Friday, August 17, 2012

It's a Feature, Not a Bug

If you grow up in California, you have a certain affection for earthquakes. There is something civilized about their unpredictibility. They don't menace you for hours and days ahead of time, they just show up and a few seconds later they're done. They can be ruinous, of course, dangerous and destructive and devasting, and I don't mean to minimize that. But they're ours. I find this applies to wherever you're from. Midwesterners can take a tornado in stridetornados you can plan forbut an earthquake will loom like a threat and arrive like a sucker punch. Which is to say: the familiar, even the familiar threat, is better than whatever they've got over there.

And what goes for natural disasters, I think, goes for whatever is poisonous or venomous, too. Black Widow spiders are never exactly a good thing to encounter, but you accept them as part of the woodpile if that's where you live. Move to a state with scorpions, though, and venom lurking in tiny bodies just seems like bad manners.

Objectively, then, the Cicada Killer Wasp is an attractive specimen. It has the familiar black-and-yellow warning stripes and waggling antennae of your usual yellow jacket, but on a body nearly the size of the first two joints of my thumb. It's as if you could order insects in the large print edition. And I'm sure that if I grew up with them, I'd be telling you about how handy that is, that nothing that big sneaks up on you, that when you leave a drink on a picnic table they don't climb into your soda and drown without you knowing about it. I'd tell you that it's only the females that have stingers, and I might even claim I could tell the difference without having two side-by-side for comparison. I like that Texas version of myself. I want the shock and awe of this place to feel like it's mine. Which maybe is why even now, months later, I still have a pair of softball-sized hail remnants picked off our lawn, two furious little blobs still impressive at half their original size, which we keep in our freezer and show off to out-of-town guests.

1 comment:

Club Narwhal said...

after the northridge quake of (i think) 1994-ish, we spent most of our recess period playing "light as a feather, stiff as a board" and feeling both satisfied and terrified when aftershocks rumbled beneath us, thinking that we had somehow awakened the spirits below. also, at eight or nine, i was the one who was sent out to kill black widows in our pool area. it didn't seem that dangerous back then...