Bugwoman on Location – Changeover Day

IMG_3393Dear Readers, Saturday is Changeover Day in Obergurgl. Lots of visitors are going home, and new people will be sitting at their tables in the hotel tonight. It’s a bittersweet day: we are pleased to still be here, but the folk who have gone will take their stories with them.

For instance, there’s  the mother with her eighteen year-old daughter at the next table. The mother was up for breakfast at 8 a.m. every morning. The daughter didn’t get going till noon at the earliest. When the daughter did get up, she had to put on her full make-up before she left the room. She got travel-sick on chairlifts and buses. She hadn’t brought any walking clothes. Her best day was when she found some make-up in one of the shops at 30% off. Never was a person so out of place on a mountain holiday.

And yet, when I saw her, all sardonically painted eyebrow and red lipstick, what I saw was someone teetering on the edge between the security of childhood and the great unknown of being a woman. Someone who wanted her mother to look after her, and yet repeatedly shoved her away.

In other words, someone much like me at the same age. In a few years, so many of these painful things will have been worked out, and I hope that she will be able to have a happy relationship with her mother. But for now, there is just too much going on. She is metamorphosing, and that is a painful thing. As I saw them wrestling with their suitcases this morning, I wished them both well, and I meant it. They will both come out the other side of this, and will wonder what the hell it was all about.

It’s all change in the village as well. With the weather set fair for the next few days, the pastures are being cut. On the bigger fields, like the one in the photo above, a tractor is used to cut the grass and then arrange it into rows, but these are swept into little mini haystacks by hand. And soon the later plants will grow, ready for a second cut in the early autumn. This is what keeps the tremendous variety of plants here, and helps to make sure that dandelions and docks are part of the mix, not the majority of it. But it is sad to see a butterfly flickering over the cut stems, investigating a fallen clover. Fortunately, there are always some areas which are wild, and which hold enough nectar for the pollinators. Which brings me to this.

Melancholy Thistle (Cirsium helenoides)

Melancholy Thistle (Cirsium heterophyllum)

A week ago, the Melancholy Thistle was a mass of buds, but now it’s in full flower. It was said by Nicholas Culpeper, the herbalist, to make a man ‘as merry as a cricket’. But it isn’t just humans that it makes merry, for as soon as it opens, something rather wonderful appears.

IMG_3383These are a type of scarab beetle (Protaetia), and I only see them when the Melancholy Thistle is in flower. Some years, they seem to be mostly green, but there were a lot of gold ones about today. They rummage around in the thistle flower in a kind of frenzy, undisturbed even by middle-aged ladies trying to capture their portrait.

IMG_3384The beetle on the right seems to have some whitish powder attached to it, which I am assuming is pollen. The one on the left is positively drunk on nectar, and wasn’t coming out to say hello. Oh, and there’s a fly too. What a resource a thistle is! I must try to encourage some more in my garden.

And in the other highlight of the day, a mysterious bird has been spotted, who might or might not be an eagle. I am putting my money on it being a buzzard, although I’ve never seen one previously in these parts. I have only one photo so far, and it isn’t great. All opinions welcome, and if I get a better photo, you’ll be the first to know!

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