Wanda, the Wasp…a modern fable


excerpted from American Mysticism by Barbara Condron

Wasps are supposed to die in winter.

There's not much for them to do, or to eat, when the temperatures drop below freezing and the earth disappears beneath heaven's blanket.  Far removed from natural sciences study, I figured they complete their cycle and return to elemental particles, probably becoming part of the carrots I ate this morning.

   Not so with Wanda.  Wanda drowned in the remains of my jasmine teacup.  I found her there yesterday when I poured the tea in the sink.  I didn't see her at first because the cup is a mahogany cherry, the tea chestnut, just the colors of Wanda's shiny lifeless body.

    Ah, the empathy comes up.  I hope it was a quick passing.  Although there's not much help I can be in that, since it's already transpired.  Over and done with, as we often say.

    Wanda gets caught by the drain stopper.  She's clearly not going down there.  I grab a tissue, pick her up, and dispose of her a bit unceremoniously in the trash.

    It never occurred to me that dead wasps can sting you.  I figured when the spirit leaves the body, the poison goes with it.  Silly me, as if poison is of permanent value, even in a wasp.


I discovered dead venom through experience, what most call the hard way because it is difficult.  In my part of the world, the Bible clearly lines out all the consequences of living outside the garden, and none of them are easy.  Here's how I learned that lesson.  

    I was sitting on the floor of my small study a couple summers ago.  Living in the country, wasps often find their way into the building and take up residence, so we've learned to coexist.  That summer, wasp traffic was particularly high.  It was not uncommon for six or eight of them to congregate at my windows seeking the greater light only to find it held away from them.  They would live out their wasp-lives until they were done being wasps then they would just fly away, leaving their bodies behind.  Willard was one of those.

    Willard was probably Wanda's great-great-great grandfather.  I never knew Willard so I don't know what I did to him that he left a deposit of poison in my foot when I repositioned my body.  I didn't know what had happened at first.  Maybe a stray needle from careless sewing the day before, or just one of those strange pinprick nerve pains that have increased in recent years with the transformations in my consciousness.  When I moved my foot, there he was, Willard, the wasp.  Dead.  Had I killed him when my foot rolled over on him and poisoning me was his last act?

    I didn't think so.

the story continues