What Is It That You Would Leave Out?

Meditations in Motion

My husband and I visited our son and daughter-in-law, who live in Oregon, earlier this summer. At the edge of their garden, my son planted a row of gorgeous sunflowers, which I wanted to photograph.

As I walked past the corn stalks planted next to the sunflowers, I remembered a scene I witnessed last summer that I cannot expunge from my memory, no matter how hard I try.

I find myself now, a year later, turning this scene over and over in my mind, trying to make sense of the carnage I witnessed there, in the sunny corn patch.

My son and his wife garden organically, in an earnest, no-chemicals-added sort of way, so it is no surprise that bees of every stripe are frequent visitors to their garden. I have seen honey bees, sweat bees, and no less than four species of bumblebees frequenting their flowers and vegetables.

Meditations in MotionOn this day, I saw, to my horror, a yellowjacket eating a honeybee which had stopped to take a breather from her incessant nectar-gathering on a broad green leaf of corn.

As it turns out,  we notice yellowjackets mostly in the late summer, when dry conditions reduce the number of plant-eating insects they typically prey on.

They visit our soda bottles and hamburgers and generally make a terrific nuisance of themselves. Honeybees serve as a source of fresh meat for the more aggressive wasps during this season.

Beekeepers are well aware of yellowjackets’ predation on honeybees. A small or weak colony of honeybees can be decimated in a matter of hours by a yellowjacket attack.

Now, I am certainly not going to tell you that I was sentimental about watching a wasp eating a bee. Even though I realize honeybees are beneficial pollinators, producing a variety of products used by humans, including honey, beeswax for candles, and lip balm that is so much more palatable than those made from petroleum products, they are still, at heart, bugs who sting.

Moreover, I realize that predators capturing and eating prey are an inherent part of nature. I, myself, am a predator, eating halibut piccata and seafood gumbo, among other delicious animal-based foods.

Watching the yellowjacket eat the bee was a matter of fascination, rather than an affront to my senses. When I looked closer, I could even see the wasp licking the sweet honey the bee disgorged as she was being consumed.


Meditations in Motion
Photograph by Beatriz Moisset,  Wikipedia.


Then I saw something that, for some reason, went a step too far and turned my amazement into revulsion.

As the yellowjacket munched calmly on the honeybee and stole her hard-earned honey, a bald-faced hornet attacked and began eating the yellowjacket. Yes, the yellowjacket was eating the bee and the hornet was eating the yellowjacket.

All three insects were, by the way, very much alive, waving their appendages with varying degrees of vigor as I watched the scene in horror, my face no more than three inches from the stage where the actors played out their hideous scene of life-and-death struggle.

Is there no action, I wondered, too depraved for insects to undertake? No place where the line is drawn, no behavior too obscene?

Meditations in Motion

How can the same Creator responsible for glorious rainbows, magnificent sunsets, and adorable fluffy baby penguins, I wondered, allow such a casually gruesome and vicious scene as the one I witnessed in the sunny garden?

And then, just last week, I read a snippet of a poem by Mary Oliver that answered my question and made the whole situation clearer to me.

But tell me,” Mary asks, “if you would praise the world, what is it that you would leave out?

Yes, who am I, a retired high school teacher, to think I should have the authority to decide who is in and who is out? Which creatures meet my exceedingly stringent standards and get the OK for existence and which ones are just too unattractive, either in actions or appearance? But how absolutely human of me to want to try.

Of course, I think I am qualified to recognize the attributes for a more appealing version of life. We humans have been categorizing, labeling, classifying for millennia. It’s what has made us so successful, evolutionarily speaking. We’re good at it. It’s how we understand the world.

I do not, unfortunately, have the omniscience needed to make those heavy decisions (although it certainly would have come in handy during my teaching years). I only think I know everything; in reality, I am sadly lacking large areas of knowledge.

The knowledge we possess, in sum, is minuscule compared to that which we don’t know. We see the world only darkly, with thick wool covering our eyes.

I believe it is our calling, during our lighted seasons, to try to lift the wool and see our universe a speck more clearly. Some of us get distracted with all of the flash and frenzy the world has to offer and forget to even look.

I myself need many reminders to pay attention, to think about what theologian Paul Tillich called our “ultimate concern“. Reminders such as the sight of a hornet eating a wasp eating a bee.

And so I remember, for the time being, to consider important matters, and that I do not, regrettably, possess unlimited knowledge, and I must accept life as it is, rather than as I want it to be.

