Predator and Prey

Monday, July 29, 2013

My hike proved to be a little more than I was really ready for, as it left me with two blisters on my right foot, chafing between my thighs, and a general soreness and stiffness that left me really not enjoying the thought of moving around too much.  So the following morning, Monday, I decided to wait a bit before doing anything. I made a big breakfast and ate it at my leisure, and then lay down in bed again to read through some of the quick reference guides I’d bought the day before.  There were mostly pictures, but a few interesting bits of information were scattered in with them.  (For example, I did not know that the main difference between dragonflies and damselflies is that dragonflies hold their wings out to the side when they land, but damselflies fold their wings up along their body.)

Unfortunately my relaxation was interrupted by an unpleasant odor – my poor, traumatized cat Muffins and done her business, and as usual, she decided against using the litter box. With my nose still stopped up, and being in such a small confined space where smells quickly spread, it was a bit of a hunt to locate the offending places, but I found them, and thankfully she had done things on towels that I had strategically placed in locations where I thought she would go.  Those got rinsed out and hung outside to dry.  I really hope she calms down and gets accustomed to the new living arrangements soon!  Hunting down her spots is frustrating, annoying, and gross.

Now I was a little bit more active, though, and I began to think that I’d really like to do something outside despite how sore I was.  So I decided to walk over to the swimming area of the lake. This would also give me a chance to walk on the Coloneh and Dogwood Trails which I had avoided the previous day since I did not yet have a map and wasn’t sure where they went.  These trails connect the campground areas with each other and thus provide a more pleasant alternative to walking along the park roads. So I gathered up my swim suit, some water and a little money for a snack at the park store, and I headed out.

Along the way I actually got to see a live demonstration of something I’d just read about in the dragonfly reference.  Apparently, dragonflies eat insects, including other dragonflies.  Sure enough, as I walked along the Dogwood Trail, I heard a loud buzzing and a dragonfly flew in front of me carrying a larger, dead dragonfly!   It landed in a bush nearby, and I tried to sneak closer to get a better look.  The hunter was a small green dragonfly of some sort, and its prey was a large blue one.  Sadly, my presence must have spooked the hunter because it dropped its prey and flew off.

So I went on, and reached the park store, where I got a snack and a drink to help me put off what I was about to do.  Swimming in public is very traumatic for me, you see.  I am very overweight and have had for years to put up with people insulting me and giving me dirty looks because of my appearance, so I really don’t like being out in public in any way that exposes me, and a swim suit is definitely exposing.  So I guess I was feeling like a prey animal myself now.  All my instincts were telling me to go away and hide.  But I worked up my courage, changed clothes in the shower building and went down to the beach.

“Beach” may not be the right word.  It’s a small place where enough sand has been poured to form a little shelf of land where people can sit, and there is a roped off swimming area.  It being Monday, there wasn’t too much of a crowd, but there were still enough people to make me feel nervous.  I slipped into the water and swam out a ways towards the rope where there were fewer people and I could tread water and float without being bothered.

At that point, hidden by the water and by distance, I felt a little better.  Floating is nice, and fat floats well, so at least I’ve got that going for me.  It was also nice to be able to stretch my legs and work out some of the muscle kinks.  Without having all of my weight to hold up, I could stetch much farther than normally, and I really appreciated being able to do that after pushing myself so hard the previous day.

As I relaxed I began to notice that I was surrounded by hunters – kids and teenagers diving with masks trying to find lost items in the water.  Mostly they kept finding things like elastic bands from broken swim masks, but one of then actually came up with some money! I guess someone lost a wallet in the lake at some point.

Eventually I found that I was actually enjoying myself, but my tired muscles would not let me stay any more.  Perhaps it was the coolness of the water, but I started getting cramps and took that as a sign to leave.  So after changing clothes and having a quick drink, I started back.  As I was crossing the picnic area, though, I saw another interesting act of hunting.  A large blue ground wasp attacked a beetle of some sort.  They struggled at my feet for a moment, the beetle trying to break free, and the wasp trying to reach around with its stinger and stab the beetle.  Eventually, the wasp injected its venom and the beetle went limp.  The wasp grabbed the beetle and flew off, I presume back to its burrow.

It’s rather odd to say, but I think that this was the first time in my life that I’ve ever seen one animal hunt and kill another.  Sure, I’ve seen it on TV in documentaries, but I’d never seen it in real life until now.  It was … actually, it was fascinating.  The wasp stung the beetle three times before winning the struggle.  Is that normal?  Should I feel bad for the beetle?  I don’t.  I feel like I should have some profound thoughts to offer here, something about the “Circle of Life” or the “Struggle for Survival”.  All I can come up with, though, is “that was neat to see!”

So that was my day.  It ended in leftover tacos, a nap, and a kitty cat licking my poor blistery toes after I’d put some medicine on them. Hooray for lovey cats at the end of the day.


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