By Rafe Martin©
When my daughter Ariya was about four or five, we all; our son, Jake, who was then eight or nine; Rose and I went on a camping trip to the Adirondacks. We had a tent, an old car, and some cooking gear. The car was old enough so that the trip that is now a pleasant half-day jaunt was a two-day journey. What did we care? We were off, away from work and schedules and bills. Hooray!
We found a campsite at the lake’s edge in a state park. We rented a canoe and paddled it to our site and tied it there. We cooked, read, canoed, watched mists rise and the stars come up and, later, the moon go down.
One day a wasp began buzzing around our site. ZZZZZZZZZ.
ZZZZZZZZZZZ. That sharp insistent electric ZZZZZZZZZZ seemed to be everywhere. Still, we didn’t bother the wasp and it didn’t bother us. Far from it. It singled out our daughter, Ariya, and landed on her finger. She was delighted! She looked and looked. She began talking quietly to the wasp. And very, very gently as she talked, she reached out with one finger of her other hand and stroked it. The little, narrow-waisted, shiny, black and yellow body quivered. The antennas moved back and forth, touching Ariya’s skin. The neatly folded, black-edged, translucent wings trembled delicately. Its tiny, hooked feet clung to the ridges and whorls of her fingertip with that peculiarly electrifying touch unique to wasps. (Flies and even bees walk softly. But when a wasp steps onto your body there’s a distinct sensation, almost like a tiny electric shock). And there the wasp stayed, on the tip of Ariya’s extended finger, as she explored the campsite. It went everywhere with her—down to the lakeside, along the forest path, into our tent.
Periodically the wasp roused itself, clashed its wings, rose straight up into the air, and flew away, off on some suddenly remembered waspish mission. But always it returned, found Ariya again, and settled ZZZZZZZZZZZ on her finger once more. They seemed quite content together, really quite joyously happy. Somehow, we didn’t worry about her with a wasp companion. It was simply all of a piece with those wonderfully bright, clear days when everything useless dropped away and we faced the specifics of our present reality—blackened cooking pots, drifting woodsmoke, enameled cups of tea with ashes floating, a soggy, paperback copy of "The Lord of the Rings," the lapping of lake water, a wasp. Each unique, each presenting its own, uniquely shining greeting.
It turned cold late that afternoon and the wasp flew away. The sky darkened and it began to rain. It rained that night and the next day, and the next. But even the rain seemed friendly and accommodating. At around noon and, then, again, around suppertime the downpour would stop. We’d emerge from our dripping tent, uncover our firewood, build our fire, cook our lunch or dinner and eat. Then as the steady splashing fall began again, we’d retreat back into the tent to lie in our wet sleeping bags, talk, read, and listen to the rain murmuring in its many voices from tent sides, puddles, car top, lake water, forest leaves.
We never saw the wasp again. Still, there are clearly intimacies that require little effort or thought. And there are odd little friendships, too, that can reach out into the strangeness of our world and lift us with unexpected grace.