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Posts Tagged ‘ants’

I saw my first palmetto bug a couple of weeks ago while in Augusta, GA. The foul creature scurried from under the screen door, across the floor, and to a corner of the RV. After the initial screech, I  fumbled for something (anything) with which to kill this giant cousin of a cockroach. Without fly swatter, household insecticide, husband, or faithful black-mouthed cur nearby — I resorted to cornering the palmetto bug with a broom handle, and then, dousing it with multiple squirts from my Skinsensations Insect Repellent.

 By the time husband and Sandy the Black-Mouthed Cur finally returned from their walk, the palmetto bug appeared to be in the last stage of a 10 minute wriggly-leg death. With a swift stomp, husband put the insect out of its misery, and all returned to normal. Or so it seemed. But in my mind, there were more palmetto bugs lurking in the shadows, under the RV’s couch, behind the shampoo bottle in the RV’s shower, and in dozens of other nooks. And those skulking palmetto bugs had witnessed my assault on their brother, and were now plotting their revenge.

Now, home at Wood’s Edge in the outskirts of The Shire, I am still uneasy. Stinkbugs, large black ants, box elder bugs, water bugs, crickets, and other six-legged creepers seem to be everywhere. They climb on the window screens, rush in the garage, and try to sneak inside the house every time a door opens. I’m concerned that a stray palmetto bug (or 2) has hitchhiked a ride north on the RV and spread the word. Now, the local insects have been alerted to my murderous ways and watch me with growing intensity…

People always ask me where I get the ideas for my stories — I usually answer, “Life.” In this particular case, I could answer, “Palmetto Bugs!”

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 The blueberry bushes in the front of my house are producing their usual abundant berries, but I’m not getting many to freeze. What’s going on here?

In the past, the animals and I have had an understanding. No one gets greedy and everyone enjoys the blueberries. The cardinals, mockingbirds, Northern Orioles, robins and assorted other birds gobble their share of the sweet blue-purple globes from the bushes. A chipmunk or two scurry about grabbing a bit of fruit for their lunch. Three large crows gather many of the fallen berries for their meals. The ants clean up the rest of the ground berries, and the bees take care of those still clinging to the bushes that are torn open and oozing juice.

I still have plenty of blueberries to pick and enjoy fresh, and there are lots left to gather and freeze. In fact, I usually invite friends over to pick a bucket of berries in the relative coolness of a July evening. But not this year. This year, the other critter in the mix — the squirrels, have gotten greedy.

The squirrels have taken to breaking off entire bunches and carrying them to their nests. Thus, they’re not just picking a few, but stripping the bushes so no one else (yes, this is personification at its strangest) gets their fair share.

Balance is what’s needed here. Just like in a painting or a quilt or a flower garden, balance is necessary. Colors, textures, shapes and sizes need to be distributed in an even-handed manner.

In the case of writing, a story needs to be balanced, too. Too much description and the storyline gets lost. Too much action and the characters get confusing. Too much back story and the reader loses interest. Too many characters and the reader can’t keep the cast straight. Just the right mix of action, description, plot, character, foreshadowing, flashbacks, and location are need. The important thing is to balance the amount of each of these pieces of the story-quilt.

Now, back to those thieving squirrels. What is my course of action? This year, I’m afraid it’s a losing battle. The out of whack distribution of blueberries caused by the squirrels’ greed has destroyed the balance. Next year, all but humans, bees, and ants will suffer. I’ll drape the bushes with bird net, and only uncover them when picking berries.

The animals will not starve. There are wild raspberries and blackberries in the nearby woods. Many of the trees by our lawn are wild cherries. There are abundant acorns and pine cones, too. The grasses in the field next door provide seeds for the birds, and there are insects galore for the eating.

Lack of balance in fiction, poetry, painting, or quilt or garden design results in a finished product that is far from perfect. And in the case of writing — probably not publishable. So chase away your greedy squirrels, and remember: Balance is important in life whether sharing blueberries or planting a herb garden or drafting a novel.

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