Sampling a Smaller World

During my daybreak walk, I heard a noise above me. Toward the top of a nearby utility pole was a big transformer plus the usual assortment of wires extending in all four directions.

Perched wing to wing on the wires near the pole was a bunch of blackbirds. I stopped to take a closer look. They must not have considered me a threat because none flew away. I did a rough count; about  seventy-five of them had gathered there to chatter among themselves.

“Hey, Blackie, how ya’ doin’ this morning?”

“Oh, hi Feathers. I don’t know. Too early to tell. Just left the nest and it was all I could do to flap my way over here.”

When a lone blackbird arrived from the northwest, about a third of all the birds took flight, wheeled in a tight circle, and returned to the wires, some to where they had been before. Others landed wherever there was vacant space. They resumed their chattering, maybe their way of greeting a friend or welcoming a stranger.

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While sitting on the long step in front of our front door, I saw an unusually large spider with a black fuzzy body and shiny black legs. I bent down for a closer look and was startled to see that more than half its body was covered with at least a dozen baby spiders.

Our five-year-old daughter and younger son came out the door, took one look, and with sudden fear, drew back. “Daddy,” she asked, “are you going to kill it?”

“Hey, come closer,” I answered. “I want to show you something.” As they cautiously peeked over my shoulder, I explained to them that what they were seeing was a sight that even I had never seen before.

For lack of a better explanation, I told them that no matter where momma spider went, she insisted on taking her babies along. To kill her would be a senseless act. After all, she and her babies weren’t inside where we might get in each other’s way, but outside where they belonged. I said that, not with a weepy heart, but as a sensitive somebody being sensible.

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For more than ten years, we roamed thousands of miles of rivers in our cabin cruiser, most all of it at a speed of about six miles per hour. In the pilothouse, two side doors opened out onto the deck. With them open, and that was most of the time, we were greeted with fresh air and sounds of nature. Sometimes, more than that entered the boat.

The first time a wasp flew inside, I grabbed a fly swatter only to have logic yell at me to not destroy, but to simply watch.

The wasp took a couple of turns in the pilothouse, then flew down the steps and out of sight toward the forward cabin. I slowed the boat and went below in time to see the wasp finish a wide sweep, enter the bathroom, and land on the sink to sample a drop of water.

Then it flew back up the steps and through the pilothouse to the salon where it circled the kitchen on one side of the space, then the seating area on the other side. Apparently not finding anything to inspect, it flew back toward the pilothouse where I expected it to fly back outside. Instead, and much to my surprise, it landed on the steering wheel only inches away from my hands. After twitching its feelers and giving me the eye for what seemed like the longest time, it flew back through the door and into the great outdoors.

That was the first of several almost identical incidents, one happening while we had a guest couple aboard. Quickly reacting to the situation, they handed me a newspaper with which to make the kill. I waved it away, and with a smile, told them to sit and watch the show.

After it was all over, our friends still weren’t convinced I should’ve allowed such a dangerous (to them) situation. They were, however, fascinated with the wasp’s behavior.

To summarize my thoughts in human terms, the blackbirds were chirping their way through a morning visit in the same manner we gather for coffee and conversation.

Momma spider was on a mission and took her babies along so she could keep a watchful eye.

The wasps came aboard and took the complete tour because they were curious as to what we were and what goodies they might find onboard.

The lesson for us: Life isn’t only about our achievements and successes. It’s about everything.