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What We Keep

De-bugging

There was an orb weaver's web in the herb pots this morning, strung between the mint and the lemon grass, and herself clinging to the zigzag lightning bolt than ran down the center of it. I applaud her efforts and those of her sisters, but perhaps not in my mint where I am bound to come upon her unexpectedly before morning coffee, which is when I wander about vaguely thinking of ways to fill in looming plot holes, or alternatively what to fix for dinner, which is occasionally the more pressing problem. So I hired the Husbandly Spider Removal Service to transfer her to the back forty under the willow tree. Nonetheless she is an elegant creature, all legs and black-and-yellow jacket, a predatory sleekness about her. It's been a strange season, bugwise. I found a large beetle in the bedclothes, which must have hitchhiked in on the dog. And the sunroom has been invaded by lizards, which strictly speaking aren't bugs, but have the buglike ability to materialize inside the house from heaven knows where.

     The natural world is flourishing while we have been hiding in our houses, and it probably wishes we would stay there. The garden had its loveliest spring this year when I couldn't invite anybody over to see it. Roses are like that, I suspect, and tend to be a little spiteful. The feral tomatoes, children of last year's crop, have sprung up everywhere, producing handfuls of tiny red fruit with wonderful flavor. Fred Undershed, the groundhog from next door, has eaten all the nasturtiums and gnaws the big tomatoes as they ripen. The sparrows have set up an entire bird village in the trumpet vine over the pergola, and the starlings line up at the birdbath, little towels under their arms, and splash all the water out with their mad flapping. None of them care that we are all afraid to come out of our own burrows.

     I suspect we had best remember that.

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A bug in the works

With the first frost last Thursday night, the spiders are gone. I can’t say it distresses me when cutting back the browning stalks of the black-eyed-Susan, not to come face to face with one of the big black and yellow orb weavers that put out their nets for lunch just at a kneeling gardener’s eye level. But I miss their busyness in the autumn Spider Moon when they are doing their part in the insect ecosystem, the Great Chain of Bugness, even if I scope out the coneflowers and the daylily stalks before I wade in there. One took up housekeeping in the lotus this year, stringing her web between the stalks. I fear that that’s the mister behind her in the web, victim of a fatal romance.
I still see the bumblebees but they are fewer and fewer. The agastache that they love to bumble in has died back. When the Mexican sage has gone, they will too.
The milkweed bugs have left too, to wherever they go. I don’t know where they come from either, they just show up in late summer, a crust of tiny yellow dots on the milkweed and butterfly weed, progressing to orange and black nymphs and then handsome winged fellows.
Earlier in the year there was a praying mantis on the lotus. She swiveled her head at me, clearly wondering if I was edible. Too big, she decided, and moved on.
A few crickets are holding on in the basement but the garden feels empty, so many bug lives wound up. Sometimes after a frost I find small crisp bodies. I have to remind myself that a winter garden isn’t dead. Somewhere there are eggs, next year’s bugs in waiting.
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