I WAS leopard crawling along my garage roof scraping out the accumulated debris which was blocking the rainfall run-off and exacerbating the leaking, thinking I really must get a ladder – when my blood ran cold.
A couple of centimetres from my right hand, this large wasp and this even larger spider were approaching. But the spider, I realised after a couple of seconds, was dead or paralysed, obviously stung by the wasp, and the wasp had no interest in me. It was just fixated on hauling its kill up and over the lip of the wall.
The spider was heavy, and the hunter kept slipping back. Would the wasp make it, or would they topple together back into the tecoma, the spider having come alive, grappling in mid-air like super-heroes? I watched for a few more minutes then, having finished on the roof, I climbed down.
Half an hour later, I was pottering around in the back garden when the terrible two appeared again. The wasp had obviously summited and crossed the garage roof and it was now down the other side. It tugged its ghastly cargo past Mom’s walker and set off across the lawn, labouring up and down through the unmown grass, each blade to it as high as a tree, I’m sure.
Then it got to the outside of the bathroom wall and repeated the Mount Everest stuff all over again, finally disappearing into a hole below one of the roof struts. It was a feat of superhuman strength.
Inside the hole, I presume, it will have deposited an egg into the spider’s body to give the emerging larva sustenance when it hatches.
I’m probably going to have to deal with this dubious situation at some stage but for the moment I’m happy to live and let live.
The presence of the wasps are at least in part the reason why we don’t often encounter large, live hairy spiders.
There are many other wild residents in and around Lea Place. Yellow mongoose slip in and out of the stormwater drains or trot across the open veld opposite the police station.
There’s a lone grey heron that flies across the skyline each day en route I would guess between Parson’s Vlei or Van der Kemp’s Kloof, and Cape Recife. But I’ve also seen him standing motionless, obviously fishing for frogs, in that stretch of water that accumulates on Kings Beach after rain.
There are gulls that commute across another quadrant of the sky, more directly east-west, between the beach and Arlington Tip.
There’s a comical hadeda that enjoys yelling sessions perched on my neighbour’s fence or the top of a nearby telephone pole.
There are shrikes, sparrows and doves, pigeons, wagtails and spreeus, and the occasional coucal and sunbird.
There are lizards and geckoes, moles, shongololos and butterflies.
Then of course there are snails. On a damp and humid dawn, they materialise as if from nowhere, great flotillas of them, gliding on their silvery paths across the driveway.
Snails are of course a fancy starter in many smart restaurants. So could we eat these chaps? And what about the other giant kind you sometimes see trundling around the metro?
The sustainable lifestyle website Fidgety Fingers says all snails are edible and it’s just a matter of extracting any toxins they might have in them from herbicides.
How about an Eastern Cape snail farming enterprise? No doubt there would be cultural challenges, but imagine how many bellies we could fill, and how sustainable it could be?
Not least, it would encourage people to avoid using any poisons on their properties.
I don’t use any and, consequently, establishing a weed-free lawn for the kids to play cricket on has been a slow process.
But it’s do-able and it’s good to feel that, in a small way at least, one is in tune.
In the face of climate change and peak oil, diminishing natural resources and increasing human poverty, vanishing biodiversity and rogue development – what to do?
We need a coordinated plan, but until we can achieve that and overcome the biggest hurdle, which is lack of political will, there is much we can learn from observing nature: of resilience, of being in the moment, of fussing little and doing lots.