For LD and nathalie with an h

nathalie with an h suffers from an allergy to wasp stings that rivals my own anaphylactic reaction.  You can therefore understand why she has been rather disapproving of my affinity for wasps and the resulting mania with which I’ve posted their photos recently[1].  She certainly has every right to be weary of them (and the spider I need to go rescue from her home before she does something untoward), so I gleefully enjoyed her ribbing me at Starbucks each morning about her not wanting to see more wasp photos.

LD dislikes insects in general.  Her own words do better justice to this phobia than any I could write.  In an e-mail to me about a horde of critters around their front porch[2], she said this: “I’m kind of a nut about bugs[3] and ones that fly REALLY freak me out.”  While some might think her a bit hysterical, she shares this manic fear with a majority of people.  Her feelings on the subject actually are quite normal in the scheme of human responses to insects.

Upon consideration of these two people and their collective view of insects, I felt behooved to share more of my fanaticism in this regard, only this time I want to post creatures I’m sure both of them would enjoy.  So, ladies, this is for you!

A painted lady butterfly (Vanessa cardui) (20080412_03322)

Painted lady (Vanessa cardui)

A fall webworm moth (Hyphantria cunea) (20080314_02566)

Fall webworm (Hyphantria cunea)

A red admiral butterfly (Vanessa atalanta) (20080420_04206)

Red admiral (Vanessa atalanta)

A common buckeye butterfly (Junonia coenia) (20080420_04300)

Common buckeye (Junonia coenia)

A white checkered-skipper butterfly (Pyrgus albescens) (20080601_05981)

White checkered-skipper (Pyrgus albescens)

An eastern tiger swallowtail butterfly (Papilio glaucus) (20080601_06173)

Eastern tiger swallowtail (Papilio glaucus)

A silver-spotted skipper butterfly (Epargyreus clarus) (20080701_08707)

Silver-spotted skipper (Epargyreus clarus)

I hope both of you found a wee bit of respite in knowing this marvelous group of creatures offers you some of the most profound beauty and gentility that can be found on our planet.

— — — — — — — — — —

[1] Offering posts involving wasps happens to be something I’ve not yet completed this year, especially of my local cicada killers.  Be warned.

[2] I identified the insect invasion xocobra and LD have near their front door as being the result of eastern boxelder bugs (Boisea trivittata).  My dear friends have another month or two before they need to take action on that problem.

[3] By “bugs,” LD actually means insects and not just true bugs[4], a subset of the class Insecta.

[4] True bugs constitute a type of insect in the order Hemiptera.  All true bugs have mouthparts capable of piercing tissues and sucking out fluids.  In addition, usually their forewings have hardened bases, their antennae are five-segmented, and their leg tarsi are three-segmented or shorter.

First death, then what? (Part III)

It began with the quick and painless death of a wasp, and before that a gecko, each act filled with compassion tainted with the crimson stench of killing.  Finally, as though inevitably, it carried me to that place I ignored these past many months: the death of Derek, the death of my grandmother, the death of too many.

Compassion is the most painful of all emotions.  It requires of us that which we abhor, that which cleaves a heart asunder with what must be and what cannot be.

Mercy killing.  Even the oxymoron of the term does little justice to the burdens we carry as we enact the very thing we hate the most: death.

I kill an insect and no one notices.  I notice, yes, for I do that thing for only one of two reasons:  Either I am imminently threatened or I am acting from a sense of profound humanity.

I kill a reptile and no one notices.  I notice, yes, for I do that thing for a single reason: I feel responsible for a life I know encompasses nothing short of suffering and anguish.

I put a cat, Henry, to sleep and no one notices.  I notice, yes, for I do that thing for one reason alone: I refuse to let a loved one suffer needlessly when a painful act of compassion can end his suffering, even if it prolongs my own.

I kill a man by withholding the treatment that would keep him alive while robbing him of peace and true living, and everyone notices.  Why the difference?

Are we so entombed in our own sense of superiority as to see the taking of a life as something meaningful and worthy of serious consideration only when it touches the life of another human?

And in the taking of a human life, in the kindness spent from my heart’s till, I become the monster, the heartless fiend responsible for stealing away from others the time with someone they ignored for far too long.

But what of my pain?

When my father needed support for his decision not to be resuscitated should something go terribly wrong as doctors worked to remove aggressive tumors from inside his head, did I flinch?  No.  And did anyone question my support for that decision?  No.

Yet the same cannot be said for allowing Derek’s life to find its own conclusion at a time when his body could no longer withstand the vehement onslaught of a cataclysmic disease bent on destroying him.

His finale, vivid and vibrant just as his life was, brought with it the painful realization I had long feared: those who claimed to cherish him found in that ending no reason to change their ways.  All that was of him disappeared in a fury of selfishness, of taking, of demanding; all that he left behind vanished contrary to his will while life still ebbed within his flesh.

Shadows dark and vile fell upon his legacy.  Those of us who truly loved him felt the pain most.

Where the wind blows

Sometimes we go where the wind blows and sometimes we stand in defiance of it.

