Five years ago someone left a funky table across the road from my casita. I thought it was junk but hauled it over to my patio to use as a surface for potting plants. After a year of sun, wind, and snow the veneer had curled up and I was ready then to junk the table. But some salvage sensibility made me pull the veneer off. It was just press-board underneath and I bought a colorful printed piece of Mexican oilcloth to cover it. I’d overestimate the length and had a strip of the turquoise with red/orange flowers left after I'd stapled the oilcloth around the table, from the underside. The table served to brighten up the patio and protect the raw press-board from weather.
The other day, feeling spring, I decided to replace the now rotting turquoise oilcloth with a new color. I bought a red flowered pattern with blue and green, but this time I underestimated the size, and the piece was too small. I pulled out the leftover turquoise piece from two years ago and thought I'd go wild with two different colors and patterns. But it still wasn't enough. So I went back to the fabric store the next day. The proprietor had a yellow piece he'd sell me for half price because it was less than a yard. So now I had three colors.
My neighbor and I agreed that using all three colors looked the best. Now, during my quick break from writing, I began to staple-gun the three colors to the table (wrapping it under and stapling from underneath). Pressing the gun from that twisted position got more and more difficult each time I applied the stable gun to the under side of the table. Then the gun ran out of staples. I went rummaging for more staples, filled the gun, and then one staple got jammed. Now I needed to pull out my pliers. My break from writing was extending beyond my intended time.
I finally fixed the staple-gun but it jammed again because I couldn’t get a purchase against the underside of the table. I only needed two or three more staples and I could get back to my writing. But I just couldn’t get it, and without these last clinchers, the turquoise piece would not hold. So I turned the table upside down to lay it flat so I could staple it from above with more leverage. As I turned it over, one of the legs crumbled off. The underside of the tabletop onto which the leg was fastened had turned to sawdust. I noticed a black widow nested in the corner by another leg and an old wasp nest stuck to the underside. I didn't bother them and now realized this table is really and truly junk—finally ready for the dump. So I got a screwdriver to pull out the staples and save the oilcloth.
The black widow was getting agitated and then a wasp appeared, buzzing around my lengthening project. I assumed she was saying, "What the hell are you doing?" Eventhough I was sure that wasp nest was old and dried up. Why would she care about it? Now I believe I was right in my translation but perhaps not in the way I’d believed at the time.
I apologized to both of them for causing an earthquake. I tried to scoot a dustpan under the widow to take her to a new location, but she resisted; went and hid. I pushed that leg off the rotted tabletop to coax the widow out from underneath. The leg leaned off its bearing with ease, and the widow came with it. So with her riding on the table leg, I walked her out across the street to an area where I dump weeds. I apologized to her for making her a refugee.
My neighbor helped me carry the pieces of table out to the trash from where I’ll eventually have to take them to the dump.
When I told my friend this story she prized me on my mindfulness. "You could have been stung by the wasp, or bit by the black widow," (something that never really occurred to me. I was more concerned about not shooting myself in the face with the staple gun). "I'm sure it was because you did not become aggressive or loose your temper that they didn't hurt you." I suppose because I did not feel aggression or fear, to them I was just an act of nature. I guess meditating each morning really helps.
This morning when I went to open the curtains the wasp was sleepily clinging to the drape. I went and got a card and a glass, as I do with spiders. I spoke gently to it and told it I would take it outside. It came along willingly as I apologized again for disrupting its nest. Then I thought to look up what wasp means as totem:
Go to work on your goals and your goals will work on you. All the good things we build – end up building us. Make a plan, keep working towards it and let nothing get in your way.
Perhaps the wasp was saying “What the hell are you doing? Get back to your writing.”