OK, so when we are in the mountains, I get up very early every morning so that I can watch the sunrise. I love to hear (sometimes see) the marauding Wild Turkeys AND any other wild life passing through that early (deer, moose, coyote, bull frogs, various seed eating birds, etc.)
I sit on the porch swing under a glass roof so I can be there in any weather. This event starts my days with a smile.
This is what I see from my protected seat.
So, I’m all bundled up yesterday, mug of hot coffee warming my hands and I hear a scuffling sound over the edge, just past the rapidly growing daffodils. I get up to investigate and hear it what I see.
Uh oh. I realize now what the scuffling sound was. A Squirrel, our primary nemesis here (other than the Flickers that are relentlessly eating our HOUSE!) has somehow gotten the lid off the container.
Though we have finally found a system using Slinky’s to keep him off the bird feeders, STILL he finds this way to torment James, who really wants to resort to the BB Gun. So far, I won’t let him.
I chase him off before J. can get his weapon, and bring the seed container up to the porch where we have collected a pile of stuff to take to Goodwill. Now the seed is right next to me, within arm’s reach should our invader dare to approach!
Next, I see the squirrel return to the place where the container had been…and he is completely stumped. He knows it was right there just minutes before. He sniffs around frantically and this next thing, I wish I had thought to video tape. He stops, slowly turns and points his angry beady little eyes directly at ME, up on the porch. We stay frozen, in this stand off for long seconds! That GLARE!! (You will never convince me that rodents can’t THINK.)
The squirrel scampers off, disgusted, and after a quick trip inside for more coffee, I return to sitting on my swing, peaceful morning again, at last.
But no, I come back outside to this!!!
In the short time it took me to go inside, this little guy (and several members of his clan) have shown up and eaten a HOLE in the side of the seed container. It is now leaking birdseed for them to chow down on!!!
The irritation came first but then I could not prevent the huge SMILE!
Anyway, my last two bugs, having lived way longer than any of their female-only ancestors, passed away last summer and I was way sadder than I would have expected. It was probably much more existential grief than I want to admit…end of an era…passing of time…my own mortality, etc.
Or maybe I had simply bonded to these mild, extravagant creatures. I confess, I LOVED my bugs!!
For the seven or eight years I have raised Giant Spiny Australian Leaf bugs (https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Extatosoma_tiaratum) I saved every single one of the hundreds of eggs they laid, hoping for later hatchings. (It takes over a year when *parthenogenesis is the method.) I kept the eggs safe and in the medium suggested by my research on Google (warm, moist soil).
With the last batch born (39 of them) I knew I was getting tired…but not of my bugs. They are so easy to care for. Feed them and put fresh paper towels at the bottom of their terrarium every 10 days or so. No big deal. (Well, I am leaving out the part that James does for me…scrounging around for uncontaminated Blackberry bushes, cutting off several branches, and then “dethorning” them for the safety of the bigger bugs who can accidentally impale themselves on these thorns. Poor James comes home bleeding every time!)
It had become quite an extravagant hobby.
After so many generations, I was up to a whole “colony”. With each new generation, I would happily give away as many bugs as I could to good homes (schools, parents, friends, independent Pet Stores… boy, are those hard to find now…) but it was requiring a lot more of the kind of energy I no longer have due to my age or an exhausting autoimmune disease called Hashimoto’s? I don’t know which.
Also, at that number of bugs, there were just too many for me to “socialize”…meaning, getting the bugs used to being handled by humans. I wanted the occasional brave guest to be able to have the experience of one of these mild monsters sitting peacefully in the palm of their hand. This last batch had basically no direct human contact.
When I could feel the end nearing for my two oldest Queens, I did not do anything to protect or preserve their hundreds of eggs in the way their gestation requires. That was a much more difficult decision than I would have thought.
When they both died, I gave them what I considered a loving and respectful send off by placing them on blossoms outside in the sun. My keeping them safe in captivity may have given them a much longer life but had prevented their outdoor experience.
