Horrible, horrible freedom!

Vesper

Apparently all this attention has gone to the yellowjackets’ heads, and they’ve started holding meetings — or possibly very boring parties — out in the open. A huge mass of them was situated right at accidentally-bump-with-your-knee height next to the nest, keeping up a sort of low buzzing mutter but mercifully never really moving much once they landed. A little later the whole lot of them was gone. Not for good, mind you, just out of the public eye.

Now, here’s the thing about me. I don’t like swarms. I think that’s a natural human reaction. Things that tend to swarm are things you tend not to want to encounter swarms of. It’s the reflex Crichton was presumably aiming for with that book about the nanobots (I won’t comment on whether or not he hit the mark there). It’s part of why sci-fi universes love to use nameless insect-like hordes of people or machines for their bad-guy armies and dystopian cautionary tales. It’s definitely why that video of the cute fuzzy blob suddenly resolving itself into about a bazillion little daddly longlegs has such a phenomenally high NOPE NOPE NOPE factor regardless of how you feel about encountering a solitary arachnid. What I’m saying is, I have a Rubbermaid container of roaches next to the head of my bed and I can hear them chewing in the middle of the night and I’m okay with that, I feed them scraps and pick them up with my bare hands, but when it comes to swarms of bugs that KILL THEM ALL switch flips on quite readily.

This isn’t actually about the yellowjackets, though I wasn’t a big fan of that get-together either. This is about the ants that materialized on the not-quite-empty-enough pudding container I set in another container on the floor for just a little too long. My old place got ants sometimes under these conditions — early fall, hard rain — but they came into the living room and never, ever, ever made it into the bedroom. Here, they come in through the bedroom. When it’s getting dark and you can’t quite tell whether that’s just the pattern again or if the carpet’s actually moving…. Needless to say, much shrieking and hand-flailing ensued. Followed by the sudden calm that apparently comes with premeditated killing, as I instantly threw out my hopes of getting to bed early to sleep off my cold, and headed straight to the nearest not-closed store to purchase a new bottle of ant poison at whatever price and quantity was necessary. (For what it’s worth, I did have ant traps in every room, but they’re next to useless in my experience with these guys).

Also, I understand that as a grocery-store cashier you’re supposed to greet all your customers with the same spiel regardless, but when it’s after 10PM on a Friday and a disheveled-looking person is buying ant poison and NOTHING ELSE, a pleasantly bland inquiry about how their day is going seems borderline malicious.

I also had some leftover diatomaceous earth, which is what I sprinkled around the point of ingress when the ants would swarm in the old place, but I have no idea where they’re actually coming in here. From the sorry state of the baseboard and windows, it could pretty much be anywhere. But I dutifully sprinkled it around the most likely edges — feeling a bit (as always) like I was warding off demons or something — then took a moment to be wildly thankful that they lacked either the ability or inclination to climb into the roach bin and start stealing goodies from there, and called it a night. Needless to say, I still have a cold. I also have shamefully little remorse about my mass ant-killing spree.

Anyhow, in the meantime I’ve been working on my less-ominous dragon-wasp, which wound up taking very little time. In part because I didn’t bother doing that good a job and it’s a small picture, but also because my pencils are all cool and organized, and I found myself some good Music For Tedious Coloring-in Jobs. Glowing praise I received for it: “It looks like plastic! Well — what I mean is, it looks like a toy. That’s a good thing!” I’m sure? Anyhow, she’s finished, so on to the next one.

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And all heads turned….

QueenBee

I still don’t know where my moth-lady is, for what it’s worth. I also don’t know where 80% of my music CDs are (which is significant since I only tend to rip a few of my favorites, and use the CD itself when I want to listen to the whole album) — I held back Ceremonials, Lost & Gone Forever, and Life in Cartoon Motion so they never went in storage, but everything else is … hopefully not lost and gone forever? But it’s definitely somewhere inconvenient right now, along with the backup disc of my olllld photo files, one of the smaller wastebaskets, the white casserole dish, and Howl’s Moving Castle. I’m beginning to feel slightly cross with my storage unit, as it’s yielded no shortage of broken watches, old stuffed animals, and used code packets for online textbook supplements in the meantime.

I’m also a bit cross with my patio for being so hospitable to yellowjackets, and with yellowjackets for making me very nervous to walk out onto the patio while eating a peach. I’ve had some rather unpleasant past experiences with yellowjackets and peaches, as well. I know the proverbial winter is coming, so I might as well let them be; but I’m still moving in, and having to swing large pieces of furniture in awkward arcs to avoid smashing into the outer fence post/wasp factory and bringing striped yellow wrath down upon my house is getting a bit tiresome.

