It hung, frozen in the glass, like a skeleton embedded in a hunk of amber. My face, equally as frozen, held an expression of fear, wonder, and disgust. What was that thing?
My mother calmly explained to me that it was a wasp, which had gotten stuck in the cracked window long ago, as my six-year-old eyes took it in. Its legs dangled haphazardly, and its body was twisted and distorted in the glass. Obviously it was dead, but I couldn't help loathing that fearsome point at the end of its shriveled little body. Having spent the last four years in Alamogordo, New Mexico, where there is little to no vegetation besides cacti and the occasional yucca plant, I had never seen a flying insect before.
I had seen tarantulas. I had seen scorpions. I had seen fire ants crowd around our tent poles at White Sands. I had even witnessed a score of black widow spiders emerging from my swingset, before my mom promptly replaced it. And though those things were highly dangerous -- one needs medical treatment within hours of being bitten by a black widow -- I had never felt such animosity toward an insect. The longer I gazed at it, the more fearsome it became. Luckily, my parents were replacing the cracked window, like many other things in our new house. But part of me knew that there were plenty more of these suckers around during northern Michigan summers. And that same part of me knew that I'd have to get over the fear of sharing my environment with them or I'd just have to stay inside all summer, because they weren't going anywhere.
That first summer, I learned to thoroughly fear the wasp. Not only because of what he looked like, but because of a number of other factors -- he was loud, he built his nests on nearly everything in sight (or so it seemed), and he was not afraid to get right in my face. Over the next summers, I learned to fear the wasp's brothers and cousins, too: the yellow jacket, the hornet, the honeybee, and the bumblebee. Even houseflies and hummingbirds would send me packing, because I feared that their buzz was the same as the wasp's. I learned to run indoors at any sound of buzzing within a certain proximity (my family so kindly called this action "the bee dance"). I had nightmares about wasps and bees that would crawl inside my doors and grow to an abnormal size. When one actually did go into my room, I dispatched my younger brother on killing it and slept in a different part of the house for a few nights. It eventually got to the point where I would stay inside all summer. When my classmates would be excited for spring to come, I would dread it because it meant the bee and his brothers were returning.
But then I slowly, slowly began to realize that it was silly to be terrified of such little creatures. I emerged from the indoors. If the sun was out, I might go lay in the yard in my bathing suit, with my iPod in to drown out the buzzing of my terrifying neighbors. I could tolerate writing and reading outside. I got to where I enjoyed picnics with my family and instead of bolting behind the nearest door when one floated by, I would just shoo it away with my hand. My bee dance -- as well as my family's teasing -- subsided gradually, and I found I could enjoy my summers once again.
Even today I don't particularly like wasps or bees, and I certainly do not seek their company. But I have gotten to where I can tolerate them. We can live together now, and I remember one triumphant moment in my existence when I even saved a bumblebee from drowning in a puddle. I tenderly placed it on the ground, watched its wings dry off in the sun, and waited until it flew away.
It's taken a few years. But I've discovered that this backyard is, in fact, big enough for the two of us.