Tuesday, June 18, 2013

My Latest Progression Obsession: Keeled Treehoppers, Part II

Previously, I introduced you to some keeled treehopper nymphs, spikey little alien-looking critters that had invaded my tomato plant. Well, after a while, being a spikey little adolescent takes a toll on a critter, and, like a lot of us, they eventually decide to just mellow out and become smooth, green, tank-like adults. OK, I need to work on that a little, but you get what I'm saying.

Unfortunately, the picture quality in this series is not quite as good as it was in the last one (but you can still click on any picture to enlarge it)--I took this set of pictures before I took the set of pictures in my previous post, and I hadn't quite perfected the iPhone macro shot yet. Also, I was sitting in a dark room. Wearing a headlamp. Don't ask, just...be impressed that they came out as well as they did, OK?

Anyway...here's how you go from this:

to this:

in just 20 short minutes. (This is, like, the best make-over ever!)

First, you wriggle out of your old, spikey shell, with your little wings all folded up behind your head like little white spitballs.

It's OK if they start to unfurl a little bit before you're all the way out. Just keep your head down and keep going.

Whew! Now that you are out of that cramped little space (how did you get by in there for so long??), you can really start working on those wings.

Almost there...

They're all nice and fluffed up, now make them just a tiny bit longer. (Oh boy, there are going to be some disappointed people landing on this page through key-word searches!)

Perfect! Now you can start elongating that helmety-looking bit with the orange racing stripe.

Good, good, now bring it down a little.

A little more...

Keep going...

Perfect! Looks good! 

Very streamlined.

"Hello...Are you my mother?"

Now, turn around, face down your past, and prepare to go out into the world and wreak havoc on my tomato plants.

Yep, just like that.

So, whaddaya think? Pretty cool, huh? I mean, not for my tomato plant, but from a transformation perspective, it's pretty impressive. The only bummer about this is that they don't seem to have any natural predators. I did get a lizard to eat one of the adults, but it didn't seem very impressed; and the nymphs are just as pokey as they look. I wouldn't want to eat one! My tomato died, and the treehopper numbers started dwindling. A few started showing up on other, smaller tomatoes, and I couldn't let another population explosion occur, but I couldn't bring myself to squish them or spray them either. I ended up picking them off and dropping them onto the lanai. I was hoping to lure in more lizards, but they're no dummies; they weren't interested. I figured if any treehoppers made it back across the lanai and up into a pot, well, maybe I'd just let them be.       

"Do I look like some kind of dummy to you? I'm not eatin' one of those things."

Friday, June 14, 2013

A Response Uncommon*

I wrote this a while ago, and I've kind of been sitting on it, not sure if it adequately expresses what I want it to, but recent events have brought me back around to it, so I figured I would go ahead and put it up.

My grandmother passed away in February. At her funeral, as is often the case at such events, I was reunited with a family member from my grandfather's side of the family that I hadn't seen in...25+(?) years. I have fond memories of this person from when I was younger--nothing specific, just that he was generally someone that I liked. Throughout the years, he and his wife divorced, I heard things about why, his reputation wasn't exactly stellar, and he sort of disappeared into the ether.  So, when he showed up out of the blue at my grandmother's funeral, I wasn't quite sure how it was all going to play out, but here it is nearly four months later, and I am still struck by our brief interactions.

We did the usual catching up: where are you now, how have you been, what are you doing, etc. I told him I was living in Hawaii and pretty much just enjoying the good life, and his reaction to that is what I can't get over. He was the most genuinely happy-for-me person that I think I have ever encountered. When you tell people you live in Hawaii, there are some fairly standard responses--"Oh, wow, Hawaii, that's so great!" "Oooh, lucky you..." "Hawaii?? When can I come visit?" and it's not that these aren't well-meant and honest, but (and I couldn't have told you this before this meeting) I feel like there's always a bit of subtext attached, like "Oh, wow, Hawaii, that's so great (for you)!" "Oooh, lucky you...(I mean, you know, if you like that kind of thing...)" or "Hawaii?? When can I come visit? (No, seriously, when can I come visit?)". It's not that any of these responses are bad or wrong; heck, they're the kind of responses I often have to others' good news, you know the kind where you are trying to be supportive of somebody else, but maybe they're happy about something that wouldn't necessarily make you happy, or their good news is something you're a little bit jealous of, so you just sort of prattle out the proper responses. But this person was so genuinely happy for me, so genuinely glad to hear that my life was going well and that I was happy. And that was it. It was just so...unfiltered.

Nobody in my family would ever say anything against this person's character as far as him being someone they really liked or someone that they wished well, but everyone is still pretty skeptical about his general reliability (perhaps justifiably so; I can't really speak to that). All I can say is that he is the ONLY person from my grandfather's side of the family that made it to my grandmother's funeral that day**, and I can't think of anyone I've ever met who has been so genuinely happy for somebody else's good fortune. On top of that, he stood up and said some very kind things about my grandmother, about the good times he had out at my grandparents' house as a kid, and how my grandma was always his favorite aunt, which...how can you not love somebody who does that?

Anyway, I just wanted to share that.

This person lives somewhere in the area near where the Royal Gorge fire has been burning this week. There haven't been any reported fatalities, so I'm not worried about his safety, but as I've been watching the Black Forest fire and wondering if my grandparents' home is going to go up in flames (so far, it hasn't), I've been thinking about this person, wondering if he is doing the same, watching the news, wondering if his home will be left standing. I hope not. I wish him all the best. I wish him all the happiness that he had for me, and, really, I couldn't wish much more than that for somebody.
*The title for this post was inspired by one of my favorite songs, Jewel's "Life Uncommon".

**For the record, the funeral was scheduled with less than a week's notice, and there was a huge blizzard forecasted to rip through the state that day, so I don't hold it against the rest of the family for not making it. It just makes it that much more meaningful that this person DID make it.