Thursday, October 05, 2006

Persimmons Plus Indoor Safari

Tweaked with watercolor and other effects. After my free-writing group let out at around 4PM, I spotted a couple of members bent over by a tree on the art center property. When I went over to investigate they offered me a wonderfully sweet fruit....

Persimmons are astringent when picked off the tree, but the ones on the ground are simply delicious. I took a couple home for Mary (who has plans for the seeds) and almost drove off before I realized I could make good use of my camera.

Diospyros virginiana, Family Ebenaceae (ebony family). Says, "Persimmon is native to eastern North America from New England, west to Kansas, and south to Texas and Florida. It is one of the most widely-adapted of trees, growing naturally in bottomland swamps, along stream banks, in upland forests, in fields, piney woods, and even dry scrub lands."

"Wilderness" was one writing prompt that came up during the meeting. My somewhat edited scribblings follow:

The other night my desk was the wandering ground for an intrepid Surinam cockroach.

She was cautious. She was slow, half-in half-out of an envelope. "She" because in the U.S. the Surinam cockroaches are all female, reproducing by parthenogenesis and bearing live young, who emerge from an internal egg case.

I didn't know that part until this morning, thanks to Bugguide.Net and the University of Florida.

Mary opened the studio door to ask me something and I told her, camera in hand, that I was in the middle of a session with my model. Normally Mary kills the roaches who venture indoors, but this time I was on a mission.

I talked to the roach. I leaned in, had her pose for her close-ups. I coaxed her into the open with a folded phone bill, expecting her to bolt and leave me with a new problem, when I would screech and rely on Mary's lethal hands.

But the roach only moseyed. I maneuvered a plastic container into position, since I prefer a catch-and-release program to outright killing in most cases, and especially one where I am trying to overcome my own terror. (My entry "A Night With Max" has more detail on my roach phobia.)

With a knife I flipped her into the jar and snapped the lid shut. This was the most dangerous moment of all. The lid was iffy and if the roach acted as I expected roaches to act she would have scrambled for her life and might have even -- horror of horrors -- touched me.

But she was caught, and the lid was down, and I watched her circling the bottom of the see-through jar, around and around and around, until she got bored with her surroundings or tired. I didn't and still don't know if she was carrying young, or if she'd already deposited them. At the time I didn't know my prisoner was a "she".

I exulted to Mary, "You're going to be so proud of me!" Mary, who kills roaches with her bare hands despite her allergy to them. Mary, roach huntress extraordinaire. I stood before her, holding out my prize and a reflective lamp that I proceeded to plug into an outlet strip for more photo ops of the great beast subdued.

Afterwards I got dressed, having already given myself bonus points for going up against the roach naked. I turned on the porch light, stepped outside, and freed the Surinam into the wilderness of my front yard, where she plopped somewhere in among the Aztec grass and cedar mulch.

In Europe and Malaysia there are male Surinam cockroaches, but the males don't make it to the States. I had granted my visitor another girl's night out in her meanderings. To further address my phobia I tweaked one of the head-on photos, cropping and trimming a shot of Mary's broad-brimmed straw hat.

My photographic roach now wears the hat, tilted engagingly to the side. Because the nights are getting cooler in my front yard wilderness. And I, feeling braver and more than a little smug, can return to my paper wilderness for another day.

I've posted a non-hatted image of Pycnoscelus surinamensis (Family Blaberidae) at Bugguide here. Thanks go to deadmike (Journal of the Plague Year) for steering me toward the ID.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I guess the first photo gives us a clue as to how the cockroach came to wear a hat. What a mix -- cockroach and persimmons -- and fun read all around!

1:20 PM  

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