Crime and Punishment

She swept in, piercing his calf with scissor-like mandibles, spreading the blades to sever capillaries. At the same instant, a quick injection of burning saliva, to make the blood flow. Her plan, to zoom away with the prize before he knew what hit him.


Sadly for her, she was dealing with the lightning reflexes of my husband.  Which is how she ended up under my magnifying glass.  A greenhead was she, horse fly of coastal marshes.


Her pain is over, and my husband’s is abating.


Reminds me of the time something flew into our son’s blond hair. Instinct bade him grab it, whereupon it unrolled its sucking mouthpart and gave his finger such pain as to light up the neighborhood with his screams.  They don’t call it assassin bug for nothing.


As with the greenhead, the encounter ended badly for the bug. Which is how it came to be under a magnifying glass.  Which is how we know what it was.


I will say this: the burning agent of an assassin bug is meant to liquefy its hard-shelled insect prey, for ease of consumption.  It didn’t intend to liquefy David. It was simply defending itself.


Whereas, the greenhead acted with malice. At least from the perspective of a human leg.


She would say on the stand that she needed that blood, just a few drops, to make more greenheads.

Keep Watch. Take Heart.

On my way to the kitchen through the dark house I caught a glimpse of brightness in the southern sky. Heading to the Keurig, anticipating coffee/planet research, I walked into the open door of the dishwasher. Undeterred, I started the coffee and looked up morning sky for May 23.  Then to the patio where I sat on the concrete with brick wall at my back and trained binoculars upward.  I framed Jupiter and Saturn between two power lines and listened for a while, not least to retrograde Phoebe of Saturn, who reflected on my shin:  “You know that June prayer calendar you’re working on? I believe it’s called “Keep Watch. Take Heart.”?


Scanning to the east, I found red Mars, shining through the branches of the Chinese elm.


When the sun’s up I’ll close the dishwasher and check on mama robin outside the kitchen window.

Mid-May, Evangeline West

“Active but secretive.”


Good description of the behavior of the Carolina wren.


His song is another matter.


5:45 this morning I was at my computer trying to edit a newsletter when suddenly there arose from the dark outside a merrymaking so loud as to make further editing impossible:








This curiously timed exuberance went on for ten minutes or so.


Finally a mockingbird at the other end of the yard had enough and began one-upping him.








It was still slap dark.


The wren rollicked, the mocker retorted, a top-volume airing of expertise.


A yellow-crowned night heron emitted one KOWK.


At last they all fell silent. For now.


As the sky lightened I heard a nestful of unidentified babies cheeping for their breakfast.


The wren cranked up again.


Pretty soon the chickadee family rolled out of bed – two parents and four trainees:




Then the blue jay, the REAL blue jay, raised his merry BEEDLYOOP!


Later at the kitchen sink I spied Mama Robin starting a new nest in the magnolia tree.  Sticks she brought and shreds of plastic.  Round and round the cavity she ooched, making the perfect circle she’s known for.  A squirrel crept too close.  She erupted into a brick-breasted ball of fury.


Now it’s early afternoon. The cardinals are caroling.  A redbellied woodpecker is tentatively tapping the gutter. The wren has resumed.


By some miracle I’ve finished my editing.


New Phoebe

When my niece was born, her paternal grandfather decided to call her New Phoebe.

This he did to distinguish her from another Phoebe, born some time ago. Which is to say, his daughter Phoebe.  Which is to say, me!

Today is New Phoebe’s birthday.  I pay tribute:


Phoebe turns 26

By Aunt Phoebe


Lore from my bird books:

Eastern Phoebe, found in open areas, usually near water




They choose low, conspicuous perches

and dip their tails in a characteristic motion.

Persistent tail-wagging is a sure call.




From their perch they dart out to snag a tasty insect, then return.


Eastern phoebe.jpg


Nest:  A cup of mud, moss, grass, on ledge, bridge, building.

Eggs, 4-5, white



Song of two rough, whistled phrases usually alternated

Seeeriddip, seebrrr, seeriddip, seebrr…;

also gives clear, whistled weewor tiboo

and abrupt wijik


Common call a distinctive simple chip: high, clear, and descending.


04-10-11_001_EAPH (1).jpg


I have a niece named Phoebe

Near the Pacific she doth dwell

Dipping and wagging her tail

What she’s thinking, who can tell?


I imagine she’s living her life

Though perhaps the days seem long

Doing her very best

To sing her special song


Bright eye, white throat, dear head

Dreaming of purpose divine

Tuning her voice to what’s hers to sing

As surely she doth shine


So Seeeriddip, weew and tiboo

and a chip for punctuation

A happy birthday to you

With lots of jubilation!



Aunt Phoebe