Sunday, June 24, 2012

Today the heat wave has finally broken. Closer to the equator the past three days would not be remarkable, but here in New England it is unexpected, uncomfortable, and unwanted.

The rest of the family and our guests are on the back porch chatting and smoking. So I take my usual seat on the front steps where I can be smoke free and solitary. There's a lot to be said for the front, you can watch people come and go, the steps are lower so it's more like sitting in the garden than above it, and I can watch things happen without being distracted.

The steps are about six feet from side to side, cement slabs on brick risers. The middle one has a crack that needs patching one of these days. A brick walkway extends from the steps a few feet then turns left to head toward the driveway. The walkway also encloses part of the front garden.

As I settle onto the cracked cement slab with a mug of darjeeling and a peanut butter sandwich, the family across the street struggles to don pads and helmets for a bicycle ride, as their dog mournfully yelps its separation anxiety from inside the house. They wave and I wave back and the five of them ride off in a cheerful skein looking for adventure.

As the dog's barks slow in the knowledge that it is doomed to be alone for an entire hour, I finish my sandwich and suddenly notice that there is a large white flower on the holly bush to the right of the steps. I'm no expert, but I'm pretty sure that the blossom doesn't belong there. It could be from another plant that has poked its way up through the dense holly foliage. As I try to work up enough curiosity to put down my mug and investigate, the mystery is solved as the flower splits in two and takes flight as a pair of Cabbage White butterflies.

Across the walkway, a small dragonfly is firmly perched on the tip of a rhododendron leaf that bobs and sways in the breeze. It's too far away for me to make any attempt to identify it more completely. I watch it for several minutes until, at last, it disappears in a blink and returns in another blink. If I know my dragonflies, it's probably chewing off the head of something that was flying too slowly.

A handful of bumblebees are staggering around a patch of small blue flowers just to the left of the steps. They bump into things and each other as they make their way around the bouquet buffet.

Another dragonfly has appeared on the right. There's a plant with long spiky leaves that start from its base (if I remember correctly, it's an iris). One of the leaves has bent towards me at a right angle to the plant and the dragonfly is perched on this green runway like some dangerous warplane.

I go back to watching the bumbleclowns. One of them has its face in a flower at the tip of a stem. Another is sipping from one a little further down the same stem and their combined weight has bent the stem in a deep arc. A third bee lands increasing the tension on the stem, but then the two lower bees leave at the same time and the stem whips up, hurtling the bee off the top flower and deep into the rhododendron jungle.

I like bumblebees. I relate to them. Like them, I am clumsy, round, hairy, and hungry. Like them, I am peaceful, vegan, and attracted to bright colors. Like them I can do unexpected things like stinging when I have to.

I wonder if, like me, it is their ungainliness, their clumsiness that dictates their seeming preference for solitary endeavor.

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