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HomeCuckoo waspAn Oasis of Peace

An Oasis of Peace

Cuckoo wasp, Chrysis coerulans

I sometimes feel that the world has descended into madness. In this age of technology, there seems to be an almost constant stream of violence and bloodshed, one tragedy after another, each more brutal and more horrifying than the last. It’s hard not to be affected by the images that we are bombarded with, or to feel at times, completely overwhelmed by helplessness and despair.
“The best remedy for those who are afraid, lonely, or unhappy
 is to go outside, somewhere where they can be quite alone with the heavens, nature and God. Because only then does one feel that all is as it should be and that God wishes to see people happy amidst the simple beauty of nature. …I firmly believe that nature brings solace in all troubles.”  Anne Frank

It’s true. At times like that, the only answer is to escape into the beauty and wonder of the natural world, and find your own little oasis of peace. 
For me it starts with the delight of watching my date seeds start to grow. Eight of my dates have sprouted now. I’m watching and recording their progress, impatiently waiting for the new leaves to emerge.
The ripe dates continue to change too, going from a crunchy crisp red to a rich dark colour and becoming soft in texture. I love to eat them at this stage- the flavour is intense, like caramel, melting in your mouth. I did a couple of dissections to illustrate the changes.
Ripe and riper
 I found a tiny gecko that had drowned in the pool. I have a soft spot for these little lizards, known as Mediterranean House Geckos. People are superstitious about them here, but geckos are great little hunters, feeding on mosquitoes, flies, ants, cockroaches and all the other insects that I don’t want to have around my home. I carried this one carefully home and sketched it. 
A far better solution to insect control than using harmful pesticides
Morning walks along the beach are great for the soul, and I often come home with treasures like this little shell to bring home and paint. 
Another find is a little Painted Lady Butterfly, Vanessa cardui. It is incredible to realise that this tiny creature with it’s seemingly delicate wings has flown all the way from Northern Europe, perhaps even Ireland. Scientists have puzzled over the mystery of this migration for years, but have recently discovered that these butterflies ascend to a height of 500 metres and windsurf all the way down to North Africa, reaching speeds of over 45km an hour!! How cool is that!!! 
There is a little video at the end of this blog post which tells more about this remarkable feat.
A Painted Lady that has reached the end of her journey

However the most exciting event of the week was finding the most gorgeous wasp in my kitchen. It glistened like a sapphire in the sunshine… simply stunning! It is a Cuckoo wasp, Chrysis coerulans . They get their name because they lay their eggs in the nests of other wasps, and I have a potters wasp’s nest just outside my door. 
Slowly uncurling… but look at those blues!
Of course I really wanted to paint it, but it’s challenging to paint an insect which is running around, trying to escape. The best thing to do in this case, is to put the creature into the fridge for an hour or so. It doesn’t seem to harm them, but when you take them out, they will keep quite still until they warm up, giving you a chance to take photographs and do some small studies. I made up a small blue colour chart so that I could match up the dazzling blues and emeralds. The cuckoo moth has a habit of rolling into a tight ball when threatened which gave me a chance to get some close shots of it’s wonderful metallic sheen.
Stop moving! I want to draw you.
 I did some quick sketches to give me a better understanding of the shapes, but by then the wasp was starting to move a lot. 
It feeds on the nectar of flowers, so I gave it a tiny drop of honey which it really enjoyed, and then I let it go. 
What a treat to be able to observe this wonderful creature so closely! I plan to do a larger study when I return to Ireland.
Nature is certainly a constant source of wonder and inspiration… I have found my oasis of peace this week.
“The forest makes your heart gentle.  You become one with it… No place for greed or anger there.”  
Pha Pachak

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