I put away the terrariums, and the jars that acted as vases for Blackberry vines. I gathered books and tchotchkes to fill up the empty shelves, dresser tops and counters that used to hold giant Bug Homes for all to see. I had all those interesting-looking eggs in a bowl and just set them off somewhere on a shelf.
I have missed my bugs. I know they are not pets in the way most of us think of a pet…like a companion. I didn’t talk to them or anything, at least not nearly as much as I talk to my cats (wish I had a winking emoji for right here…)
I did try to provide entertainment for them though…exposure to different settings, and playing loud music for them. They love Comfortably Numb and actually sway in time with music, but I guess I needed copyright permission for a video I made with Pink Floyd playing in the background, because WordPress would not include it in that post long ago.
But for all those years they were such a mild, peaceful presence in my life.
Having that amazing bug activity, straight from a David Attenborough-type nature show, happening right in my living room, was a constant and graphic reminder of the miracles in Nature. The molting process alone would blow the most uninterested of minds.
I think I have missed seeing daily the natural flow of the bugs’ stages, the proof that though one life comes to an end, another is always starting…
And those gentle bugs actually made me miss my life’s work a little less. In my practice, I was a regular witness to the amazing cycle of human life……coaching childbirths, end of life counselling, with all of life’s challenges, traumas and gifts in between.
Retirement! Heck, what was I thinking???
Now this will seem like an abrupt change of subject, but we have this cat named Lucy. She was born in the wild (well, in the woodpile in front of our mountain home). She is by far the most mildcat either of us have ever had. We think she is expressing gratitude for allowing her to adopt us as her humans, and rescuing her from a treacherous life in the mountains filled with cougars, coyotes and bears….to say nothing of the below zero temps we sometimes have in the winter. She is gentle and careful and sweet and affectionate (this last, at her own whim of course…she IS a CAT after all).
And she is also amazing in that she learns after just one or two corrections. I post about her a lot. You can read her story here:
Her most vicious trait is that she hunts, chases, kills and eats spiders. I have mixed feelings about that but so far have not prevented her Spider Patrols. What can I say, I’m a hypocrite.
Last week, I had a shocking experience. I lifted a pile of papers off the table I was working on and found a dead (squashed?) BABY BUG!!! Absolutely no idea how it got there. Or from how long ago? And did Sweet Lucy do this or did I crush a new baby bug and not even know it?
I Confess, I actually cried.
And then, I had an even more surprising realization. It seemed unrelated but in my tears I discovered how much I HATE being even semi-retired. (I see maybe 4 clients a month on average.) I miss working so much. I loved my well over 40 years of being a Group Psychotherapist with a booming practice. I never got tired of it. I never experienced “burn out”. I worked hard to live the principals I taught so I never really experienced the conflict and dissonance possible in that line of work. I was really, REALLY happy being able to do the work I was doing.
AND I missed my post-retirement hobby, my BUGS!
I want BUGS and I want to WORK!
You’ve heard the old Chinese proverb “Be careful what you wish for”?
In the last 5 days, SIX live, baby bugs have appeared out of nowhere in my office. I don’t have any eggs stashed in here. No adult bugs were ever loose in this room to drop unknown eggs. I have no idea where these hatch-lings are coming from, but I do know that after the very first one, which Lucy spotted up on the ceiling, I had a talk with her to remind her the difference between spiders and our bugs. Since then, five more have hatched and been unmolested by our Gentle Hunter Lucy. She just sits and watches them until I can capture and contain them. (I cannot however, confirm what she does behind my back of course.)
But anyway, apparently, I am on my way again, with a whole new generation of Extatosoma_tiaratum.
Gosh, maybe my phone will start ringing soon and I’ll have some new clients to work with too!?!
I was so excited when I first spotted these eggs in the Rhododendron out in front of my house. I checked the eggs out every day for a while and couldn’t wait to show my Grandsons, who, at the time were about 5 and 7.
I took them outside, lifted them each up high enough to get a good look, and then we went back in the house to have the inevitable discussion about the problems of keeping the nestlings as pets once they hatched.
