Friday, July 12, 2019

love is in the air

And in the pool. And on my computer table. And on me.

We still have not had a turn-our-streets-into-Venice rain this year. I thought that had changed Wednesday night when I heard the distinctive flamenco-tapping of raindrops on the plastic cover over my shower chimney. For some reason, the sound always reminds me of overnight Boy Scout outings at Camp Meriwether.

I had hoped it was going to be The Big One -- our first major rain of the year that turns our streets into sewage-enhanced canals. But I was wrong. It was just an appetizer.

But it was sufficient for another purpose. Each year, when three factors come together (heat, humidity, and rain), the love flight of the ants begins. Queens and drones emerge from their nests and fill the air with more pheromones than a college dance on Saturday night.

The heat provides ideal flight conditions. And the rain softens the ground for burrowing once the mating rites are complete.

I am typing on the patio this morning. From my writer's chair, I can see what must be hundreds of ants in flight over the pool doing their best to make the right connection. A lot of them are not so lucky.

You know I am reading Benjamin Dreyer's Dreyer's English: An Utterly Correct Guide to Clarity and Style. You know that because I told you in the body electric.

Dreyer's entry on "irony" -- a word often used inappropriately --is perfect.

Funniness is not irony. Coincidence is not irony. Weirdness is not irony. Rain on your wedding day is not irony. Irony is irony. 
I once copyedited a work in which the author, if he used the phrase "deliciously ironic" once, used it a dozen times. The problem was, nothing he ever said was either delicious or ironic. Which, as a colleague pointed out, was deliciously ironic.
 A leaf-cutter ant queen, out on her flight to reproduce her kind, being hunted down, subdued, and eaten by another species of ant may not be ironic, but it is certainly weird. Anyone who has ever sat on the board of any organization -- especially a political one -- will immediately recognize the scenario.

But she is not alone in her fate. The pool has taken its share of victims. Its surface looks like the set of Sunset Boulevard if Norma Desmond has been a serial (rather than jealous) murderer. The swallows are also collecting their share to regurgitate for their young perched on top of my Moravian star light fixtures.

The cycle of life spins around. Life and death. Joy and disaster. Success and failure.

Tomorrow the remains of the Faerie queen will not even be a memory. But some of her protein may nurture a larvae who will one day be the queen of her own nest.

And that will not be irony, either. It is just the way things are.   

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