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  • Writer's pictureSara McFarland

Of Apples, Wasps and Hornets

I wrote a whole other letter to you about apples, their mythic power (from poison to food of the goods), their symbolic multiplicity (from sexuality to code for amanita mushrooms), their wild ancestors (crab apples) and current diversification (plums, peaches, raspberries, cherries, roses, lady’ mantle and more), earth places they are from and how they have traveled with us all over the world (Kazakhstan agriculture and the first cultivation in Egypt) and therefore shaped our culture (nomadic to settled, and the myths, symbols, rituals arising out of the relationship etc). However, I made the mistake of writing it directly on the mailchimp newsletter, rather than a separate document. Well, mailchimp, as it often does, froze and I had to restart the website and it was gone. All the beautiful writing, holographic weaving, links to further reading etc. Gone. So, after getting furious at mailchimp and the entire industrial technological complex (I am a holographically thinking, multi-intense person) and feeling like a stupid idiot for not have written this on a document, I danced and moved the energy and listened to how I might compost that into something else, which is what you have below.

The apples are falling from the trees and feeding the wasps. There is a hornet’s nest in the pear tree. I am allured by it. I go as close as I dare and watch, like a shy pre-teen at a dance, hoping she won’t get picked, or a child full of wonder who is just beginning to taste the dangerous otherness of the wild ones. The honey colored paper of the nest as it layers itself into the wound of the tree, so delicate and yet filled with the buzzing of hornets. It is a different sound than bees in the hive. There is another voice here, though just as unified and trance inducing. There is something edgy and thrilling about their song. This past summer, while I was in Latvia, a Queen Hornet kept coming into my room, looking for a place to build her Nest. She would fly in, loud and huge at 2 inches long, crawling along the walls. I began to guide her out of the room with my hat. Interesting, that a queen has begun to build here, just outside of the village.

Wasps have been coming in to the apartment over the last two weeks, maybe 20 of them in all, arriving with intention to die in my underworld portal room (where I have my zoom calls with mentees, my altar is for ritual and meditation, where I record music and I have all my many books). Threshold crossings are a serious business, and seeking out a death doula can ease the transition. One of them even found their way into my bed, under the covers and stung me on the calf as I lay down to sleep. 10 days later the sting still itches, although the swelling and the red blotches have subsided.

The spiders are moving indoors, and those who have lived here during the summer have molted, and are moving to find new corners to inhabit, leaving their cast off exoskeletons hanging on what is left of their webs.

Now the Shield bugs, or stink bugs, have arrived. They buzz loudly around the room, like a harmless drunken old man on a vespa, landing on the wall with a thwack. When you pick them up to put them out of the window, they let off a smell like vanilla extract mixed with terpentine.

These creatures carry such projections from us humans. We have love/hate relationships with them. Well, probably more people hate them than love them. Spiders are sacred for me, which goes beyond love/hate in the mundane sense. Many folks are very scared or repulsed by them, but I see the embodied grandmother weaving the web of life. Wasps and hornets are in service to both life and death, they are pollinators (a third of all plants are pollinated by wasps and hornets, a third by bees, and a third by butterflies and moths), eaters of the dead (being omnivorous, in addition to nectar, they eat dead animals and insects). Stink bugs are considered “beneficial” because they are predatory, eating pests on our garden plants, like caterpillars and beetles. Except the green ones, apparently, are not beneficial, which means they do not help humans. When we look from a non-human-exceptionalist perspective, no creature is out of place in their ecological niche in the home ecosystem within which they live (invasives and humans aside for the moment - which are, of course, intimately connected, but it is out of the scope of this musing to go there right now). Everything feeds everything else.

One of my most favorite things in the whole world is compost, the way organic things become humus to feed new life. The apples that fall from the trees, the leaves that fall from bushes and trees, even our own bodies falling when we die (if we are lucky to actually decompose and not be pumped with formaldehyde). It is, I would argue, one of the ways that humans can again participate in the ecology of the ecosystem within which they live. So many ways of re-membering ourselves into Earth Community, compost being one of them. Here is a poem that I love love love. You might choose, if you are blessed to have a compost pile, or maybe at a place where Earth themselves is composting, to read this poem out loud to those transforming into Humus as blessing and in gratitude…

Geocentric by Pattiann Rogers

Indecent, self-soiled, bilious

reek of turnip and toadstool

decay, dribbling the black oil

of wilted succulents, the brown

fester of rotting orchids,

in plain view, that stain

of stinkhorn down your front,

that leaking roil of bracket

fungi down your back, you

purple-haired, grainy-fuzzed

smolder of refuse, fathering

fumes and boils and powdery

mildews, enduring the constant

interruption of sink-mire

flatulence, contagious

with ear wax, corn smut,

blister rust, backwash

and graveyard debris, rich

with manure bog and dry-rot

harboring not only egg-addled

garbage and wrinkled lip

of orange-peel mold but also

the clotted breath of overripe

radish and burnt leek, bearing

every dank, malodorious rut

and scarp, all sulphur fissures

and fetid hillside seepages, old

old dependable, engendering

forever the stench and stretch

and warm seeth of inevitable

putrefaction, nobody

loves you as I do.

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