March 23rd, 2007

Strange Things Are Afoot at Crystal Cove

This morning I headed out to the beach for a long brisk walk and a good firm think about my revisions. But I ended up getting distracted by


1.      The men in orange


2.      The bugs in red.


Periodically I see the men in orange jumpsuits at the beach. Usually when I see them they’re just sitting on the sand eating lunch, so I’ve never understood exactly what their purpose was. But as of today I know.


They are there to clean the beach.


They had brooms. They had rakes. They had those gas-powered blower things that blast all the dead leaves in the county into my little driveway.


They were wandering along the steep paths that lead from the parking lots down to the beach, sweeping and raking and blowing to get the sand off the asphalt. Maybe it’s just me (for most of my life, I’ve been a believer in the Semi-Annual Dusting, although I recently upgraded to Monthly Dusting. I mean, why bother doing it more often? That just makes it come back faster), but I can’t see the point of dusting the beach, you know? What with it being made up of dust (okay, sand. Close enough) and all.


After I passed the men in orange, I got back to thinking about my little middle-grade fantasy, and how much chapter one has already changed and I’ve just done one pass through it—and then I spotted a little red something on the sand. So I leaned in for a closer look.


It was a ladybug.


Right there, on the wet sand. Just walking around.


Now, I’ve seen ginormous beetles on the aforementioned paths, and once I saw a spider on the wet sand, which was weird enough. And occasionally I see bees stumbling around near piles of seaweed.


But a ladybug?


I took another step, and saw another one. This worried me. Ladybugs don’t belong on sand. So I urged it onto my finger (eventually. It was not a particularly trusting bug) and carried over to the brushy hillside, and the silly thing fell into the sand at least five times before I managed to get it onto a branch. (Yes, it did occur to me that the ladybug hadn’t asked me for help. But by then it was too late.)


I hurtled back to the firm sand and kept walking. Slowly. Because there were a lot of ladybugs on the beach. (Some of them, unfortunately, were slightly flattened in the middle of big jogger-style footprints.) Then I turned around and made my way back. I have to say, there were some unusual pairings of ladybugs that made me wonder if I was viewing some sort of grunion-style mating ritual (but I don’t know that much about the sex life of insects).


And then I saw a little black something on the sand.


It was an upside-down ladybug half-submerged in muddy sand. I carefully flipped it right-side-up, and it crept immediately onto my finger, not like that other ungrateful bug that I had interacted with that morning. It crawled up my hand and then hiked up the sleeve of my sweatshirt. We had some difficulties when I tried to offer it a leafy branch to creep onto, but it grabbed it on the third try and seemed perfectly satisfied with its new home.


I was pretty satisfied, too, what with the beach-sweeping men and the ladybug invasion. So I didn’t get as much work-in-progress thinking done as I’d expected—but with this great ladybug mystery, I may be onto a hot new story idea! And I can hardly wait to see what wildlife adventures await me when I return to my beachfront office.  

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