Rutter: Machinations of nature mysterious indeed
Every once in a while, you should shun technology, or least rebuke the idea that science improves anything except medicine.
Then go looking for an antidote to counteract your grim view of human-made improvements.
Luckily, I ran into a bumblebee when that mood enveloped me this week.
My family was one of those that killed everything that made life uncomfortable, which means all vermin, things with eight legs and small mammals that create that awful odor when they die under your porch.
As a consequence when I grew to dad-hood, it always fell to me to kill the domestic infiltrators that someone else wanted dead. I killed without conscience. Some people find this skill necessary in others even if they disavow it in themselves.
As far as mice were concerned, I was sort of the Jack Palance “Jack Wilson” gunslinger in “Shane.” They sent for me in Cheyenne.
But then newsroom colleague David Kraemer came along and he viewed my remorseless tyranny over the lower creatures as “species arrogance.” His justifiably low view of me crystalized when I mocked turning polar bears into cuddly Coke commercials. Polar bears are stone cold remorseless killers and not cute in any way. They will eat you if you give them a chance.
But to Mr. Kraemer’s view, they had as much right to dignity as I did and, come to think of it, they actually had lots more right to respect. They didn’t smoke or leave dirty dishes in the sink.
Thus began my process of slow growth in matters of animals that culminated with a young scream from the other room.
“There’s a giant bug flying around in here!” said the voice. That normally is my summons to arrive and Palance it.
Unable to find a large fly swatter or tennis racket as the scream bellowed ever louder, I lurched for a trusty aerosol can of killer chemicals.
And when I encountered the terrifying flying creature, I sprayed it. Sprayed it good.
It stumbled but did not fall. And then I realized a terrible truth. It was not some evil insect at all.
It was a bumblebee, which comes as close to cosmically miraculous as you’re likely to find. They have something that mimics temper, but only if you mess with them in disrespectful ways.
I had crossed the line.
And the bee was hostile.
Luckily I had not sprayed it with a lethal chemical but only a deodorant dispenser that made it the sweetest-smelling bee in the county. It seemed dopey from the spritz, but otherwise resilient. But it was peeved.
So I found a small clear plastic cup, placed the open end against the bee’s sitting place and waited until it walked indignantly into the cup. Then I slipped a slice of cardboard down the open edge of the cup to trap the bee for the last time.
The bee and I walked to the door; I swept the cardboard away and the little creature flew away fast and determined. As William Wallace might have screamed, “FREEDOM!”
The bee was a tiny brown and gold rocket. Again it provided the magic of four little gyrating wings in flight, when such a skill does not seem scientifically sustainable. Of course, I never quite understood Bernoulli’s Principle of winged flight, either, which means getting on a jetliner is always a mystical phenomenon that defies understanding, too. Go ahead. Explain to a friend how airplanes actually function. Can’t be done. I’ve tried.
As to everything a bee does that sustains vegetables, flowers and all of our human lives generally speaking, they are relentlessly marvelous. They even make honey.
The little bee was free to soar and head for home. I could bestow no greater gift. I was contented. And proud of myself. At one with nature.
The bee sped across the neighbor’s yard, heading south by southwest. The neighbor mutt — a low, loathsome creature — saw the bee just as I saw the mutt. The furry assassin leaped and caught the bee in one gulp as the winged pilgrim fled for home.
Then the dog turned and trotted way as happily as Jack Wilson did after plugging Stonewall Torrey in “Shane.” The dog seemed to be smiling at me with that Jack Palance grin.
If David Kraemer had been there, I would have reminded him that I have reinstated my old view.
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