A sailboat riding the choppy waters of White Rock Lake (20080628_08264)

I’m too tired, too angry, too beleaguered to have much thought at the moment.  Like the people in that sailboat, right now I’m at the mercy of my own tumultuous winds.

Back in business

My blogging hiatus didn’t exactly last two weeks as you can no doubt tell.

No reason in particular other than I’m on call this weekend and felt like posting.

Of course, I’m on call every other weekend for the foreseeable future and am beginning to grow enraged at the work situation.

Still, it pays the bills.


Surprising me from the same shadowy, shielded, shrouded bend in one of the creeks leading to Sunset Bay, the banks of which I often walk during visits to White Rock Lake, two different species of heron gifted me with brief encounters before dashing away in response to my sudden arrival.

I discovered both on two separate days yet in the same location, a spot cloaked by verdant foliage concealing a plethora of perches for such creatures.  My clumsy stumbling through the trees sent both avians into immediate escape and proffered me only the briefest of opportunities to capture the moments.

A green heron (Butorides virescens) perched on a branch (20080629_08323)

Serenely stoic within a spot of shade, this green heron (Butorides virescens) wisely stood its ground without moving as I first approached.  Truth be told, I walked toward the bank of the creek without realizing the bird likewise kept an eye on me.

Most vertebrates with which I have had encounters appear fully capable of knowing when stillness is called for, something tendered evidently and conspicuously in those times when they realize they have not yet been spotted—or at least are not being watched directly.  Walk by without meeting their gaze and they are more likely to stand their ground, to remain motionless until you pass, and that even if you are passing within a breath of their position.  This is true even if you stop moving.

Yet set your eyes upon them and they will respond.  What innate awareness of covert calm when necessary, and what immediate enactment of essential evasion when circumstances warrant.  These are gifts we humans too often fail to fully comprehend and appreciate.

My path took me quite near the heron as it stood upon a fallen tree that bridged the creek from shore to shore.  I stopped beneath a pair of trees before turning toward its position.  That’s when I spied it.

A green heron (Butorides virescens) perched on a branch (20080629_08329)

The time it took for the bird to know the game was up can be measured in the time it took me to press the button on the camera.  It immediately turned and hopped across several branches, the crest on its head rising to full staff just before the creature took to wings and disappeared into the dense woodlands opposite my position.

Since then I have made it a point of trying to remain visibly unaware and uninterested in wildlife as I attempt to photograph it.  This does not always work well—or at all.  I find indirect photography a far more challenging proposition than is its direct counterpart.  Let’s face it: Often it’s quite necessary to actually look at what you’re trying to digitally capture.

Another challenge with unplanned nature photography stems from not always being prepared for the moment.  As I generally venture out with no predefined plans as to what I am looking for or where I am going, preparing the camera for these unexpected shots is impossible.  Whether the wrong settings, the wrong lens or the wrong filters, or a combination of the three, sometimes it’s necessary to ignore the mental instruction to fiddle with the camera first before taking a photo.  It’s a point-and-shoot world, I’m afraid, and that means I can’t always memorialize the experience with the quality I would prefer.

A yellow-crowned night-heron (Nyctanassa violacea) perched on a branch (20080704_08952)

Days later but in the exact same spot, this yellow-crowned night-heron (Nyctanassa violacea) never flinched as I walked by.  My feet traced the very edge of the creek’s bank as I attempted nonchalance for the bird’s sake.  I slowed, fiddled with the camera a bit as I watched it peripherally, then stopped, turned, focused and took the picture in one quick fluid motion.

Both herons immediately took flight and vanished into the confluence.

Unbeknownst to me, two yellow-crowned night-herons had been perched there, the one I could see and another expertly hidden amongst branches so full of greenery as to offer impenetrable armor against prying eyes.  However, the second avian enjoyed a hiding place much closer to my position than the one I could see.  It behooved the winged beauty to flee with its friend lest my sudden halt and interest mean more than snapping a photo.

I watched the two of them fly low over the water before making a graceful turn up and into the trees.  It was then a third of their kind dove down from the branches a stone’s throw from my location and made a sweeping move to follow the first two, its raspy call filling the air perhaps as a warning to others.

— — — — — — — — — —

A note on the last photo:

Visible behind the heron is a fishing bobber held in the trees by a frightening amount of tangled line.  I find it disconcerting and deplorable.  Such hazards pose significant threats to the wildlife in the area.

Perhaps you remember the plastic ring tabs around this duck’s head which it suffered with for many months before finally disappearing.

So much human garbage and debris wind up in the lake.  Although I never have found the heart to photograph and share images of the carnage it leaves behind, I would need many more hands if I were to count on my fingers the number of walks I’ve taken which yielded some horrific find, such as a raccoon dead at the water’s edge with fishing line wrapped around its feet, a baby duck still and lifeless with a broken bottle stabbed into its bosom, and a snapping turtle starved to death with a fisher’s hook fastening its jaws permanently closed.  I could go on.

Truth be told, not a walk goes by when I don’t see more and more inhumanity measured in litter.  All the death and suffering it causes here is nothing more than a microscopic example of the macroscopic terrors we unleash worldwide.  Our species is brutish, heartless, troglodytic.