Beauty and the Beetle

The beetle glinted bright green in the sun as he crawled slowly along the boardwalk. Actually, tried to crawl. His dark, spindly legs wiggling antennae were moving futily. I picked him up and gently placed him on a leafy plant growing in the dune, but he just slid off. Realizing the beetle was near the end, I scooped him up and carried him, tickling my palm, the four miles home along the beach. By the time we got back to our beach house, the beetle’s legs were still and stiffening, so I put him in an empty pill vial (after displaying him to the family) and brought him home.

That was four and a half years ago, and I finally had the urge to paint him last week. It’s funny how sometimes I just have to wait until the right time to paint something. First I pulled out books and figured out that my little green friend was a Caterpillar Hunter Beetle, a beneficial species that lives up to three years.

“Calosoma scrutator is a highly beneficial species that climbs trees in search of caterpillar prey. Although the beetles are active from May to November, they seem to be especially numerous in May after trees are fully leaved out and while the spring flush of caterpillars is ravaging the foliage. Adults winter over, and they live up to 3 years. Eggs are placed one at a time in soil. Larvae also hunt caterpillars and climb trees and shrubs in search of prey. They pupate in earthen cells.”

I found a lichen-covered branch in the yard, set the beetle and branch up, and vanished into a world of color, depth, and detail. The beetle may have died years ago, but his green shell is just as brilliant today, and he gave me a day of pleasure and focus as I pondered and painted.

Maybe “just” a bug, but also a shining example of the abundant beauty God lavishes on his world for us to see and enjoy.

God saw all that he had made, and it was very good. Genesis 1:31

Birds, Bituminous, and the Blues

I’ve had a couple of those days when nothing seems quite right, when my mind settles quickly to the lowest level, my tea seems to always be lukewarm, and the clouds aren’t up in the sky but right around my soul. Not a feeling I enjoy, but one I can’t easily shake sometimes.

A little while ago I heard Bituminous meowing loudly and repeatedly, so I went to see what was wrong. Nothing appeared amiss, except that my rocking chair was empty, with him sitting beside it loudly demanding that I provide a warm seat for him. Of course I obliged (with my lukewarm cup of tea), and soon he was happily ensconced, nuzzling my hand and gently licking my wrist while he purred contentedly. Ahhh… the tension slowly melted away as I felt his soft, warm tongue and body.

As I sat with Bituminous, I watched the birds on the feeder and soon couldn’t resist picking up my sketchbook and pen to try to capture some of the life and variety outside my window. At least thirteen species came and went, some chasing others, some co-existing politely.

One Pine Siskin tried to claim the pile of seeds for himself, but was soon frightened off by the Blue Jays. An sad looking male Downy Woodpecker without a tail stayed eating suet for over ten minutes at a time; I hope he gains the nourishment he needs to become healthy again. I made sure not to move while he was eating, so as not to scare him off. It looks as though we have two pairs of Downies and one of Red-bellied Woodpeckers. Hopefully they’ll bring their chicks in the spring.

The clouds aren’t gone, but they’ve lifted a bit. Observing, pondering, appreciating nature is a part of who I am and want to grow into more and more. Thank you, Bituminous, for insisting I sit and watch the birds with you.