Friday, May 8, 2009

Friday Five: A Bug's Life

Sophia, over at RevGalBlogPals, writes: "As I was walking the beach today, I was surprised and delighted to find it swarming with ladybugs...This got me thinking about spiritual insect trivia: Did you know that medieval mystics and theologians esteemed the bee for its dedicated work and transformation of ordinary ingredients into sweetness? That Spider Woman is an important creator Goddess to many Native American tribes? Or that Francis of Assisi was reminded of Jesus not only by lambs being led to slaughter, but also by worms (think "I am a worm and no man" from the Psalms)-- so he picked them up and took them out of stomping-vulnerable spots?!
In that spirit, this week's Friday Five is a magical mystery tour through God's garden of creepy crawlies!

1. Ladybugs or ladybirds? Pillbugs or roly-polys? Jesus bugs or water skeeters? Any other interesting regional or familial name variations?

Wow. I have never heard water-skaters called Jesus bugs, but it sure conjures up an amusing mental image! We called pillbugs "potato bugs" where I grew up, but I'm not sure why, as I don't recall them doing much damage to the potatoes.

2. Stomp on spiders, carry them outside, or peacefully co-exist?
Definitely no stomping. I've heard there's an African saying, "kill a spider and it will rain." No matter how much I want rain, I can't bring myself to do it. Since we do have at least one poisonous spider variety here, (the brown recluse), I regard spiders with a healthy respect and try to simply keep out of their way. Occasionally I'll usher one out of the house with the help of a glass jar.

3. Favorite insect?
I have always had a deep affection for bumblebees. (As a wee bairn, I kept a mason jar laying on its side tucked into the woodpile. It was my "bumblebee hospital." After heavy rains, I'd look for waterlogged bumbles and tuck them in, on a bed of grass, to dry.) People who study aerodynamics say that, according to their science, these creatures SHOULD NOT BE ABLE to fly. With their soft, round, velvety bumbling bodies and undersized wings, bumblebees are one of my favourite Godly "proofs."

4. Least favorite?
Ticks. Eeew, eeew, eeew. I know God has a reason for every element of Creation, but ticks are the one type of creature that unfailing appalls, disgusts, and disturbs me. Their presence is subtle, their movements are difficult to detect, and the diseases they carry are daunting and debilitating. Besides that, anything that can attach itself, suck your blood over the course of several days, and swell up enormously before falling off and laying there, too engorged to scamper away? Folks, that's just plain gross.

5. Got any good bug stories to share?
In New England and the Canadian Maritime Provinces, gardening season coincides with the Season of Black Flies. My favourite Scots Gaelic textbook, (written by an Isle of Lewis woman who moved to Canada), makes use of Black Fly Season as a "teachable moment." There's an entire lesson about these tiny, swarming, biting insects. The lesson is based around a conversation in which a girl curses and hurls invectives at them, addressing the black fly as "mhic an uilc" (son of evil) among other things. It's a very popular lesson among beginning Gaelic students in our region!
Folksinger Wade Hemsworth wrote a great song about these pests, too. It tells the tale of a Northwoods survey crew worker. According to one verse,
"It was black fly, black fly everywhere,
A-crawlin' in your whiskers, a-crawlin' in your hair,
A-swimmin' in the soup and a-swimmin' in the tea;
O the devil take the black fly and let me be!"

They ARE devilish little things, and they swarm something terrible. A few years ago I got tired of slathering potions all over myself every time I wanted to take a walk in the woods or tend the garden, so I sent away for one of those mesh outfits you pull on over your clothes to keep the bugs off. All my friends made fun of me, said it made me look like some space alien or something, but I just smiled back through the mesh as they swatted and scratched and cursed. There are few sounds sweeter than the angry, futile buzz of a black fly hitting that mesh and failing to get in!

Bonus question: share a poem, song, quotation, etc. about insects.

Here are two quotes from the book, "Pilgrim at Tinker Creek," written by one of my best-beloved earthy mystics, Annie Dillard:

"I have often noticed that these things, which obsess me, neither bother nor impress other people even slightly. I am horribly apt to approach some innocent at a gathering and, like the ancient mariner, fix him with a wild, glitt'ring eye and say, 'Do you know that in the head of the caterpillar of the ordinary goat moth there are 228 separate muscles?' The poor wretch flees. I am not making chatter; I meant to change his life."
--Annie Dillard

"Look at practically anything--the coot's feet, the mantis' face, a banana, the human ear--and see that not only did the creator create everything, but he [sic] is apt to create anything. He'll stop at nothing, There is no one standing over evolution with a blue pencil to say, 'Now, that one, there, is absolutely ridiculous and I won't have it'...welcome aboard. A generous spirit signs on this motley crew." --Annie Dillard

(All images taken on my farm / copyright Mainecelt 2009)


Barbara B. said...

I love the idea of your bumblebee hospital!!
And I know I'd rather look like a space alien than continually lather up with lotion and/or swat all day!

Beautiful pictures too!

altar ego said...

I read somewhere that "bounce" fabric softener sheets will keep biting things at bay. I actually took one with me on my last walk through the woods, and I came back unbitten!

Jane said...

wonderful writing - I love bumblebees too
have a great weekend

Sophia said...

Lovely pictures. And I love the bumblebee hospital!

river song said...

I like bumblee hospital, too, and I love your long, thoughtful play (but you're on the other coast). For the moment I'd forgotten about ticks and potato bugs, but not about cockroaches since I still see a very occasional one here in southern California. Great images...have a blessed rest of the week!

Jan said...

Your bumblebee hospital is so cute--you should write a children's story about it! We're having a drought in south TX, so maybe I'd better start stomping on spiders for the hope of rain. . . .

SingingOwl said...

I love bumblebees too! They are fascinating. Okay, I'm adding to my "NOT part of God's good creation" list:

1. cockroach
2. mosquito
3. tic

Ewww! Tics are indeed totally disgusting.

revkjarla said...

what is the green bug in the picture?

yes. LOVE bumblebees. hate ticks, too. totally with you on that. I do confess to flushing them down the toilet. They seem to like the water, though.

I hear black flies are bad on Cape Ann in June. Do you know, is that true?

Also, just wondering, do you play the harp, too?

MaineCelt said...

RevKjarla-- (love your NPR name!)

The green bug in the top photo is a June bug. I found it in a small bare patch among the wild strawberries. (Don't tell anyone, but this particular June bug was actually photographed in May!)

Yes, Cape Ann is in the thick of black fly country. Best time to visit is when the temperature is below 50 degrees F., or in a stiff breeze.

I don't play the harp, but at least half a dozen of my friends do. I sing, play the mountain dulcimer, and make dreadful but vaguely tune-like noises on the fiddle.

zorra said...

Maine June bugs are much prettier than the brown swarming beetles we call June bugs here in Texas. They show up in April, and their big white grubs eat the roots of whatever plant (usually the lawn) they can find!

I love the bumblebee hospital, too.

Anonymous said...

great play!! i equate ticks and mosquitoes when i wonder what god was thinking...
thanks for the comments on my blog - any other tidbits you would like to offer, i would like to read. i am going with a group from the seminary so i don't know how structured our time will be. we're staying on iona for the first four nights, then in town with different members of the community, then going to northumbria for the last three nights.