16.10.08

Alchemy


A few summers ago - before digital cameras and blogs - we stood by this tree on the edge of the woods, watching hornets too-and-fro from a hidden nest within this tree. It is hollow in its bottom, but still very much alive at the top. There were big 'bouncer' hornets sat at the entrances (those small holes just halfway up the trunk). They sat on the dry, sun warmed wood, watching everyone who went in and out. They were not at all bothered by us, as we quietly observed them. As a colony dies off after one season, we never saw them nesting there again. But yesterday we spotted mysterious lumps in the darkness of the wood cavern.




A few remains of the old nest had fallen down. Light in weight, it is deceptively fragile looking. But if you press the palm of your hand flat against the cells, you can feel the strength of the structure. Made from the chewed wood of the tree, it is a quite beautiful construction. Hornets do not make honey - the comb is a hatching place for the pupa, started off by the young Queen as she emerges from hibernation and begins to build her Kingdom. These first offspring will hatch as workers, and will take over such menial tasks, while Queenie devotes the rest of her time to laying thousands more eggs.





In a normal wasps nest - such as are found hanging from trees and (unfortunately) sometimes in attics, the Queen and her workers build around the comb, sealing the cells off with a paper wall. This traps layers of air, keeping the precious hatchlings at the desired moderate temperature; the same principles that quilt makers world wide utilise. But our hornets, building inside a well protected hollow trunk, would have simply built the comb within the space.


We took one piece home to put with our other treasures and nestled it by the fossil sea urchin, found on
another walk.




Together, they represent the four elements, transmogrified. The urchin, once swimming in Water, now turned to stone and of the Earth. The empty nest, made by creatures of the Air, who's short lives are lived out in the sun - or Fire - of summer. Natural alchemy.

17 comments:

Jess said...

What an amazing area you live in! I think I could probably spend hours in your house surrounded by all that inspiration. Well done with the wine, it looks delicious.x

Frances said...

Well spotted! What a splendid teacher you are. The hive is a beautiful tiny sculpture, and I love the notion of alchemy.

Cheers!

Karen said...

What a find! I've seen a few big hornets buzzing around here.
That stinkhorn is amazing!
Good luck with your wine. We are going to have a go at cider this weekend. A friends offered us use of a press. Should be interesting!

Mlle Miracle said...

What a nice post and a great lesson too, thank you!!

Kim said...

Wow what a lovely find. Are you still struggling with inspiration? I'm feeling very inspired to paint after today's walk, but I've got to sculpt, and that's my big area of nothing at the moment!!!

Good luck, I hope you find inspiration soon.

Kim x

tut-tut said...

That honeycomb hexagonal is found elsewhere in nature. Very interesting. Nice connections you've made!

lettuce said...

we've had nests like this from my parents garden - truly extraordinary.

i love the elemental theme here

Lynne said...

wow, very strange we both posted blog entries regarding hornets (or wasp) nests. How cool is that? Yours is a beautiful souvenir of what once was. Nature is so amazing. All we have to do is look around us to be continually amazed. Lovely post.

I'm so glad Lettuce led me to you!

carolyn said...

Another little gift from nature for your collection.

d. moll, l.ac. said...

Hornets nests are part of the Chinese herbal Materia Medica, Lu Feng Fang, or something like that, used for toxic conditions......

Sweetwater Designs said...

My mother was a school teacher before she had me. Any walks I went on with her were just such wondering excursions as you describe. I thoroughly enjoy stopping in here to see where you've been and what you've found and what you've made. You're a true delight. ♥

~Deborah

Foxglove Cottage said...

Oh I'm so glad to find others who not only pick up such things but treasure them! Love your blog!

Amanda said...

Wow how beautiful and how blessed you were to received such a gift to take home with you :o) Thanks for sharing!

Sarah Laurence said...

I see hornets and walk the other way, but I love that you stop to observe them and find beauty in their work. I have a couple of friends here who raise bees for honey. Fresh honey always seems to taste better.

Pamela Terry and Edward said...

Such perfect, tiny hexagons. How do they do it so well?? Lovely find!

tlc illustration said...

I love how you manage to make everything you find sound so... elemental!

kate smudges said...

I like the way you describe your treasures. The hornet's nest makes a beautiful addition. It's quite amazing to think of how the hornets build their nests.