care to the young who carried all hope for their collective future.

The cicada-killer wasps who swarm these next months all around my home do not know me as they are the year-to-year embodiment of their kind, the only remains of those who came before, yet I trust, like their parents and grandparents and great-grandparents before them, they will quickly realize I stand betwixt them and all threats, I adamantly provide the guardianship necessary to ensure no bumbling human wipes them out unwittingly, unknowingly.  And if all goes as it has for so many years before, they will learn I am as safe a perch as any motionless tree or bush.  Such a thing rarely takes long.

Whilst crows attacked a mourning dove faithfully defending its nest, the other parent welcomed my intervention by allowing me to come within inches of the sheltered brood in order to chase away the marauders.  They did not return.  Meanwhile, mother and father alike granted me the profound experience gifted by standing eye-to-eye with them in the nest, in the tree alongside my driveway, and neither blinked at my intrusiveness.  Their two children grew strong and capable, and they too lacked fear of me.

Then there is the cottonwood, the elm, the oak, the spruce and the pine; the centipede and millipede and isopod and spider; the mockingbird, the sparrow, the starling, the martins, the flycatchers and the hawks; the moss and fungus; the ducklings and goslings; the waves crashing against the shore and the wind singing through the trees; and a great deal more.

In truth, these emotional bonds represent meaning as real as that felt with my human familiars.

So is the looming absence from this place, from these beings of emotion and vivid life, that so fills me with dread, with a sense of preemptive longing?

I suspect as much.

Welcome, summer flyer

Part of me laments her presence, this giant, this behemoth of North American skies.  She buzzes near me on the patio with the roar of thunder emanating from her wings, her large form unmistakable and her presence welcome.

She is the largest of her kind, Sphecius speciosus, the cicada-killer wasp, and she is the first of many to come.

This colony of leviathans even now stirs to life, stretching along the entire southern end of my home from the garage to the patio.  More will arrive soon, arrive from their underground nests where they have matured since last summer, and the more will grow into a daunting aerial flood of massive wasps large enough to carry an adult cicada through the air.

I wipe a tear from my eye as she passes me, as she skirts my presence to flit across the patio toward her hunting ground.  This year may be the last for me to enjoy these unearthly creatures.

For years uncounted these insects have been my favorite, my companions, my fascination with that which threatens me most.  Because ant and wasps stings carry a poison my body cannot tolerate, these flying monsters pose a clear danger to me.

Yet I fear them not one bit.  I have lived with them for some time and have grown to trust them implicitly.  Only knowledge makes that possible.

Because I expect this to be my last summer here amongst these winged titans, my tear comes not for the short end I know this creature will meet when her duty is complete, when all her eggs are carefully laid and her nest dutifully secured, but instead I find myself longing for her presence in a future time when her offspring will rule these skies in my absence.

So, summer flyers, welcome!  I am your friend, your advocate, your consummate protector and ally, and you shall enjoy the fruit of the season so long as I am here.  Enamor me with your antics, impress me with your intimidating size, offer me this final encounter throughout which I might wallow in the joy that comes with your company.

And think not that I mourn for the short life I know you live.  Instead, know that I shed tears since I face a road ahead that lacks the promise of your kinship.

— — — — — — — — — —

Some notes:

[1] I face this wasp season with unbounded excitement.  The opportunity to capture images with my new camera offers me a renewed anticipation of the pleasure I glean from the limited time we share.

[2] Equally, the precipice this summer intimates is one which I may never cling to again.  I have mixed emotions about seeing her this afternoon, and about the unstoppable hourglass now set in motion—both by this first confirmed meeting and my inevitable move away from this place, this city, this region.

[3] I thought a few days ago that I saw a cicada killer flit by me as I stood on the patio.  Peripherally seen and not confirmed, however, I can only say I suspected their time had come but could not confirm it until now.

A tiger takes a drink

Although my walk around White Rock Lake yesterday did not last as long as I had hoped, its end did offer an encounter with a beautiful eastern tiger swallowtail butterfly (Papilio glaucus) as it fetched a drink from a puddle beneath a cottonwood tree.  It lingered in the middle of the mud pit which kept me at bay, yet I still was able to grab some images of this enormous piece of artwork from the edges of the wet patch.

An eastern tiger swallowtail (Papilio glaucus) standing in a mud puddle (20080601_06145)
An eastern tiger swallowtail (Papilio glaucus) standing in a mud puddle (20080601_06155)
An eastern tiger swallowtail (Papilio glaucus) drinking from a mud puddle (20080601_06162)
A close-up of the hindwings of an an eastern tiger swallowtail (Papilio glaucus) as it drinks from a puddle (20080601_06166)

[note that none of these photos are macro shots; I never got that close to the butterfly due to the mud and the ants that infested the periphery of the slick]

Perhaps a bit of luck this time

After last year’s monsoon season that deluged the state for most of the year with torrential rain and storms, this spring appears a bit more normal—albeit hot (records have already been set this season).  I blame the bizarre weather a year ago for the devastating consequences wrought upon the mockingbird nest in my tree, the consequences that brought all of the nestlings down one by one, each left to an unimaginable fate that ultimately destroyed their parents’ hopes.

This year has been quite different, though.

At least two offspring thrive in the nest.  Because it’s so well shielded from prying eyes like mine, the only way I have to determine the number of children is by their calls and their movements seen through thick foliage.  That means this brood could number more than two, but two at least I can confirm.

The parents grow more protective with each passing day.  They berate me when I’m on the patio, and they grow practically unnerved when one of the cats shows up at a window.

Still, I keep my fingers crossed that soon I will see fledglings finding their wings and making their way in the world.