I will admit that they’re pretty photogenic. The bold warpaint looks nice against the pale wood, and there’s nearly always at least one little face poking out from the knothole, keeping watch. What’s a bit unsettling is that they do actually keep watch, and if my camera lens gets to close they’ll turn their little heads sharply to look at it. That’s when one calls it a day, photography-wise. Doesn’t mean I can’t draw, though, and of course when I draw it always turns to dragons in the end.

This one’s not a wyvern, for once, because it’s based on a wasp — six legs to begin with, and wings to boot. I’m erasing the pencil as I go, more studiously than usual, because that yellow is a royal pain when it comes to picking up any smudge of leftover color underneath. Speaking of royal, the yellowjacket that inspired this drawing looked to me like it might be the queen. That, or she was just a plus-sized lady, but she definitely stood out next to the others, and it looked like she was holding a big wad of wasp-paper like it was super important (which I guess it is when your home is made of paper inside, but … details).

I don’t know what I’ll make the dragon queen’s object into, though it probably won’t be a gob of mush like the yellowjacket’s. Realism has its limits, and we’ve already gone and made a dragon here. Dragons do like their treasure though, so I’ll think of something…

 

Lost my dog; love, Caroline…

Crate

Well, this isn’t a drawing at all. It would be quite impressive if it were, or if I could convince you it were — but somehow I don’t see good odds for that.

As it is, it’s not particularly impressive (or finished, for that matter), but it’s worlds better than having my worldly possessions (or at least the artistic chapter thereof) spread about helter-skelter on a damp carpet. Yes, damp — I may set aside another day to complain about that, but for now suffice to say that it’s damp and it’s totally not my fault.

I picked up (and by “picked up” I mean “found while searching for other things on Craigslist and ultimately went to Des Moines to purchase”) some ancient wooden milk crates that frankly look like tiny treasure chests, and now I’m working on making them respectable. They’re the slightly-irregular cheap kind, as opposed to the strapping young pretty ones that could still potentially crate milk if they really wanted to, so I’ve had to take great care. Well, take great care or shave big chunks of milk crate off here and there — which is to say, there are several big chunks missing from my milk crates now.

I had to snip out some of the wire caging in the middle so various objects (pencils and paper here, seven seasons of Buffy and some music CDs in another) would fit decently, then I had to wrap everything in three-dollar Walmart duct tape so there weren’t hideous rusty sharp bits sticking out all over. Duct-tape-wrapping, by the way, is a skill that takes a few (equally hideous-looking) tries to perfect. The second crate looks worlds better. Except for the fact that it’s returning to the earth as we speak; I swear it wasn’t quite this crumbly when I bought it.

I still need to cannibalize some cardboard from the back of a notepad or something to make proper dividers for the pencils — my shamefully large collection of tiny pencil nubbins (most of which, perhaps not surprisingly, are for the color black) has its own cheap plastic hotel cup to keep it from spilling everywhere, but the others still need a little more structure lest they slip through the grating. I should probably also get something to replace the flattened-out 15-cent paper folder that’s serving as the bottom of the crate, and the ship-in-a-bottle-style disassembled and reassembled granola-bar box that’s making the “floor” of the pencil side higher than the paper side.

WAIT WAIT WAIT THIS MEANS I STILL HAVE GRANOLA BARS. I just dumped them out in a basket so I could use the box.

Time for a midnight snack.

(and no, my name’s not Caroline and I have no dog — but The Milkman by Carol Foskett Cordsen is adorable and you should read it)

Romping with the bumble beezes….

Fly

I don’t even know where my regular-sized sketch pads and blank paper are, this blurry little guy will have to do for now. I found a Blue-eyed Darner lying on the sidewalk on my way home the other day, upside-down but with legs wiggling weakly. I didn’t see much hope for it, but I brought it home anyhow so I could watch it for a while and its final moments wouldn’t involve being smashed under someone’s bicycle wheel.

I actually took a photo of him on this same paper, but it didn’t turn out fabulously — it was a gloomy day and I didn’t want to pester him much. So I decided to draw this today, though it’s going off memory and thus woefully inaccurate (I started out with one wing size and switched to another halfway through, and I think it’s pretty obvious that I’ve given up on drawing insects’ legs properly; even knowing how they bend and where they’re attached I can’t seem to make them stick out in the right directions). It started to rain so I left him on a maple sapling, high up but under cover. When I looked out a bit later he was gone, and I choose not to speculate as to what happened to him.

I can’t recall whether I mentioned the yellowjacket nest on the patio yet. It certainly makes getting in and out of the building from the back exciting, especially when you’re holding a piece of fruit or can of soda. I’ve never had one (of these) approach me aggressively or mob my food yet, but some childhood traumas involving abandoned pear and apple trees have left me about as wary as I am with small “friendly” dogs.

