Sunday, September 15, 2013

feeding the water bugs (and other stories)

Quality of Light
The painted window caught Monday’s light in such a way that I paused, realized it would always be changing.

The lower end of the window.

The Five Sunflowers
Tuesday I started wondering how it is that five sunflowers all planted at the same time in pretty much the same spot and treated equally over the same period of time could turn out so different from one another.

The Five Sunflowers. (Hey! Good name for a band!)

Starting from the left, sunflower No. 1 is not in the picture because it croaked early. I don’t remember how.

No. 2 grew the tallest, about nine or ten feet, and was the last to bloom with a flower facing southwest.

No. 3 grew to be six or seven feet and was the first to bloom with the largest flower, but it bloomed so long ago the head has been drooping for weeks now, and the flower is turning to seed.

No. 4 is about eight feet tall with a nice westward-looking face. It bloomed before No. 2, after No. 3.

No. 5 was the tallest until it got beheaded just as it was about to bloom. I guess the metal edge of the roof is kind of sharp. The unbloomed flower now hangs by a thread from the top of the severed plant.

From time to time the sunflowers were tossed about and blown over by westerly winds (that might be how we lost No. 1), and after the first windy bout all were secured to the planks of the garage with twine. No. 4 broke free once and spent a day lying on the ground; No. 5 broke free but stayed upright. Both were re-secured with rope.

When I planted the seedlings back around Memorial Day, I imagined a symmetry of sunny faces at a common height of six or seven feet blooming all together with a westward face sometime in July.

If The Five Sunflowers had a hit single it might be called:
I Ain’t What You Were Expectin’, Babe.

Feeding the Water Bugs
Riverside Wednesday watching water bugs—striders, I think they’re called—about a dozen or so alongside an old log. They drift about in a bit of dappled shade and a slight back current. They look like little space ships. Four wire-thin legs spread out akimbo from blackish-grey, pod-like bodies. Their feet are tiny pinpoints resting gently atop the water. They make the slightest of impressions, just tiny, shallow dimples that cast the merest speck of a shadow on the sand a foot below, a shadowy speck surrounded by a watery halo. The water bugs have two shorter legs, or maybe those are antennae.

As I settle on the log the bugs skitter away, shooting left and right with a swift pinch of their legs. Then they drift back. A dragonfly drones low overhead.

A yellow leaf gets caught in the current and floats back along the log through the flock of bugs. In swift spurts they propel themselves away from it. I feel a mosquito biting my arm, now it’s on my leg, I smack it, flick it into the water. Two water bugs notice. They drift toward the dead mosquito, then one shoots forward, knocking the other out of the way. This water bug, the bigger water bug, scoots forward again, latches onto the mosquito. The other, smaller water bug drifts away.

Later I return with my camera. The water bugs seem to recognize me. They gather around. Two mosquitoes bother me, and the bugs wait.

A well-fed water bug.

Thursday / a rush of wind
Cool and overcast, a north wind, little puffs of fall rushing by. Leaves a bit drier, rustling, shaking loose their green. The field makes me stop. Against its burnishing backdrop are the snow white of the Queen Anne’s lace, the pale violet of the blue asters with their bright yellow and rusty orange centers, the bright red of the leaves of a vine that twines all through the field but which I rarely notice until the flowers and grasses begin to die back and the vine kind of mistakenly shouts out its presence, the golden yellow of the goldenrod, the tawny brown and yellow of the timothy and the brome, the dusky red of the St. John’s Wort, and the sunny yellow of the brown-eyed Susans who are gathered up in groups, enjoying this fine party.

Full of Promise

All week, the Queen Anne’s lace, its broad flat flowers drawing up into long-fingered fists of brown seed, fists raised high (for the lace is not shy), and these feisty clumps, so full of next year’s flowers, or at least the potential for, confound me.

A fistful of flowers.

They are like a heartbeat, a hand, a sunset, a starry night, a morning fog, an honest answer, the light from a half moon, a mongrel, a smile, a pause, most pumpkins, a water bug, a still pond, a flowing river, an old log, a single leaf, a drop of dew, a lost cabin, a dark night, a long night, a good book, the smell of apples, the dust of fall, a friendly postmark, and winter, because they are, of course, full of promise.

The End.


  1. There's that odd bumped out Queen Anne's Lace! ~ P

    1. Yes! I believe it wins Flower of the Year 2013. This morning there was frost on the lace. Ai yi yi, the beauty of it.