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The Summer of the Wasps

September 5, 2016 by Diane

Truckee #5

You go on vacation to escape your life. To set aside the worry, the stress, the gossip, the routine and mundane, the rut that keeps you blinded to anything above and beyond. You go on vacation to widen your view, and what better place to widen it than the top of a granite mountain, above the pines, a 360-degree expanse that gives you a glimpse of what God sees.

But at the top of that mountain are yellow jackets. A whole gang of them. In fact, the region is rife with angry wasps, and as long as you keep moving, you’re no target. But the minute you stop, the minute you zip open your backpack to reach for your hummus and avocado and tomato, lettuce, pickle sandwich, they’re on you.

You came here, to the high country, to the mountain lake, to listen. To ponder the dwindling finances, the mounting debt. To sit in quiet reflection until you have a “eureka” moment, a bolt of clarity that lights up your brain. “Ah! I know what to do! I know what path to take! I know how to unmuddle the muddle I’m in!”

But those yellow jackets. It’s hard to relax, with the gang buzzing around your blue-painted toes, your blue t-shirt. They love blue. That lavender-scented sunblock? Ditch it. They love that, too. And the coconut moisturizer that gives your hair a fighting chance in this dry, high altitude? Lose it. Go au-natural if you want to sit and ponder at the lake.

Those yellow jackets will challenge your morning meditations, too. Just how long can you sit with that constant buzz? You feel them tease your skin: a prick, a nibble. How long till you jump up and run inside, arms waving?

They bite your friend instead. His pinky swells to the size of his thumb.

“Whaddya think?” he says, shoving it at you like you’re the canary in the coal mine.

If you freak, he’ll be concerned. Lucky for him, you don’t. It’s not your pinky that was bit. If it was, you’d be telling yourself that you’re allergic, you’re dying, there’s something poisonous in the wasps in Truckee, nothing like the ones at ocean level, like the one that bit you nine times in the thigh after buzzing up your pants leg. Nine times. That’s the story you’d be telling yourself.

But it’s not your pinky.

“Maybe you should rub some ointment on it,” you say.

“Nah, I’m fine.”

The next day, it’s bright red.

“How about Benadryl.”


The next day, it’s purple.

“Lidocaine. Try Lidocaine.”

If it was your pinky, you’d have a hard time breathing. You’d be afraid of waking up and discovering it’s as big as your head.

But him? “It’ll go away,” he says, and he’s right. It does. That’s his story.

Still, doesn’t make it easy, sitting on the piney deck every morning in meditation with the wasps buzzing while your friend sips his coffee and relaxes, eyes closed to the sun, arms crossed on his chest, that pinky turning hues. You leap up, head inside.

There’s serenity inside.

But hey! You didn’t travel all that way to gaze out the sliding glass doors from a cush of a couch in your landlady’s “cabin.” So the next morning, you sit longer. There, on the deck of that two-story granite and pine house that you can’t afford to stay in for a night, let alone a week, if it wasn’t for the plant-watering you did for the lady-of-the-land when she was away, and her handyman work your friend did, so the two of you could get away, cost-free. Him, to climb the granite peaks. You, to settle lakeside with a couple of books to lose yourself in, and a stretch of time to ponder your financial state while the cold mountain water laps at your ankles.

Except for those yellow jackets.

The only thing you ponder is a hazmat suit.

No “eureka” moment at the lake this summer. This is the summer of the wasps. Someone will erect a monument in memory. A giant winged insect with dark slashes above bulging black eyes.

No, your “eureka” moment will come when you arrive home, hanging onto that feeling of freedom, that absence of thought, that in-the-moment stuff you were living up there in Truckee. Your “eureka” moment will come when news leaks out…the bookstore where you work is on the market.

Tough times for indies. You knew that. Hell, you were commiserating with the owner of the indie up in Truckee not two days previous. “You want to buy the place?” she said, her eyes aglow. You begged off, hands raised. “No, no. Just lending my good wishes that you’ll stay open.”

Little did you know.

