Life & the Beauty of Nature, According to Earl Pickles

Needing more humor in my life, I have in my inbox every morning a selection of carefully chosen favorite comics, my own ‘funny papers’, from  Included, and the favorite of the favorites for both Mike and I, is ‘Pickles’, about an aging married couple who share their life experiences, life philosophy and wit with their young grandchild.  Gee whiz, wonder why we like it so much!  We don’t have a grandchild, perhaps if we did I would not have a need to share my own life reflections on a blog.  Does that make you, the reader, my grandchild substitutes.  Hmmmmm…

Anyway, this morning Earl Pickles pretty much summed up my life and spiritual journey. There isn’t much more to write……for now.  It is a day of sun. As it reflects on the rainbow of leaves on the Red Osier Dogwood, which after yesterday’s wind storm is sparsely populated by well spaced leaves, it is one of those days when “we get to see the beauty of God’s creations.”  There is snow in the forecast.

May need to share more of
Earl & Opal now and then! 

Here is the back story of Pickles, from Wikipedia:
“….. comic strip by Brian Crane focusing on a retired couple in their seventies, Earl and Opal Pickles. Inspired by Crane’s in-laws, they find retirement life less than idyllic. The comic is set in Crane’s hometown of Sparks, Nevada. The cast includes their dog Roscoe and their cat Muffin; their grandson Nelson Wolfe and his parents – their daughter Sylvia and her husband Dan, a wildlife photographer. Pickles has been published since 1990. In 2001, it was named best newspaper comic strip of the year by the National Cartoonists Society.”

Flutter Tree

A Red-breasted Nuthatch darts in for a single seed.
Red Osiers are the oaks of western woods, turning
shades of red in stages, resulting in
multi-colored fall foliage

While writing the post below there has been a flutter of activity outside the window just above my desk.  There is more to write, another time, of this remarkable tree, a giant Osier Dogwood I call the Grand Central Station of our yard, but today I call it the Flutter Tree.  A bird feeder between the window and the tree attracts (obviously!) birds and depending upon the time of day, those who show for the feeding frenzy changes.  Earlier, there were the Stellar Jays hanging off the feeder, dumping much seed on the ground, and discouraging smaller birds to venture near.  Now there is constant movement as Red Breasted Nuthatches, Juncos, and Black-capped and Chestnut-sided Chickadees dart in and out, grabbing a single seed and sitting in the Osier Dogwood to crack and eat their claim.  The feeding frenzy has slowed as the sky darkens, but deep in the web of the trees branches I still see a few tiny birds sit.  They do not spend the night there, but it is the avian community center of day time life!  Last winter we did not keep a feeder so close to the house due to the horrible rat problem we had the previous year, yet life in The Tree was still busy.

The guests are gone…….

remnants of the beautiful yellow jacket hive

Remember the ‘unwelcome guests’ I wrote of in September? The yellow jackets that took up residence above the door of one of our buildings? We’ve been waiting to reclaim our building. I checked now and then, looking for signs of their absence. But there have been no signs, no dead bodies, and no deterioration of their beautifully sculpted paper home. One day a few weeks ago a sentry sat unmoving at the opening to the nest, a few days later I saw a fly go in. We decided they were gone and a few days ago Mike knocked down the nest, wrapped so tightly around several pieces of wood, it was not possible to remove gently. Only flies he said (I wasn’t in attendance, miserably inside with a sinus cold). Not a trace of the bustling colony that had lived there.

Parnassian Butterfly in June. Dying off,
they leave behind tiny eggs to over winter.

Remarkable. Entire populations of insects come to life, build complex infrastructures, have complex social organizations, and die off in extraordinarily short periods of time. There are those who have individual short life spans within a long living community, such as an ant in the decades old giant anthill at the bottom of our driveway (which survives annual slashes from the roadside brush cutter), or an individual bee in a honeybee hive. There are solitary insects, such as the beautiful Parnassian butterflies which grace our yard every June, their caterpillar stage dependent on the wild bleeding hearts that fill our woods each spring. Even considering all their various stages, their lives are relatively short. But the Yellow Jackets that took over the entrance to our building, as well as the ever-present Bumble Bees in our yard every summer, don’t just come and go, they build and leave behind whole towns!

I often think of next year’s queen bumble bees tucked into
the earth somewhere for the winter. Ahh, sounds cozy!

It is extraordinary that such complex societies are built and die in such condensed time, yet when the pundits of philosophy and religion say our existence here on this little planet called Earth is but a moment in universal time, a ‘blink in the eye of God’, one wonders why we take it all so seriously…is there a greater being out there watching, waiting, for us to disappear so she can clean up our mess and take back what she created? Ah, but fresh young yellow jacket and bumble bee queens will winter over, starting again to create from ‘scratch’ a new world of yellow jackets, or bumblebees. It is enviable really, that they get to start over anew each year.  Newbie yellow jacket queens never return to the same site of ‘the old world’ (fortunately for us!).

Yes, it is enviable.

(I am still wondering where the dead bodies went?!)