Celebrating those who toil

Greetings, HaQ readers! It’s Labor Day weekend and, for many of us, thoughts turn to the end of summer, the fall season, and the celebration of an extra day of leisure. This holiday was envisioned as a commemoration of those whose work is the foundation of a thriving society: the nurses and police officers and retail workers and factory machine operators and teachers and the hundreds of thousands of others whose work makes all lives a little easier, a little better.  Many of you are those people and I thank you.

While thinking about those who work unnoticed this week, I re-encountered an old friend. She reminded me of the unseen and unnoticed millions who work out in the world every day, making sure the world itself works.

Carolina MantisThis is Carolina; she – or one of her sisters – has been showing up on the vines outside my kitchen window for at least three years. She is a Carolina mantis. When I first met her, I was surprised at her petite size. She is about as long as my palm and slender, if she tucked her legs she could easily hide behind my little finger. As you can see, she is also grey, and lightly speckled.

If you’re thinking, “You got the runt!”, you aren’t alone. I didn’t realize until I did a quick search that we have three species of mantids here. Two of them are the introduced and more familiar praying (European) mantis and Chinese (Asian) mantis. Praying mantises are the species we usually think of – they are up to 6 inches long and are very active garden predators. Chinese mantises look very similar but can be nearly twice as big. In other words, they are HUGE. And they look absolutely enormous in flight. (Believe me – my dog has witness the ever-so-graceful squeal-and-duck maneuver I executed upon seeing one.) My tiny Carolina is the smallest of the three by a long shot, and she is the native species. Smaller native species often get pushed out of their ranges by more aggressive exotics, so I am happy and grateful to have a female Carolina return year after year.

She is one of the reasons I will not use pesticides in my yard. Mantises are carnivores and they eat other insects. I especially appreciate seeing them around my roses and my food plants because they help keep the pests at bay. The other reason I won’t use pesticide are the pollinators – a whole host of bees, and flies, and butterflies, and moths that transfer pollen from flower to flower as they forage and literally make possible every bit of our food from plants. We can’t live without them. They ask for little in return.

These are just a few of the unseen, unsung workers that allow our natural world to sustain us. It seems right to acknowledge them as we celebrate the people who do the same for our societies.

Wishing you a happy, peaceful, joyful Labor Day.

Postscript: Like many of you I have watched the Houston area and the nation respond to the damage wrought by Hurricane Harvey. My heart broke to see so many driven from their homes, losing everything. It overflows seeing the many stories of bravery and generosity, even in the face of all that loss. Much falls away when we extend our hands to a neighbor in need. It’s my hope that we remember that connection in better times, too.

Stay tuned for more on the Here’s a Quarter blog next week! As always, your thoughts and comments are always welcome – they are moderated (I know – adulting again), so they may take a little while to appear, but I read them all and appreciate that you were here. Thank you!

My new story collection is now available: Dog Days . I’d love to hear your thoughts if you check it out!

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