Ah, who are you fooling? It’s no surprise. The place where you work, for all it’s attributes, reeks poverty-mentality. The broken, the unwanted, saved and displayed on the lunch table, up for grabs. Decapitated Buddha statues. Angels with broken wings. Expired food from someone’s cupboard. “It’s free! Take it! A little dab of glue…” Who are you fooling? Glue won’t hold together a leaky bank account.

Maybe someone with a wealth-mentality will buy the place. That’s the story you tell yourself.

Or it will downsize, like the used bookstore that closed and moved to Gilroy where rents are cheap.

Or you’ll be laid off when the current owners cry, “Uncle!” At what point will the captains abandon the sinking ship, even if that ship is loaded with treasure?

Time to get your ducks in a row, you hear. Right after, “eureka!”

But to do that, to get those duckies all lined up, something’s gotta give. Will it be the blog? The novel? You’ve spread yourself thin, and that two-week stint of non-writing felt mighty fine.

Hard choices ahead.

But out there among the yellow jackets, you settled into yourself. You settled into that still place that you’d lost in the day-to-day grind. And you’re not willing to lose it again.


  1. Joan says:

    Well… I’m glad to hear you were able to relax in the midst of all those bees. I would be inside. This is bee time especially in the mountains. Always a drag to have to come back to reality. But also glad to hear you have found some inner peace. I wish you the best in figuring out what to do to keep that peace.

    • Diane says:

      Thanks! I’ve never experienced quite so many yellow jackets in Truckee. Depending on which ranger we talked to, it was due to the drought or the rains.

  2. Joan says:

    I was thinking about your comment on needing to eliminate something from your plate… Which causes the most stress or which do you enjoy the least? That’s the thing to eliminate. If rewriting your novel is just stress and work but no pleasure, then forget about it. You don’t have to do it… You want to do it. If the blog is not fun and feels like it takes up too much time… Then eliminate that. You need to work to pay the bills, but the rest should bring you pleasure. Keep the stuff in your life that adds to your life instead of stealing your life (time) from you. Well there you go…for what it’s worth.

  3. Bun Karyudo says:

    I’m sorry to hear about the bookstore where you work. That’s really too bad. It’s a terrible time for them at the moment. As for the wasps, I think your friend was very brave to take the swollen pinkie so well. Many of us might have panicked in the same situation. (By “many of us” I mean me.)

  4. Here’s a tip for the next wasp/yellow jacket/bee sting–household ammonia. My dad was a beekeeper and he’d use that when he got stung. The ammonia counteracts the venom. You have to put it on as soon as possible.

    • Diane says:

      Good to know! I’ve heard that rubbing alcohol is good to put on a tick to get it to back out, but I had no idea ammonia counteracts bee venom. Thanks!

  5. Riley says:

    Sorry I’m so late chiming in. Sounds like you are in a rough patch; I wish I had the magic answer! I agree with Joan in regards to keeping whatever adds to your life. Determine what your goals in life are then keep whatever you can that will lead to those goals.

    Life brings so many changes–I think many of us are constantly evaluating, adjusting and trying to balance it all.

    You are a great writer and I would love to see you keep plugging away at it if it’s what your heart desires but sometimes obstacles slow us down.

    Here’s to hoping better days and clarity are quickly coming your way.

    • Diane says:

      Thanks Riley. It’s wonderful to get advice from my readers!

      I managed to keep that vacation glow for about two days after returning to work. Then the overwhelm descended. Maybe my brain just got stuck in its old groove again.

      The problem is, I want to do it all. Which leads to burn-out. Getting back into a meditation practice again certainly helps clear my mind and listen for answers. I have confidence the answers will come. Patience, patience.

  6. Dave says:

    Great story!..Yup…Yellowjackets can be a menace that kills your relaxing, absorb the moment time. He should have peed on his pinky(like with jelly fish) to kill the sting:-)…. Sounds like its time to move on from that other thing….Keep writing and bring us along on your journey :-)….It’s always a great read!

    • Diane says:

      Pee on your pinky? I’ll file that away in information I could use but probably won’t remember. I’d end up peeing on my finger when I whacked it with a hammer, confusing the remedies.

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