All spring, I have been bringing praying mantises into the greenhouse. I find their egg sacs in the ditch row. They are easy to spot, little orbs riding high in the tall, dried stems of last year’s most successful weeds. I snap the sticks off and prop them in the corners of all my greenhouses. I do not know how voracious these insects are, but they are listed among the beneficial, the insect rangers who keep the injurious populations from getting out of hand.The babies begin to hatch. They are true babies in the sense that they emerge in the miniature as wholly recognizable praying mantises. This fellow is not much larger than a mosquito and as mesmerizing as the adult, very alien looking, but graceful and at home hidden among the branches and sticks.
Equally otherworldly is the common toad. I have a family—at least I think they are a family—living in the high tunnel greenhouse. Most often I’d see them when I watered, but last morning, while cutting lettuce, I knelt, reached my hand for the loose leaf, and there, nestled among the frilly leaves, was a nice, plump toad. It did not flee my interruption, but instead let me lift its tiny chin and look hard at its magical, comical features.
A common refrain in our household is: “How anything survives at all amazes me.” I watch a colony of ants get their wings. From my porch stair, they feebly take off. The wind is strong, and they are quickly taken skyward, where a squadron of barn swallows is annihilating the dispersing colony. Were it not for the elated sounds of the swallows as they roll through the airspace, the feeding frenzy would seem unfortunate. As it is, no doubt, for the ants.
The barn swallows are nearly done building their nests, and the robins are already fledging their first. The obvious training lasts not much more than a day. Were it not for the short tail, I might not notice the more vulnerable juvenile.
Because there is such an intense seasonal uptick in human activity too, it is easy to be distracted by the big stuff going on. Big cars, big houses; the drumming at Sagg Main, due to the wind, was especially big and loud. All of it tends to drown out the reason your ancestors settled here.
The first fireworks; some desperate nightclub throws open its doors. There are young people by the carload, girls riding halfway out the sunroof. Graduates?