The next day, the youngest came running up all excited…”They HATCHED, Gramma!!”
Uh oh. I knew they couldn’t have yet, but when we went outside to check things out, there were the broken egg shells all over the ground.
I lied. Well, I agreed with them when, already heartbroken about the whole “no pet” thing, they concluded the baby Robins had flown away to a happy life in the sky.
I felt awful, for the tragedy (though as an adult, I can almost grasp the whole food chain thing in Nature) but also because I had lied.
A few days later I was reading about the habits of our local Steller Jays, about how smart they are. These cousins of the Crow have figured out how to watch other animals, especially human ones, as they discover and then repeatedly return to, a nest full of eggs….
Not only did I lie to my grandsons. Apparently I was also responsible for the discovery and destruction of those beautiful eggs!
Now I REALLY felt awful!
No Gold Star for this Grandmother today!
I have my own photo of Steller Jays somewhere but can’t find them right now. The above image was listed online as free.
This is going to seem like a post about dis-satisfaction but it is not, honest.
At my house this week, we are experiencing the frustrating, man-made phenomenon of absolute waste.
Next door to me, there is a perfectly lovely home, built in the late 1980’s.
My neighbor had to sell. I understand that. But she sold to a builder of McMansions…(look it up)
Many of us tried for months to get permission to salvage what we could from the soon to be demolished house, for recycle, reclaiming and re-use. I’m talking about perfectly good appliances, beautiful hardwood flooring, lovely tiles, great carpet, two complete sets of kitchen counters and cabinets, shelving, French doors, and beautiful bathroom vanities!
That process was so political. So slow!! Like molasses! Before she moved, we, at least, were able to get the brand new refrigerator out of my neighbor’s student apartment. Perfect timing as we have just moved into our own basement apartment so that Son and Grandsons could move in. But the rest of what would have furnished a sweet kitchen, bathroom and bedroom for us downstairs, well, we just couldn’t cut through the red tape fast enough.
It’s been frustrating to say the least. Especially because James is a custom home designer and builder and is a master at reclaiming older reusable parts and pieces for new homes. Oh, what he could have built us!
At least, several neighbors showed up to save a whole mess of strawberry plants and a stunning long row of Lavender!
So at this point you are wondering what in the world this has to do with Satisfaction.
I’m almost there…
Well, the backhoes showed up yesterday. Here’s what James wrote in his family email.
We watched as the machine ate the neighbor’s house like a Tyrannosaurus Rex, gobbling and crunching it like so much soft meat.
I could not have said it better…except maybe to add the word Bulimia in there somewhere! Chewed it up and vomited it right back out!
In a matter of hours…destroyed…consumed…
the offending backhoe in its “food coma”
OK, OK Satisfaction already!
Trying to ignore what was happening next door yesterday, we focused on fixing up our little apartment, mostly the tiny kitchenette. I was grumbling because the carpet in there is destroyed from a burst pipe earlier this year and has been covered with ugly throw rugs. James was grumbling because he had recently finally thrown away a piece of good carpet he’d kept for years that now, would have come in handy in this kitchenette.
Next thing I know, he is tearing across the lawn between us and the house destruction project. He grabs the project manager, has a quick talk (over the backhoe noise) and literally minutes before the Tyrannosaurus bites into it’s next gourmet house section, James rips out a whole room full of brand new carpet and hauls it across the grass to its new home…our kitchen!!!
Take that, you lazy, wasteful developer!!!
Now THAT was satisfying!
PS I have to admit I also found it very satisfying that there was a clandestine project for the last several nights. After the work crews left and after it got dark enough, a young family, Mom, Dad and 3 little kids, showed up night after night, and for hours, dug out the brick driveway pavers, one beautiful brick at a time. The young man told me they have a place where they can sell them for a lot of money (which they desperately need). And just so you don’t think I support theft, the project manager told me yesterday, they knew it was going on and ignored it. Also satisfying!