What’s Been Eating My Sweet Gum Tree?

The sweet gum tree (Liquidambar styraciflua) was mature when we got here–a twenty-five or thirty year-old tree. Sixty feet tall and, until now, problem free.

But this year, the lower leaves are about chewed away. The good news: the leaves at the top of the tree seem to be intact.

Google to the rescue–only not this time. Google points to tent or bag worms. It names a few specific caterpillars that like to feast on sweet gums. But I can’t find signs of any of these. So what’s been eating my sweet gum? Still a mystery.

While I haven’t noticed any tents or bags, I have seen black cocoon-like structures dangling from the lower branches. We removed these and drowned them in soapy water. But it’s too late to save the lower leaves, which means it’s too late to spray for caterpillars. But guaranteed, I’ll look for caterpillars next spring.

All the articles say that wasps and hornets will eat caterpillars. This year, we haven’t seen as many wasps as usual. I think that’s a bad thing, another one of those soft signs that the climate is changing.

Learning 2 B Lucky

I started submitting short stories and flash fiction about the same time I became a slush reader for an online zine. The combination brought me to a luck-is-needed realization. Getting noticed among the clamor—hundreds upon thousands of stories submitted each month—takes more than talent, smarts, and hard work. It takes luck.  

And while I’ve never considered myself to be an unlucky person, I found myself asking the universe for an inordinate amount of luck.

Now that I’m querying a novel, I’ve decided that learning to be lucky is essential.   My go-to has always been research. Heading straight for Google, I entered “learning to be lucky” and found Richard Wiseman.  

Wiseman is a British psychologist investigating the lucky and the unlucky. Based on his research, it is possible to #Learn2bLucky—or at least, luckier.

While I haven’t completed my research, I have learned that lucky people are more open to opportunity than the unlucky. According to what I’ve read, unlucky people tend not to notice opportunity when it presents itself—possibly due to anxiety or worry. When opportunity arises, lucky people, on the other hand, charge ahead and take risks.

Calls for submission, writing contests, and the like cross my computer every month. In the past, I’ve looked for prompts rather than submission opportunities. This month, I looked for matches between the calls and stories I’ve already written. Found two. Submitted two. We’ll see what happens next.

Still waiting on outstanding queries and planning to look at #pitchwars in June. Meanwhile, I’m focused on #Learning2BLucky.