Archivos de Diario para septiembre 2022

miércoles, 14 de septiembre de 2022

Caloptilia triadicae and other small matters

For many years, I've relied on blacklighting to draw insects to my tiny backyard in a very residential part of the city of St. Louis, where I've hung out with them, admired them, photographed them, and been profoundly moved by them. This year seemed tinged with more desperation on my part, as I relied on them to help me through some very tough times - my husband's emergency surgeries, a loved one in hospice, a best friend in dire need and other challenging matters. I scoured the sheet at night more intently, searching for what I may not have noticed, for the new, for the new in the familiar, pushing myself to open my eyes wider and pay particular attention to the often overlooked tiny ones, the ones so difficult for me to photograph. Moved again and again by the beauty of what I was discovering, I felt revived, filled with enough of the elixir of life to keep going. After 15 years of blacklighting, I knew that the world of insects had the power to astonish and astound and surprise and keep me afloat - and this year, this most often hidden world did not fail. The exquisite colors and patterns and shapes and gazes of these small beings inspired me over and over again, ripping me out of my distress and bringing me present like nothing else could. I was filled with gratitude as I documented them, attempting to take nothing for granted.

To my dismay, each night since the beginning of spring, the lights have drawn hundreds of caddisflies, making this newfound passion to be attentive to the smallest of insect beings ever more difficult, but I persisted, wearing a net around my head when needed. (This is the first year where caddisflies have been consistently present in such huge numbers, and I'm not sure what this change forebodes.) Leafhoppers that were only 2-4mm in length challenged my macro photography abilities, but even blurred images were rewarding in revealing patterns that only the kaleidoscope worked by the hands of the cosmos could imagine and create, like Tautoneura polymitusa. A beetle called Megacerus cubiculus, only 2.5mm, tickled my fancy something fierce with his moose-like antennae and rotund body and huge eyes.

And then, last night, a Chinese Tallow Leaf Miner, Caloptilia triadicae, about 4mm long, made an appearance for the first time at my blacklight sheet and for some inexplicable reason, moved me to finally to write a little about the overflowing gratefulness I owed these small delights. He was so bold, so generous, hopping onto the tip of my finger and staying there, dancing about in place, bobbing up and down. I fell in love, as I always do when I pay attention. So here I am, making a small effort to gush, as usual, about the wild world, in my journal - a long overdue gush. There are other things happening in the wild world to gush about - fall migration of birds is in full swing - but I needed to honor these lifesavers in my life, for sometimes, it is the teensiest of things that matter most. And lastly, thank you, Kathryn Zerbe, for encouraging me to keep journaling here. :-)

Publicado el miércoles, 14 de septiembre de 2022 a las 04:29 PM por wildreturn wildreturn | 3 observaciones | 2 comentarios | Deja un comentario

miércoles, 21 de septiembre de 2022

My Wild Return: Part 1 - Shell Shocked

Outside my home growing up in St. Louis City was a large black locust tree, the only tree on the block. The homes along the street were tiny, made for poor folk like my family. Behind our homes was a dust bowl, a large lot with no grass and soil eroding away - and behind that, across Broadway, were chemical companies and metal works - and behind that, blocked from view, was the great Mississippi River. In front of our homes, set up on a hill, was a huge foreboding convent where spooky nuns in habits walked the grounds. The trees on their land were off limits, but I had 'my' tree.

For my siblings and me, that tree was the only 'wild' we knew, that glorious tree of my memory, as it's been cut down now. For my first eleven years until my family moved about two miles away, that tree was my wilderness, with it's white flower locks of hair, soft green leaves and sturdy thick trunk. One August afternoon, at age 7, I heard an undulating deafening buzz that crescendoed then fizzled out, only to start up again, coming from our tree. Asking my mom what made the tree hum like that, she said, "Big bugs called cicadas are hiding in the leaves, singing." I had no idea what a cicada was, but when I noticed an empty crusty brown shriveled shell thing stuck to the bark, I gasped, literally 'shell-shocked' and pointed to it. Mom said, "That's what the cicada left behind - his shell." "Ew," I grimaced.

Forty years later, I finally saw my first cicada emerge from its shell and transform into one of the awesome invisible buzzers of my childhood, but that was the result of a miracle. Facing the enormity of human brutality as a social and environmental activist had become my life's work, a never-ending 'ew,' and I had suffered from a deep rooted secondary post-traumatic stress, a different kind of shell-shock than the cicada remnant had left me with - and I had to quit that life or be burned up by it. In 2009, seeking solace, I'd discovered birds existed thanks to my mom telling me about some Great Horned Owls nesting nearby - and my life was irrevocably changed as I unshackled myself from my obsession with ending human misery and emerged a full time wandering bird-lover and bard of the marvelous.

Not growing up with field guides, people communing with nature, or even nature documentaries (as close as I got was the TV show "Flipper") I literally had no idea the wild existed all around me. I grew up in the heart of St. Louis City, playing on asphalt, concrete and mowed lawns, not in woods or even parks. At the zoo as a young child, I was taught the insidious notion that the wild was exotic entertainment, something to be gawked at in cages - and only existed free and dangerous in exotic countries. Even as an adult, the wild was an abstraction, something going extinct somewhere far away or a tallgrass prairie or spring I was trying to save in my state, but had never seen or experienced. When I realized that hundreds of species of birds were making due in every crevice of my city, when I finally gazed into their eyes and allowed myself to be overcome by their beauty, I was aghast and enraptured at the same time, aghast that I'd I could have missed this unbelievable magic, enraptured by the wonder of them and all they led me to notice - trees, insects, seasons, the wind, the moon, the entirety of the cosmos unfolding in so many thrilling forms. For the first time in my life, I found peace. Thus began my love affair with the wild; thus began my wild return.

Next installment: Getting Fat On Beauty - Transforming My Anorexic Life

Publicado el miércoles, 21 de septiembre de 2022 a las 10:36 PM por wildreturn wildreturn | 2 comentarios | Deja un comentario