Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Halloween Phenology

We've still having some beautiful warm, sunny days. The women that do morning tai chi at Moberly perform their elegant workout and then meditate together on a bench with the sun on their faces. The trees stop me in my tracks with their transforming colors. I am feeling that tension, waiting for the first frost. My partner keeps waffling on whether he'll move from cycling to taking the bus. I overheard someone saying there might have been some black ice on the roads this morning. She was surprised to come to work and there were no bicycles on the rack. "What do they know that I don't?" she wonders aloud.

I passed by the EYA's Pollinator Paradise garden today and their were two contrasting bumblebee queens foraging in the Phacelia tanacetifolia. I feel so honored to see them, but part of me says, "Come on Queenie, it's time to retire to the Royal Bedchamber." I don't blame them for wanting to squeeze in one more solar-powered nectar-sweet day.

As the bumblebees descend into the underworld it's time to take out the mason bee cocoons and hold them up to the light. I spent a lovely morning at a mason bee workshop where Brian Campbell taught us how to confidently clean our mason bee cocoons. This is an important skill for those who want to take your good intentions and turn them into real action for caring for our bees. A mason bee condo that you don't clean often turns into a bee graveyard, as we sadly discovered. Here lies Osmia lignaria lignaria, ravaged by chalk brood, pollen mites and parasitic wasps.

With the good weather our neighborhood has become rife with stage-managed graveyards made from leaves piled into mounds marked with theatrical white crosses and ghoulish gravestones. This is the week we remember our ancestors with a candle and a prayer. We take out woolens out to clean them and repair the moth holes. We flip our clocks forward to save the light. We sort out seeds and put them in a safe place. We stitch our diurnal narrative into the fabric of sunlight, leaves and bark.

I went into our local flower shop because I want to smell the air and I want to buy a little succulent. The women behind the counter are being instructed to roll little rubber balls on their hands to relieve tension and help with the circulation. It's a lovely afternoon ritual for women who use their hands on cold plants for hours every day. I am calmed by watching them and I resolve to take a class in this ball rolling method.

On the way home I run into my neighbor and somehow we stumble into a conversation where I find more out about her in five minutes than I have in 13 years. How she survived an Earthquake in China and nearly died of lung cancer six years ago. I am astonished. "But you look so good!" I exclaim. She's always got good color in her cheeks and she walks her dog faithfully. Cities are strange and wonderful--full of the surprising richness of humans and bees so close to us we can barely see them.

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