Friday, January 28, 2011

Alma and the Killer Bees

You have read here about dolphins and starfish. As this year continues, you will read about birds and dogs Alma and I have encountered. Truth is, there is a wealth of animal life down at the beach, an endless menagerie of laughter and wonder.

But all is not wine and roses. Yesterday, we were again walking barefoot in the sand, specifically the hard pack sand close to the ocean. It was a beautiful day, much like the day before it.

Alma pointed out that there were a large number of small jellyfish on the hardpack. "Be careful not to step on them, as they will sting." She also pointed out that there were bees on the beach and that I should be careful not to step on them, because she knows I am somewhat allergic to bee stings.

Yes, bees come down to the ocean looking for (we think) water to drink but not realizing that salt water from the ocean will be their doom. Not every day and not enormous numbers, but enough so that if one looks for them one can readily see them.

The bees wind up squirming on their backs in the hard pack, sluggish but still very alive. Not five seconds after Alma issued her caution to me she stepped on a bee and got stung on the sole of her right foot. She was able to keep walking but she complained that it really hurt. I suggested we cut the walk short but she wanted to continue and so we did. She found that walking in the cold water of the ocean helped to numb the pain somewhat, even if it meant her feet got cold.

Every time Alma passed someone barefoot in the sand from that point on, she warned them about the danger of bees. I was being very cautious about where I walked. I made sure that every step I took landed on clear sand and, in places where there was any significant amount of beach detritus, I would move up away from the surf into the softer sand.

About 30 minutes later, as we were finishing the first leg of our walk, Alma got stung a second time on the sole of her left foot. Alma is nothing if not stubborn and she refused to stop her walk. She also refused to put her socks and shoes back on. So we continued our walk. The cold of the sand and the sun's diminshing warmth finally convinced Alma to put shoes and socks on mid-way through the second return leg of our walk. And by the time we reached the end of it, she was no longer complaining of much pain.

We bumped into a couple acquaintances as were heading back to the car. One of them, a nice guy named Chris, said, "The bee stings are supposed to be good for joint pain." That allowed me to chime in that Alma's joints should be completely healed up now that she had gotten not one, but two stings in a single walk. Al, another of our acquaintances, looked at Alma and said, "Don't you just hate those people that always say the glass is half full?" I must admit to the tiniest shiver of schadenfreude at the thought that Alma, so busy dispensing warnings to others, had gotten stung twice. It was not funny the first time, but the second time I couldn't help laughing a little bit. Fortunately, Alma herself laughed too.

But it's weird. One doesn't normally associate barren stretches of sand and salt water with insects like bees. About the only insect one sees down there regularly are the ubiquitous sand fleas that tend to congregate around rotting sea weed. But for those of you planning to walk at Venice Beach, watch out for the killer bees.

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