Welcomed Guests & Unwelcome Guests

To our chagrin, yesterday we had a clash between our very welcomed guests and some very unwelcome ones. Giving new friends, visiting for the first time, the building tour, we stepped inside our small, yet-to-be-finished studio/meditation building, Trillium, when one of our welcomed guests got stung on the top of his head by a bald faced hornet (who are not hornets at all, but relatives of yellow-jackets, without the yellow). Our friends, their sweet toy poodle, and I were inside the building when I looked up at saw a HUGE nest above the door – I closed the door – quickly! Mike walked away, also quickly!He wanted to get a stepladder so we could exit via a back window! Bravely, and calmly, we decide to use the door. Appallingly, our friend got stung again on the lip! Fortunately, and quite miraculously, the stings were minor. Bald-faced hornets have smooth stingers and are known not only for their voracious defense of the hive, but also their ability to sting repetitively. 

Oh dear. What to do.A late night raid with either a garden hose or a pesticide is Mike’s plan. Waiting, not using the building until winter arrives and all but next year’s newly fertile queens die is another option. That could be a long wait!  Next year’s queens will leave the dying colony and winter over buried in turf somewhere.  Their wait is long too!

Remarkably I was in this building about a week ago and there was no sign of hornets. If they were there, they certainly didn’t pay attention to my coming and going. Perhaps the hive was still building and more concerned with its own activities than mine. 

Not so now! 

Bald-faced hornets, whose paper nests are beautiful creations, eat other bugs, and are eaten by raccoons and skunks.The wise queen who built this nest placed her colony in a location where no raccoon or skunk is likely to notice, let alone be able to access. 

It is an odd state of mind to hope for an early freeze or an acrobatic skunk or raccoon to come along…….
Below is a very welcomed guest – a Skipper. These small butterflies appear late summer,early fall, and LOVE marigolds!

Teaching Recovery


Transition: Noun: The process or a period of changing from one state or condition to another.
Talking with a friend yesterday about unexpected life changes caused by health conditions, I was reminded of my early adult life when health challenges caused my body to not function the way I needed it to as I began to fulfill my lifelong dream of country living. My dream became derailed at the same time it was becoming a reality.
 Miraculously,I recognized the letting go process necessary to move forward.  This process of grief and adjustment is one I’ve had to repeat many times, not without struggle.   
My friend also lives with a life-changing health challenge. We discussed how traumatic events are a component of life, no one escapes them in one form or another, yet understanding them as an inevitable part of living, to be used as a catalyst, is not taught to children. 
And how would you teach it, without causing anticipatory fears?  
Watching the preview of the documentary, “Class of 9/11” about 6 year olds, now 16, who witnessed the attack on the World Trade Center and were evacuated from their school located close to the site, I was struck by how the different young people assimilated the horrific experience.  I think about children worldwide who witness and experience trauma at an early age. Many grow strong, becoming agents of change in their communities; others suffer from post-traumatic stress, depression, even suicide.  Is the difference in their personal make-up?  In how they are taught to view the experience?
I think about the fires raging in Texas, destroying homes and leaving behind charred land where few people will want to return and rebuild lives.  Yet nature will return, many plants even thriving in the blackened remains.
Much is written about how to engage young people more with Nature. The concern is that without an appreciation of Nature, the technology-raised generations will not care for and preserve it. Perhaps the importance of understanding Nature is not only for the environment’s sake, but also for our own psychic survival. 
Nature is a magnificent example, the best teacher of the cycle of destruction, change,and rebirth.   It is constantly adapting to it’s own challenges – a river changes direction after a land slide or earthquake, wildflowers bloom in profusion following flooding, and, like the mythical Phoenix, there are plants which require fire to exist. Nature also constantly adapts to the unpredictability (from it’s point of view!) of human impact.  People cause trauma to the earth in small and grand ways, yet the earth seems to rebound, recreate, restore itself. Yes,there are concerns about how much trauma certain environments can endure, but looking at Nature’s recovering process has helped to understand what Nature needs to survive, and it might help teach us that rebounding, changing course,redefining is part of living.  If taught that we too may need fire to thrive, might we then be better prepared for the inevitable sufferings in life?
(I wasn’t sure where this was going, but I had this photo to share and butterflies are certainly wonderful examples of transitions, perhaps not brought on from trauma, since their process of metamorphosis is part of their life cycle. But again, Nature teaches– using its inevitable change to emerge to a higher place, the butterfly is an age-old metaphor.  Enjoy my resident Lorquin’s Admiral!)


Life On The Rock at Low Tide

the first anemone to open to the incoming waves

On the beach at Fort Flagler State park there is a huge rock. Uncovered at low tide, it is teeming with life, a world that may stay submerged days at a time. Only when the moon and earth sync for a super low tide does this world come up for air as we know it.  Giant barnacles, colorful little snails, other critters I’m not familiar with, and zillions of sea anemones.  Slimy looking, gelatinous, olive green little ‘donuts’, the anemones close up during this air ‘exposure’ and wait for the sea to return.  Fascinated, I waited with them, ankle deep in the cold water, shifting and moving as the sand washed out from under my feet, I watched as the first ones, the front line, began to swell.  I wanted to see them open, exposing their seemingly delicate pink ‘mouths’ and tentacles. Open to the touch of water and the nutrients it provides them, the life it gives them. It is all quite magical and lovely, but as with all of nature, there is a survival dance going on. Those little tentacles, called Cnidocytes, both defend and kill…….

From Wikipedia:
Cnidocytes contain nematocyst…..Each nematocyst contains a small vesicle filled with toxins (actinoporins), an inner filament, and an external sensory hair. When the hair is touched it mechanically triggers the cell explosion, a harpoon-like structure which attaches to organisms that trigger it, and injects a dose of poison in the flesh of the aggressor or prey. This gives the anemone its characteristic sticky feeling. The sea anemone eats small fish and shrimp……”

I wondered as I waited – do the creatures of this rock world like, even look forward to, these involuntary forays into the world of breezes and blue skies (or gray, as was the case on this particular day)?  Is it necessary to their survival?  Or do they feel stressed, waiting for the waves to return and cover their world once again?  Of course biologist know the answers to my wonderings, but I enjoy standing there watching, (though there is little to watch except the occasional shift of a tiny snail) curious to what is going on in the primitive ‘minds’ (nervous systems) of this thriving pile of life.  

Tiny sea snails are the only action on the ‘The Rock’,
moving at snail’s pace of course!
gelatinous anemones wait, squished in between giant barnacles

opening……looking for something to eat!

  (click photos for a larger view of this crowded micro world)