Meghan and I spent a lot of time catching bugs, for whatever reason. There was a certain time of year that the ladybugs covered the north side of the house. We spent hours seeing how many we could fit into discarded Slim Jim jars from my grandpa’s carry-out. I believe we probably had two hundred in one jar. I still remember the smell of smashed ladybugs in the grooves of the lid and the sound of their wings cracking under the pressure as they tried to escape with each new capture.
A lot of the bug catching happened in and around the barn. Spiders lurked in every slat and the woodpile was full of creepy crawlies. When Grandma and Grandpa opened the cellar for cleaning, Meghan and I lined up mason jars and Slim Jim jars full of our bugs along the shelves and pretended to run a bug museum. At the end of the day, we unscrewed the lids and watched them escape into the night.
I remember one day I was the only kid at Grandma and Grandpa’s, and there were hundreds of bees buzzing around the mud puddle. It was hot, and the bees were moving lazily from one patch of mud to the next. I found one of our Slim Jim jars with holes poked in the red plastic lid and perched on the small hill above the puddle.
I watched the bees rise and fall to the mud and crept up slowly. I had gotten my first bee sting that summer after running through the fallen petals of the catalpa tree in the side yard, and I didn’t want to get another. With the lid in one hand and the upside-down jar in the other, I slowly lowered it over one of the bees. It immediately flew upwards toward the bottom of the clear jar, trying to escape to the sky.
I slowly slid the lid under the jar and retreated slowly. I did this all afternoon, and eventually I had 29 bees in the same jar, and no stings. And no matter how many times I flipped the jar upside-down or horizontal, the bees always flew up.
It occurs to me that whenever we try to escape something, we, like the bees, always go up. It’s as though altitude makes us more untouchable, less vulnerable. People take off on planes to vacation spots every day. Bees go up. When we’re running short of air in the pool, we go up. When kids are afraid of something on the ground, they raise their hands to their parents and say, “Up!” Goats climb things all the time just to be up.
Funny how humans, who are land animals, take such comfort in being “up.”