On a somewhat more upbeat and less invertebrate note, it’s been good weather for outdoor entertainment, between rain showers at least. I went to Guardians of the Galaxy (oh, don’t get me started on Gamora) yesterday at the drive-in, and today an outdoor production of Much Ado about Nothing today at … the playground. What can I say, it’s one of those towns where you can watch Shakespeare on a jungle gym for free. Much Ado is pretty well suited to this, I’d say, since Joss Whedon managed to film the whole thing at his (admittedly good-sized) house. No forests or oceans or weird donkey heads required here.There *was* a saxophone player, though.

After intermission a tiny little girl came over to try to use the equipment, observed the Watch’s lively discussion for a moment, then wandered over to the line of lawn chairs and sat down to enjoy this perplexing playground production. A little boy actually managed to use the slide right before the play started. Naturally, most of the performers ended up using the slide as well, since there are a lot of “balcony” scenes and it’s hard to climb down a ladder in a party dress. …It really has been an interesting weekend so far.

You should never shut yourself up in a wardrobe….

blog…But moving into a new place without internet is very nearly the same thing, as it turns out. I used my internet connection for virtually nothing other than staying in touch, but on the other hand I used virtually nothing else for staying in touch. I may have to become a hermit, which will be inconvenient but affordable.

The public library, bless it, is the one place I can always get a work-and-social-updates fix without feeling obligated to buy overpriced pastry, but (as I know all too well) it will be closing soon so we can haul its contents back into its fantabulous renovated quarters. It will, as just noted, be fantabulous; but not until mid-September. I’ll have to muddle through till then unless I decide to shell out enough to pay for interwebs … it’s really more a matter of principle I suppose, since I’m just so used to having it for free.

Speaking of the new digs and things I miss (or will miss) from the library, today’s drawing is courtesy of of a bit of nostalgia from our old library building combined with some novelty from my new residence. First off, I’m not used to having a spare room. I’m used to having some spare room, on the floor, between the piles of junk (which were mostly actually books and clean drawing paper and things so NOT REALLY JUNK, OKAY?), but not an entire room that I don’t use for any particular day-to-day task. Since it feels odd to say, I’ve taken to calling it Spare Oom, in the manner of Mr. Tumnus. 

The second part of this involves a small mysterious closet in the old library (spoiler: It was actually the book drop — except when it was a magical portal, of course), that had at one point borne the whimsical but appropriate label, “To Narnia.” Thus, in the manner of workplace argot, the drop closet became the Narnia closet, or simply Narnia, to many of us, even after the hand-printed sign had long since departed. It only seemed fitting to pay a small, rather obscure homage to it with my own Spare Oom … particularly as I keep getting confused by the warren of doors and hallways and will benefit from some signage.

There’s not much else to say at the moment, I suppose, at least none that will interest a stranger. The gecko survived the move, thanks largely to the help of a friend who hosted his ginormous aquarium in her home while the gecko subsisted grumpily in a small plastic storage tub. (He also live briefly and — shh — secretly in the bottom drawer of the hotel room I stayed in between residences, as it was much larger and gave him some room to stretch his little lizard legs.) As various other items of furniture didn’t fare so fabulously in storage, I had at least some measure of peace knowing that his glass palace was unharmed.

I feel like I have to explain to people that I come from the north part of town when I go walking around my new neighborhood. “We don’t have animals there, you see,” I picture myself saying. It’s not true, and it is. We have sparrows, and crows, and somewhat incongruous barn swallows, and once in a while you see a squirrel.There was a resident rabbit that somehow managed to be a juvenile every year; so, clearly not the same rabbit, but always just one, perhaps inheriting the territory. (I know rather little about cottontails, I’ll admit.)

There are trees down here, trees plural, not just the last sad basswood clinging to survival as the carpenter ants work steadily toward its rotting heart, arching over the streets in a canopy of shade, and the squirrels need hardly touch the ground. There are rabbits everywhere. A squirrel lay down — LAY DOWN — in the middle of the sidewalk and blocked my path, staring at me with mild curiosity. Down a bit further, where I lived until the age of nine (across from the meadow — oh, the lovely flooded meadow, but that’s another day’s story), robins stare at me with naked disbelief as I, this two-legged wingless wannabe, tramp behind sleepy houses through their personal worm-farms. They do not fly away until I’ve nearly trampled them.

I’m less enchanted with the dogs, of course. In my pet-free building there are four of them, as far as I can tell from the barking. I passed eight on my way to a cafe on Main Street and back — five barking madly, two off-leash, one well-behaved and under control. I’m not a great fan of dogs on a good day, and while I tolerate them, I’ve been bitten enough as a child to scoff at “she’s friendly, don’t worry!” We shall have to see, I think, about the dogs.