I don’t want to jump to conclusions, but I’m not sure I’m as afraid of wasps as I used to be. I’ve been pleasantly surprised at my behavior around them these last few weeks as I know with their season ending, they’re becoming more aggressive, but their buzz hasn’t sent me running at full speed as it used to. I’ve been more observant than jumpy when they make their way into my space.
For example, the other afternoon I found myself in that dreary haze of needing to do a bunch of stuff and knowing I had no time to get any of it done. I had a headache from starting and stopping task after task and couldn’t concentrate on anything anyway, so I made myself a cup of coffee and sat outside on my front porch. I had no book, no piece of writing to fiddle with. My plan was simply to sit a spell.
There is a tree in our front yard that turns golden yellow before releasing its leaves to winter. I love listening to its hush in the summertime. No matter how still the day seems, I can always hear the leaves swaying and rustling. The movement eases me. Listening to this tree reminds me there’s always something going on, and I like that.
Two years ago, a few days shy of winter, a wasp nest fell from one of the tree’s branches. I wonder now if the discovery of the nest was the beginning of the end of my phobia, because I think of the nest often, but with intrigue and not creeped-out fear. The tree that brings me shelter with its noise also provided shelter for something I consider pure evil. I can’t say I had this thought two years ago, but now, thinking about it, I think I was struck by the mystery of the tree: There’s always something else going on, something more to see, and perhaps no matter who we are and what we’ve done, what all of us desire is a place to go where we are safe.
The afternoon I took my coffee on the porch, my oldest daughter, Hadley, joined me. I was happy for her company, though I felt slightly anxious about what to say to my teenage daughter — both of us tend to treat each other like neither of us knows a thing about anything. On that day, though, I didn’t want to mess it up. We sat in silence for a while, and that’s when I saw the wasp — all black — hovering near our defunct doorbell and then crawling inside it.
What I’d normally do is call and text Jesse, to let him know we have wasps and possibly a hornet living in our home. “Infestation” and “plague” are words I’d use to convince him to stop what he was doing at work and come home to fight the good fight.
No such urge came over me that day. I watched, sipped my coffee, and talked with Hadley while the crows in the trees moved the leaves around frantically and cawed easily with one another. On that day I was determined to listen and to talk about whatever Hadley wanted to discuss. No matter if I was afraid. No matter if I didn’t understand.
Eventually, the crows were quiet, or maybe they flew away, but what was left was a light wind weaving its way between Hadley and me. The wasp went in and out of the noiseless doorbell, and David Gray’s Please Forgive Me played over the stereo from the house. We could hear it through the screen door — another feat. I’d never keep that door open knowing a wasp was so close.
“Help me out here / all my words are falling short / and there’s so much I want to say.” Gray’s voice sang through the screen door, past Hadley and I, to the tree overhead. Maybe the words settled themselves amongst the tree’s branches, or maybe they went where the wasp nest used to be. Maybe they were caught by a leaf ready to turn golden yellow before it falls, and then seeping itself into the ground, offering itself up so something else can grow.
For this piece, I attempted to use metaphor to address growth and change as they pertain to my daughter Hadley, myself, and our relationship. The wasps — while I do fear them with an unadulterated (some might suggest childish) fear — also represent what I do not understand. This transfers to my adolescent daughter and how I relate to her. Am I terrified of her? No, but I do feel apprehensive and trepidatious at times. I want to have a good relationship with Hadley, but I don’t always know how. Or I do know how and make mistakes. Or let my fear get in the way.
Using the wasps helps me say what I want to say in a more interesting and perhaps hopefully universal way, but it also allows me to step away from specifics and keep some things private between Hadley and me.
The tree also is a metaphor. Here, I am using it to explore shelter, protection, and mystery. I tried to tie the two metaphors together in the last sentence by showing that my relationship with my daughter will take falls and missteps, but that all is not lost, and we have plenty of time and space to grow again.
So for this week, try out a metaphor in your writing. Write a poem, a blog post, or even an excerpt from an essay you’re working on and drop it in the comments below.
Thank you to everyone who participated in last week’s poetry prompt. Here’s one from Richard Maxson that we enjoyed:
Like another Mary, my mother fled
with her children and a simple man
with hands cut and scarred
making lace from glass.
In Barcelona, we stood
in the shadows of Sagrada Familia,
its web of symbols, like wet drippings
of a sand castle for its spires.
Too young then to realize the sadness
frozen in the cowled heads,
the toil and beauty of Gaudi’s
impossible basilica, I remain
captured with them, listening
to the mourning doves coo.
Listening for the silent Christ to speak
his lines of no escapement;
listening to the sound of machines
drowning a vision; a baby born, simply
a dream of hope, buried in monuments,
and this photograph of a family lost in time.
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