Fall fast approaches. The sky stays darker into the morning, light holding off shining its brilliance through the chill of the night. The leaves are turning, rust and gold and auburn. The blushing reds and rose of summer fade. Petals fall.
The earth is preparing itself for winter.
C.C. and I were in Saskatoon on the weekend. Preparing our house there for rental as he shifts his focus back to Calgary. We assessed things that need doing and putzed around the house, bemoaning the work crew who have not turned up for two weeks to fix the plaster in the ceiling. I pulled weeds in the garden, swatted at the inevitable wasps of autumn and ignored C.C.’s inevitable admonitions to ‘leave them alone. they won’t hurt you if you don’t swat at them.’
I don’t believe him. I am not that trusting of their tiny yellow striped bodies or even tinier insect-minds. I think they like to sting. It is their nature.
It’s not, C.C. tells me. If you leave them be they will cohabit harmoniously.
My mind may be bigger than a yellow jacket’s, but regardless of its size, it is not ready to give up believing that swatting them away is my best defence.
That’s the problem with a negative thought. It takes hold and in its presence I grab on to irrational behaviours that even though I know better, I am incapable of doing better because of the fear blocking my capacity to be present in the moment.
Wasps cause me to know fear. Even though I can only remember ever being stung once in my life, their tiny, irritating presence, give rise to fear far greater than their tiny size warrants. And at this time of year in the prairies, wasps tend to be ever-present.
Dang. My favourite time of year and there they are, cluttering up the garden.
In an effort to understand my fear, and in the hopes of embracing it, I decided to research these pesky critters.
Not a good idea.
Sometimes, knowledge is not my friend. sometimes, knowing what I don’t know is better than learning what I don’t want to know!
Like, the myth that once a wasp stings you it dies. Not so. A wasp can sting repeatedly, one of the reasons it’s so feared.
1% of the population is allergic to a wasps venom, resulting in 50 to 100 deaths in the US a year (though whether that’s bees or wasps is hard to discern — and their venom is different so people can be allergic to one and not the other). That said, 90 people will die in the US from lightning strikes every year and over 15,000 will be killed by fellow human beings.
Forget about lightning strikes, people die from wasp stings. Seriously. they die.
Which, when I stop to think rationally actually does suggest I am better off not swatting my arms and making them angry. I’m actually better to let them be present without causing them angst.
Now that’s a test of my capacity to be present, awake and alive in compassion, truth and beauty to all the wonders, and beings in my world.
There is a story of Gandhi who, while on one of his many hunger strikes was approached by a man whose daughter was killed. The man told Gandhi that he would stop fighting if Gandhi started eating. And Gandhi replied that he would eat only when the father embraced the man who killed his daughter. In his anguish and anger, the father did not want to embrace his enemy, but he did and in that act, the fighting ceased.
Perhaps, the wasp represents those parts of me that are still at war with my inner peace. Perhaps, taming my fear of wasps, stilling my flailing arms to embrace the quiet of a moment and all it holds, is my path to tranquility.
Perhaps, it isn’t learning about wasps that I need, but rather, learning what it takes to be still and quiet in the face of my fear. Perhaps, facing what I don’t want to know about how to be present and calm in the face of what I fear will lead me to what I want more of in my life — peace, tranquility and love.
Wasps serve a purpose in the life-cycle. They have a raison d’être in the garden. They help control aphids. They pollinate my flowers and keep the grass growing.
Perhaps, learning to embrace their presence will calm my fears of the unknown. Perhaps, letting compassion embrace me will keep me present to Love, no matter what is happening in the world around me.