Mind the Gap. Or Not.

So, it’s been what, a year? Since I last posted a photo of a yellow-jacket wasp on my Pinky Winky Hydrangea, I mean.

Oh. Two years. Clearly, it’s time for more, because they’re amazing.

Without any apparent difficulty they crawl over the irregular surface of the hydrangea florets more adeptly than I crawl around my completely flat exercise surface.

Without benefit of pitons or ropes or climbing shoes — or hands, even — they scale vertical surfaces.

Without audible grunting they traverse overhangs from underneath.

Without any sign of difficulty they balance on the edge of paper-thin petals, positioning for the next step.

Without any apparent hesitation they navigate what are, to them, precipitous drops, headfirst.

Without losing a beat they crawl along while hanging upside-down.

Without showing any fear, they stretch across body-length gaps in the flowers and just keep going.

The signs in London’s Underground are famous: Mind the Gap. That is, Pay Attention: Don’t stumble on the gap between the platform and the subway car.

Mind is a multi-purpose verb: Merriam Webster itemizes 11 meanings, of which 7b is the best fit here.

to be cautious about
// mind the broken rung

In this sense, yellow jackets — and flying-&-alighting insects of all sorts — do not seem to mind the gaps that they must encounter *every* day, if not quite *all* day. Why should they? This is their thing. Crawling around, up, over, down, and across insubstantial and highly varied surfaces is what they do.

And if they miss their footing, so what? After all, they won’t fall. They’ll fly.

I’m at the age-&-stage where I mind my physical steps and rightly so: Falling is unreservedly bad. But for any mental or social activity, especially new ones, surely I am also at the stage where I can *not* mind the gap.

If I lose my footing, I will just fly.

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14 Responses to Mind the Gap. Or Not.

  1. Eric Hrycyk says:

    They are YOUNG !!!

    • Isabel Gibson says:

      Eric – 🙂 I guess that’s right. Worker wasps (which I assume these are) live between 12 and 22 days per this site (and a few others). No time for fear or even for caution, I guess. Go, GO, GO!!!

  2. Jim Taylor says:

    I’m sure Miriam Webster also has a range of definitions for “falling.” There’s the physical fall, as of off a ladder, which is indeed to be avoided at our age-and-stage. But there’s also the symbolic or metaphoric fall — when we do something inappropriate, un-thought-out, or just plain stoopid. And I find that I don’t care about those “falls” any more. I don’t have enough years left to worry about my reputation. As Popeye used to say, “I yam what I yam.”

    Jim T

    • Isabel Gibson says:

      Jim T – Good point about falling’s various meanings. I wander about, talking and taking for granted all the various shades (and altogether different colours!) of meaning we invest in a given word, until something causes me to look it up. And then I am amazed. And, sometimes, irritated. And reminded of Nero Wolfe burning a dictionary because it defined “impact” as a verb. The nerve!

  3. Jim Taylor says:

    P.S. You have no idea how much I look forward to getting these Sunday morning mailings. Mostly, I agree with your views — especially your photographic views — but also mostly, it’s so pleasant to get something that refreshes my thinking… as opposed, I suppose, to the news media’s constant barrage of gloom and doom.

    Jim T

  4. Tom Watson says:

    You must have had to get really close to the wasps to get those pictures. I’m not sure I’d want to get that cozy with them. Well done!

    • Isabel Gibson says:

      Tom – Well, I was just within the focal length of my camera lens (maybe 8 to 12 inches) and one did land on my hand, but I was not the flower it was looking for. No stings so far!

  5. Thank you for such wonderful photos of the flowers and their co-dependent wasps! Perhaps aged wasps watch their steps, too. If there is such a thing as an aged wasp.

  6. Ken from Kenora says:

    Good heavens. In wasp years I have day and half to live. I was in a buoyant mood today, until now.

  7. Your juxtaposition of tender pinkie-winkie florets with a crusty insect painted like a police warning strip near a crime scene takes some mental gymnastics to integrate. Your charming description of the hornet’s navigation of his environment helps me to reclaim my objectivity. Why should not the insect dwell in the midst of such beauty? Having spent the afternoon reading about violent, suicidal cults that made claims to aspects of Christian beliefs, it’s hard not to classify the cult leaders with the wasps. Then, Jim Taylor’s blog reveals a waspish strain of verbally violent Conservatives *inside* the United Church of Canada. As you are positioned with your camera to illuminate Wasp World, I am poised to see those ghastly perpetrators of mass murder as well as the arch-Conservative blunderbusses as mentally unfit. As denizens of a world they perceived through warped senses. They, too, are phenomena to be studied so that we can learn to recognize and treat such illness before it runs rampant among a gullible section of the public. Contemplating your wasp among pink and white florets, I am less inclined to recoil in fear and disgust, first, at the wasp, second, at the cultists, third, at the Christian bigots, and more resolved to take careful note, describe, correct, reassess, and continue learning. And to appreciate how lucky I am to dwell among blossoms, too.

    • Isabel Gibson says:

      Laurna – Wow. And yes. I expect the world would be a better place if we all did a little less reacting and recoiling, a little more studying and analyzing, and a *lot* more being grateful.

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