South Pasadena’s fertile thicket of trees and Arroyo-adjacent proximity to the San Gabriel Mountain wilderness make it a haven for critters. I’ve mentioned the wild parrots. And the wild peacocks. And the hawks and squirrels and skunks and chipmunks. But in our menagerie of furry and feathered friends we mustn’t forget to include all the bugs.
I’ve been in LA for almost 22 years. Before moving here I lived in Hollywood, Venice Beach, Palms, West Los Angeles and Santa Monica. None of those areas have insects that could even hope to rumble with the likes of ours. (Well, except maybe the cockroaches in Hollywood.)
There’s a kind of mysterious Land of the Lost/under intense gamma rays quality to the creepy-crawlies around here. I’ve seen prehistoric-looking praying mantises on my porch beams, huge walking sticks on the car windshield and one nightmare-inducing house centipede on my bedroom wall. Every spring, bees try to build hives in the attic and in the neighbors’ trees. Ladybugs cling to the rosebushes and caterpillars cling to the camphor leaves. Charlotte may have spelled out words for Wilbur in Charlotte’s Web, but I think the massive garden spiders in my potting shed are spinning fractals. (Maybe they work for Caltech or JPL.) The neighborhood is often visited by large, velvety-winged, black and yellow butterflies that look like they could have been painted by Gauguin. One of them recently hovered around and finally landed on my daughter. She named it Flutter.
The HUGE fly in the above photo found its way into the house the other night. Frankly, it was just too impressive to swat. After an evening of loud buzzing and desperate window tap-tap-taps, it finally found its way out the front door.
Yes, even bugs remind me of poems. This one by Katherine Mansfield:
Voices of the Air
But then there comes that moment rare
When, for no cause that I can find,
The little voices of the air
Sound above all the sea and wind.
The sea and wind do then obey
And sighing, sighing double notes
Of double basses, content to play
A droning chord for the little throats—
The little throats that sing and rise
Up into the light with lovely ease
And a kind of magical, sweet surprise
To hear and know themselves for these—
For these little voices: the bee, the fly,
The leaf that taps, the pod that breaks,
The breeze on the grass-tops bending by,
The shrill quick sound that the insect makes.
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