Sunday, September 21, 2014

Sinister Beauty

Virgil speaks much of bees ("little Romans" he calls them, for their diligence and loyalty) but says nothing at all about wasps-- which is a shame because their biography is at least as illustrious, and frankly more dramatic.  I might write a treatise on bees but I would stage a drama about the wasp.

As summer slides into fall, tribes of husky bees flirt sedulously with the goldenrod and the dwindling vetch and yarrow, with the first surge of aster, in the strips and interstices along the East River. Buttery-banded bees, some almost milky, others orange-lacquered, displaying the hive's livery with brilliant abdominal intarsia.

Now, over the bee-swarms, in looping caracoles sails the wasp: onyx and cobalt blur.  An emissary from the distant blue, from across the wide water I think.  Rebecca Solnit, in A Field Guide To Getting Lost, speaks of "the blue of distance," the "color of there seen from here, the color of where you are not."  The wasp is a piece of that deep-blue distance bringing itself to me, self-embodied emotional longing made visible, a needle-slice of the far Faerie horizon detaching itself and flying right to my doorstep.

The wasp is a member of either the Chalybion or the Chlorion genus, a marauder whose daintily trailing legs and slender form belie the venom within.  They hunt crickets, grasshoppers and katydids, paralyzing them in underground burrows as hosts for their larvae.  (Annie Dillard's reflections in Pilgrim at Tinker Creek on the parasitical nature of wasps haunt me:  "What if you were an inventor and you made ten percent of your inventions in such a way that they could only work by harassing, disfiguring, or totally destroying the other ninety percent?  These things are not well enough known.").   Faerie is no paradise.

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