Tuesday, August 30, 2005

The Lurker in the Roses

My father died last Wednesday at 1:10 in the afternoon. I arrived at the hospital a little after 2:00. My family left the hospital sometime around 3:00. We met with the undertaker at 6:30, and by 7:30 that night we had made all the arrangements: the funeral would be Saturday morning, with viewings at the funeral home on Friday from 2:00 - 4:00 and again from 7:00 - 9:00.

After I came home from the hospital but before we went to the undertaker, I decided to take some long-ignored advice.

When Haley died at the end of May, a friend suggested that maybe I should go out and take some pictures of beautiful things. But I couldn't, really. I took a few fitful pictures of bumblebees and Rhododendron blossoms, and I used it at the first "final" Blue Sundaze show in late June, but I didn't start using the camera on a regular basis again until sometime in July. But now in August my garden was in full swing, and there were lots of interesting things to take pictures of. I had actually started taking pictures in my garden Wednesday morning, and I decided to carry on, making use of the daylight that I unexpectedly had available to me.

My first photo was of one really beautiful blossom on my Double Delight rosebush.
I first became aware of Double Delight roses during a visit to Disneyworld years ago - probably in 1997. The rose gardens are one of the best-kept secrets at Disneyworld, and are generally ignored by most visitors. My mom and I had the gardens to ourselves that day, save for a family of Japanese tourists who found the roses infinitely fascinating. Years later, suckered by the ease with which I was able to grow my Royal Highness bush, I decided to branch out into other varieties, including the beautiful Double Delight I remembered so fondly. Unfortunately, Double Delight is nothing like Royal Highness: it produces only a few blossom-bearing shoots, a profusion of non-blossom-bearing spikes, and is considered a delicacy by little green cutworms. Its scent is gaudy and overpowering, but at their best the blossoms are extremely beautiful.
Royal Highness was my first rosebush, and while it is extremely vigorous and easy to grow and has a beautifully classical rose scent, its blossoms are less petal-dense and tend to go from the first opening of the bud to the last petal fall in just a few days. Still, it produces vast numbers of blossoms throughout the season - this rose is part of the third (and probably final) flush for this summer, which started about a week before I took the photo. (The first and second flushes happened in the first and last weeks of June, respectively.)
I was a little disappointed when I reviewed this picture shortly after I had taken it and spotted what I thought was a bit of bud or a dead leaf caught within the petals of the rose, ruining the effect of the delicate shading of pink seen in the petals. On a whim I zoomed in on the image to the limit of my camera's zoom function, and got a bit of a surprise. Whatever was lodged in the petals had legs and eyes - eyes that were looking straight at me.
I had a feeling I knew what it was, but I decided to get a few other images from different angles before I tried looking it up in my Audubon Field Guide. Unfortunately, while it was surprisingly easy to get a good picture accidentally, it was very hard to get a close-up of the hidden insect intentionally. At least the little critter hadn't moved from its chosen blossom since I had first photographed it.
(Notice that the eyes are again turned towards the camera. This is one alert insect!)

The Audubon Field Guide to North American Insects and Spiders identified it as an Ambush Bug, a little insect about half the size of the fingernail on my pinky - maybe 1/2" long by 1/4" wide - that lurks inside of flowers and waits for unsuspecting bees or butterflies to come by. And when they do - POW! The Ambush Bug strikes, using those powerful-looking forelimbs to kill its prey, which is usually several times larger than the deadly Ambush Bug itself.
It's a jungle out there. My garden is the setting for daily dramas as predators and prey fight for survival. The Ambush Bug is a subtle reminder of this, although by no means is it the only killer lurking in the garden. But those other, less subtle killers will have to wait a while to have their stories told.

1 comment:

Katie said...

Harold, I am so sorry your Uncle isn't doing well. As you said..what was a wondeful gift to your grandmother is now going to be quite alot on your beautiful Moms shoulders.

Your photos are gorgeous! Twould be nice to have a rose or two in my studio where Tressa and I dine. (hint, hint)