Nearing the End of a Hot Summer

Lizard Sept 7

Our hot, humid summer is turning brittle around the edges

Mantis July 27

Rabbit July 29

It’s reassuring, really, how fall arrives

Dragonfly July 28

Mockingbirds August 6

Even after the hottest of summers

Mantis July 31

I will miss the months of extravagance

Lantana July 6

Monarch July 21

But not for long

Bee July 17

Because spring is assured, even after the coldest of winters

Bee July 27

Praying Mantises

Praying Mantis July 5

While I am fascinated with all insects, I have a special fondness for praying mantises. It started with Mother, with foggy memories of her passing bewildered mantises into my cupped hands and telling me to release them somewhere safe, somewhere beyond the reach of our hungry chickens.

Praying Mantis Sept 30

It’s possible these memories aren’t real. It’s possible that I began saving praying mantises from the chickens without any prompting from Mother, though it’s the kind of lesson she would have taught.

Praying Mantis July 30

Sadly, our yard is currently without chickens. (Sad for me, at least. The praying mantises probably don’t mind.) With no hungry chickens about, I no longer catch and move mantises when I find them. Instead I crawl after them with my camera — slow motion chases complicated by grass allergies, mosquitoes, and arachnophobia.

Praying Mantis Aug 10

I’m a skeptic when it comes to animal symbolism, but many sources say praying mantises are symbols of patience and stillness, appearing when life has become too busy.

Praying Mantis Aug 10

This summer has seen month after month pass with distractions ranging from minor to major. A series of household repairs. A trio of elderly cats, two in failing health. A new bout of depression and anxiety.

And now the yard is full of praying mantises. More praying mantises than ever before. In every flower bed, on every overhanging branch, even in the hanging baskets.

Praying Mantis Aug 31

Perhaps I’m not such a skeptic after all.

Praying Mantis July 5

Perhaps it’s time to slow down and try a different approach.

Praying Mantis Aug 5

Turning Colder (Arachnophobia Alert!)

Mantis Sept 30

The yard is getting colder and colder, though it’s not cold enough, yet, to use the word winter. In fact, it’s a stretch to use the word cold.

Finch Oct 2

Maybe brisk is a better word. Except, nothing feels brisk. Instead everything feels sleepy and slow. Spider webs ripple in smoke-tinged drafts, and wasps pause for photographs as if posing.

Spider Sept 30

Unknown Wasp Sept 27

Grubs curl sluggishly when disturbed, and I have to go slow with the mower because fall’s chill has dulled the toads’ reflexes.

Grub Oct 12

Toad Sept 1

Jumping spiders retreat higher and higher into trees, searching for safe crevices in which to spin their thick winter nests.

Spider Oct 2

It happens like this every year, and every year I succumb to a listless bout of melancholy.

Which reminds me of a poem by Kay Middleton…

O, October what have you done?

Praying Mantis, September 2013

Last night I found a praying mantis on the kitchen window. As I watched it groom its antennae and feet, I imagined it was using the window as a mirror.

Mantis Sept 26

I have no doubt that clean antennae and feet matter on a functional level, but does some portion of a praying mantis’s experience reflect a sentiment I would call vanity?

Mantis Sept 26

I thought about the mantis off and on all night. Does fall make it anxious? Are these last few weeks of summer, its last few weeks of life, more urgent than all of its previous weeks?

I decided to look for the mantis again today, starting with the flower beds closest to the kitchen window. When I found it (or a similarly sized mantis) the situation was decidedly urgent.

Mantis Sept 27

At first I thought a mantis had caught one of the yard’s few remaining dragonflies. Then I realized it had caught another praying mantis. Or rather, the two insects had caught each other.

When I approached with my camera, they retreated to the underside of the ginger lily’s leaf.

Mantis Sept 27

The battle took place in slow motion, a strained embrace of stamina, strength, and will. Both sustained significant injuries:  the larger mantis mauled its opponent’s bent and broken wing, while the smaller mantis locked one barbed foreleg over a vulnerable eye.

Mantis Sept 27

Gradually, the smaller mantis extracted its damaged wing, and it seemed on the verge of gaining an advantage.

Mantis Sept 27

But the larger mantis broke its opponent’s grip and disabled the smaller mantis by biting through the major joints of both forelegs.

Mantis Sept 27

It was a brutal way to end the battle, precursor to an even more brutal death for the defeated. I didn’t stay to watch the victor dine, but when I returned a half-hour later, little remained of the smaller mantis.

Mantis Sept 27

I’m fond of praying mantises. They are among my favorite subjects to photograph. But this encounter? This is not why I love praying mantises, and I didn’t enjoy taking these photos. I don’t know why I watched so long.

In particular, I regret that my presence changed the course of their struggle. Except, it’s possible my presence in the yard changes the course of every struggle. Perhaps my camera affects everything I photograph, and my eyes affect everything I see.

Mantis Sept 27

Insects in The Yard (Arachnophobia Alert!)

These images were selected for various posts in September and October, but fell short somewhere along the way. Some posts changed course, mid-process, and the photos were no longer relevant. Sometimes the photos were redundant or too tangential, sometimes they simply didn’t “fit”.

Whatever their failings, they’ve been collecting in a “Miscellaneous Insects” folder on my desktop. Today seemed like a good day to post them, before I sentence them to the External Hard Drive Archive…