"Can we go dig it up?" he asked, literally bouncing at the thought as only a four year old can.
Cheerios still lay uneaten in three breakfast bowls, and my thoughts were already racing far ahead to washing bedclothes, watering drought-stressed plants, and cleaning out the spoiled food in the fridge from this family's two week fast due to illness. Last night's excitement? Not even on my radar.
But for oldest son, this was worth remembering first. Mommy had promised to dig it up tomorrow, and promises meant "yes" even if she had to be reminded.
"Sure," I replied. "You have to find me a shovel first."
Late yesterday afternoon with just a trace of misty rain falling like heavy dew, I sent my children outdoors. I'm sure my grandmother would not have approved. She probably would have told me another story of one of my aunts playing in the rain and then getting quite ill, the kind of story where you just smile and say "yes ma'am" because it's no use arguing by repeating discoveries of modern science she won't remember tomorrow and doesn't need to know anyway.
Besides, all three children had already been running fevers for well over a week anyway. So, I sent them out...actually, I forced them out of this house holding in a week of sweaty sickness, no choice for little girl who constantly complained she was getting wet.
Five minutes of drizzle, maybe ten, enough to leave that post-storm scent in the air, to make my shirt damp enough to send back through the clothes dryer another five minutes. While boys spent their time crying over who should have the shovel and throwing dirt in each other's hair, Amelia "helped" me weed the front flower bed, both of us casually pulling three foot long runners of trespassing grass from around still-blooming roses and clumps of dead-headed verbena.
"Is this a weed?" Amelia asked as she gripped another trailing verbena stem. I crossed back and forth across the long bed that stretches the length of our home, just passing time, needing to be out versus in. When I reached the bed's end, I walked around versus cutting across between the roses as I had been doing. No real reason.
As as I turned the corner, a yellow jacket flew past and disappeared less than a foot from where I stood. Then came another. As Amelia and I cautiously took a few steps back and stooped down, we watched twenty or more yellow jackets return home for the night, one after another almost evenly spaced in time like they were on some invisible conveyor belt.
It was another nest, tucked invisibly under a mound of grass clippings, a slight indentation in the mulch's straight edge the only evidence of a hole going straight down to a five-story high rise complex for housing and raising more yellow jackets.
After dark when the nest was full again of its inhabitants, husband poured it full of gasoline.
And this morning? I dug it up. With an excited audience of three and a small trowel, I tried to not make the same mistake I did last fall after finding another nest, slicing straight through it and destroying most of the evidence.It might have been an inch beneath the red clay's surface, a work of serious labor in a 12" x 10" hole. While most of its swirled outer paper shell fell apart as I cupped the nest with gloved hands, all five tiers remained together as one unit. At the bottom of the now empty hole lay at least a full measuring cup's worth of dead yellow jackets.
When I turned the nest over, it was an instant pushing/shoving match to see what we had just read about a few weeks ago in a book about bees--cells with tiny white pin-head-sized eggs laid by the queen, cells with fully-exposed larva that would have been fed regularly by the "nurse bees,"and then those white-capped cells where others were undergoing the final metamorphosis into black and yellow striped flight.Our Magic School Bus book turned real before my children's very eyes...and it was all I could do to keep them from touching. It was one of those light bulb amazing moments where pictures on paper become real, an indescribable light sparking in their eyes.
My daddy is the one who taught me how to dig and discover. But even he says he's never seen one this big.
Two weekends ago, I re-mulched this very bed, arranging grass clippings right on top. Several times a week throughout the summer, I've mindlessly pulled weeds there as I watered. These yellow jackets have been there all along, silently building, so close to the surface, I would have crushed the nest had I simply put my weight on it with one foot, unleashing its fury.
Only God knows how many times He's protected me from an angry swarm.
As I held it, excited myself at the find, I also was and am chastened, humbled. In all my whining and moaning about the sickness that has descended on my house this year, so much so that we've met our yearly insurance deductible and half a year isn't even over...I sometimes get so caught up in the struggles God allows to come into my life that I'm blind to the ones He keeps away.
I forget there is a hedge He has around me.
I don't see what lies beneath the surface that is ready to consume me, yet He keeps away. I don't see the possible car accident avoided because of a five minute frustrated delay with children not being able to find their shoes. I don't see the possible illness avoided because I'm stuck at home with another, less serious illness.
My vision is so limited. This, He knows well. Why else would He stick a five-tier nest in my front yard, His creation to live and die without incident?
For an instant, I catch a flash of that hedge...and I feel His protection.