I remember (reluctantly) to distance myself from the distractions, the enchantments, the flash. I read serious books and think deep thoughts about existence. But, oh, the pizzazz of a sunflower in the late afternoon sun!

Meditations in Motion

I am linking with Random-osity for Communal Global, Abounding Grace for Gracefull Tuesday, Mary Geisen Tell His Story, Bethere2day for Wordless Wednesday, and InstaEncouragements.













    • Yes, I would leave them out too (especially the ticks – I have Lyme disease). But there is probably some critter who needs them to eat, right? If nothing ate mosquitos or ticks, we would soon be knee-deep in them.


  1. Luckily, I don’t believe in a Creator of that kind, so it’s no surprise to me to see all this goriness. My daughter and her husband recently returned from a safari honeymoon where they witnessed lion kills firsthand. I wanted her to put one in the video, but she didn’t. Oh well. Kitties gotta eat. And wasps too… 😝

    Great photos!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Wow! A warning of the images to come would have been helpful… haha. I am allergic to wasps, yellow jackets, Thank you for sharing your thoughts. I’m thankful that God in is infinite wisdom makes all the decisions on what or who is in and who is out. Have a blessed Labor Day holiday.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. “How can the same Creator responsible for glorious rainbows, magnificent sunsets, and adorable fluffy baby penguins, I wondered, allow such a casually gruesome and vicious scene as the one I witnessed in the sunny garden?”

    Like the snippet by Mary Oliver, too. I’ve learned much about mystery over the last year. Strange things!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. My husband, who grew up on a farm, would say a hornet eating a wasp eating a bee is the circle of life. I say what are the odds of you catching that going on at that exact moment in time! It must have been fascinating yet horrifying at the same time!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yep, exactly. Circle of life! It’s my philosophy that there are amazing sights out there happening all the time. We just have to put ourselves in a position so that we have the chance to see some of them!

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Oh, those things which, having seen them, we cannot un-see!
    Your post reminds me of a Madeleine L’Engle novel: A Severed Wasp. Of course, it’s glorious writing, but her image of a wasp landing on a plate and sucking up jam–completely oblivious to the knife that had cut it in two and the jam running back onto the plate from its nether regions– carries through human characters, who live out the truth that nature is “red in tooth and claw.”

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Laurie, what a fascinating post! I stay far away from stinging insects. Both of my sisters have anaphylactic reactions to bee/wasp stings. I don’t want to learn if I do too. That must have been quite a sight, and I think I would have been a bit revulsed at watching a hornet eat the yellow jacket as well.

    I am fascinated by God’s creation. The colors of sunflowers, sunrises, sunsets, the mountains, wild flowers, flowing streams . . . what I really don’t like? Cockroaches. Any shape. Any size. Eeww.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Jeanne. I am not a fan of wasps and bees either! I have a friend who developed a severe allergic reaction after he was stung several times by hornets while trail running. I am not staying away from the trails until it gets cold enough to kill the wasps. I hope you never have to find out if you are allergic!

      Cockroaches are definitely disgusting!

      Liked by 1 person

  7. You’re right, that’s gross (hornet munching on live wasp munching on live bee). But that’s only how it looks to us. Our human perceptions seem correct to us, but they’re surely limited. We have no idea what those creatures’ experiences are actually like. Although, it’s hard to believe they’re pleasant. Except for, maybe, the hornet. While we’re listing critters I’d kick off the Ark if it were up to me (and good thing it isn’t), I’d include potato bugs, AKA Jerusalem crickets. Too ugly to live, IMHO.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes, how do we get past those human perceptions? Maybe we can’t. That’s what makes us human. I read one time that an animal with a simpler brain than ours experiences the world with fewer filters, so maybe they have a better, more realistic perception of life than we do.

      I had to Google potato bugs. Ewww…:)


  8. Wow – we have discussed the circle of life before several times in the past Laurie, but this post and picture takes it up a notch – it is like the expression “what goes around comes around once the bald-faced hornet stepped up to the plate. It’s all pretty incredible to me.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. If I could wave a magic wand,
    would I thus reject these days.
    and ask for, please, a place beyond
    cancer’s blood-dimmed haze?
    If I found an ancient lantern,
    and out of it emerged a djinn,
    would I change the losing pattern
    and order up a painless win?
    If shaman’s sticks on sand were scattered,
    and pointed to the healing orb,
    would the gain be all that mattered?
    What lesson might I here absorb?
    If I could…well, it matters not;
    I’ll do the best with what I’ve got.


    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s