Wittier Word Weavers

Writers' Club of Whittier


8 Comments

Flowers Full of Prayers

DSC03116DSC03469DSC03346DSC03576

Flowers are full of prayers in the month of August. On a half-mile walk in an area overgrown with pink silk floss blossoms, wild phlox and butterfly plant, I spied thirty-three mantises praying for prey today. Brown like a twig or green like a leaf, Stagmomantis californica waits upside down, underneath or smack in the center of the flower. At the moment, butterflies frequent the yellow blossoms in this area the most, so that’s where the majority of mantises lurk. I’ve seen them eating fritillaries, bees, skippers and, yes, their own mates. No one seems to be able to explain that seemingly deviant behavior of species survival.

A photographer friend of mine used to find these camouflaged little creatures everywhere and post them to Flickr. There had to be hundreds even thousands of them out there but I never saw any. I had mantis envy. I was determined to learn how to see them.

I figured it was like finding mushrooms. In Iowa, where I was raised, folks enjoy picking and eating wild morels. (You best know exactly what you’re looking for because there are deadly poisonous mushrooms.) The light brown, spongelike fungus blends well with the leaves and earth. Whenever I went mushroom hunting with my parents they’d have bags full while I’d come up empty handed.

In art classes you’re taught to look at the positive and negative space. It’s kind of like that with hunting mantises. Hmm — I wonder if that technique will work for mushrooms?

~Sherry Novak, author of the soon to be released novel The Chick Sexer.

 

 

Advertisements


18 Comments

Chasing Butterflies by Sherry Novak

DSC01498QuBflies2,cropDSC03603PipeBflies3,great Sherrys Saguaro Pictures 3 087cropSherrys Saguaro Pictures 431crop

Saguaro National Park campgrounds were empty when we arrived on a steamy August evening. Apparently everyone else knows to avoid summer in Arizona. My friend and I figure it’d be wise to get the tent up before dark; we don’t camp often and it’s borrowed gear. But, first, we have to take pictures of the covey of quail bobbing around the bushes and the lizards skittering with their tails up like scorpions. The fiery sun dips down silhouetting giant cacti against a shamelessly pink sky. A couple cowpokes on horseback would complete the wild west picture. Two motorhomes lumber into camp, air conditioners humming. Night falls fast.

Heat lightning and the low rumble of distant thunder add more sultry to the air. Only a sprinkle is forecast. Coyotes howl from a faraway canyon. We lay out our cots and sleeping bags, unzip all the “windows.” There isn’t a breath of breeze. I rustle out my small flashlight for a trip to the bathroom. I make my tent-mate escort me. Not two feet from the flap door something scuttles under my light — a tarantula! First I want to scream, pack up and look for a motel, on second thought we get out our cameras and take pictures. In the bathroom, thank goodness not an outhouse, I find a big, fat frog and a couple praying mantises.

Back at our nylon abode my roomie crashes out immediately. I wonder how I let myself get talked into this. What’s an insomniac to do in a dark tent? It feels so vulnerable having only a thin piece of cloth between you and the wilderness. Throughout the night the wide circle of howling coyotes grow closer and closer. Have any campers been eaten lately? Bugs chirp, twigs crackle, night birds call. At one point I hear something sniffing next to the tent. The lightning stops, the sky clears and I can see the Big Dipper through the net window. Stars blaze deep and infinite.

The next morning we decide to go peruse the welcome center and come back later to break down our tent. There’s the spectacular panoramic window view I remember. A lady ranger asks what we like to photograph as we have our big cameras hanging around our necks. Birds, bugs, butterflies, most anything we say.

“Have you seen the sulphur butterflies?” she asks. “They’re right down this path in the sugar bush.”

A desert turtle is sunning himself on the sidewalk, so lazy he doesn’t bother to move. Twenty paces and down a few stairs we enter butterfly paradise. Cream-colored sugar bush flowers and blooming cacti are aflutter. Besides sulphurs, we count at least ten varieties. We photograph for hours and decide to stay over night. Happy campers, we come back again the next day to chase butterflies. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CMEuedrVb6E