Spider Village & Ladybug Land

When I was little I was deathly afraid of spiders.  So much so, that when I found a big ugly one on me in the night (circa 1983), I moved into my sister’s bedroom and slept on her floor for a whole month.  And no, it wasn’t the least bit comfortable.

As I’ve aged I’ve gotten past the terror a spider can induce.  I’ve matured.  I’ve come to realize that spiders are small creatures who for the most part mean us no harm.  We are the scary big monsters THEY cower in fear from and try to avoid.  Part of this is hogwash, I know, part is rationalization.  But for the most part it works.  I can calmly shoo a spider away when need be – or even catch it gently in a cup, paper pressed against the opening, to escort it outside.  I never kill spiders – they have their purpose after all, and I much prefer them to the biting insects they call food.

Anyway, the reason I am sharing this is b/c I spend a goodly portion of each day tending to a fire which consumes vast quantities of wood.  I wrote about this whole wood situation before (feel free to refresh your memories here).  We keep most of our wood stacked outside, but weekly my husband & I must bring in a new stash for burning.  This wood is home to many, many spiders.  For safety (and peace of mind) I wear protective leather work gloves while shifting wood, lest I get bitten by a startled arachnid.  But I can’t get past the paranoid fear that one day I will encounter a brown recluse and wind up losing an arm.

I know this is paranoia at its best.  These little spiders are terrified of me, stomping around in my heavy snow boots, cursing audibly with each heaving wheelbarrow of wood.  But it remains so firmly planted in my psyche that any time I get a tiny unexplained cut on my hand, I watch it the same way an underpaid office worker watches the clock.  I check it 60 times an hour, just waiting for it to change. IS IT GETTING BIGGER??  IT’S LOOKING BIGGER!! IS IT BUBBLING??!!

All of this is nonsense, of course.  I scratched my hand sweeping up debris from the floor, or caught it on [insert whatever it was] but the fear remains.  It doesn’t help that all this firewood we haul inside is stored in the hearth in our kitchen.  The room in which I spend most of my time.  And now that this firewood is stacked inside the warm & pleasant walls of our heated home, the formerly hibernating army of spiders living inside said wood is now WAKING UP.  And converting my kitchen into their Spider Village.

In the changing light you see them.  The vast network of spiderwebs dangling above our heads, crisscrossing the room from the windows to the doors.  I’ve lost track of how many times I’ve been standing at the island, chopping or kneading or simply going about my business, only to look up and find a spider dangling inches from my face.  Looking at me as if to say, “What’s for Dinner?”

For the most part I don’t mind living amongst so many many-leggeds.  Sure a few of them are HUGE (we’re talking inches) but for the most part they’re very small.  And they do in fact seem to be helping us with the bugs.  Not that you’d expect a home in the dead winter of Maine to have an insect issue, but for some odd reason we do have them.  Not gross ones, no cockroaches or big scary beetles or anything.  No, we have ladybugs.

We noticed them right after we moved in.  It was hard not to, seeing as they’d taken over our attic.  At some point in the course of The Dole House’s long and illustrious history, these ladybugs took up residence and now, 600 generations later, we’re still sheltering their kin.  It was odd at first, finding we had so much company.  But over the past (almost) 18 months, we’ve gotten used to each other.  We no longer think it strange, the small piles of expired ladybugs trapped between the window frames and storms.  The ladybug corpses littering the window sills (which must be dusted periodically) or the occasional ladybug you find clutching onto a curtain.  For some reason, our younger daughter’s bedroom seems to be the ladybugs favorite room in the house.  Ladybug Land.  Our little girl spends her nights counting the tiny red dots on her ceiling, watching them weave their way from point to point.  They’re sweet really.  Perhaps if you look carefully you’ll find another world living inside your home, too.

Lord of the Flies

When we returned home from the Midwest, the first thing I did was drag my sorry self upstairs to crash out in bed. After nearly 15 hours in the car, it was all I could do. But the first thing my husband did, being the amazing soul he is, was go through the entire house to make sure everything was just as we’d left it. And everything was fine. Save for the flies.

When we left John says he noticed one lone fly bzzzzing round an upstairs room. No big deal. He figured it’d be dead by the time the weekend was over.

HAHAHAHHAHHAHAHAHHAHAHHAHAHAHAHHAHAHAH!!!!

Remember Cutie? My daughter’s runaway hamster?? Yes, I know I haven’t written about him in weeks. But that’s b/c we thought he was still on vacation. Well… he is, except it’s that reeeeeeeaaaalllly long vacation that never ends. Ugh. we can now state w/ fair certainty that Cutie has become banquet to 50,000 flies. So we’ve spent the better part of two days shooing, swatting and otherwise casting out these winged creatures from our happy home. And in tackling this new and vexing challenge, I have noticed something truly profound.

When a fly gets trapped inside, they follow a particular pattern. First, They zoom from room to room looking for an exit. Second, they find a window. They fly back and forth past the window, assessing the possibility of escape. In a last-ditch effort, they begin to fly into the window, over and over, as though their feeble crashes will at last force the glass and they will be free. Eventually, the exhausted fly succumbs to the inevitable, either crawling up into a ball and breathing its last, OR conversely, overcoming its initial aversion and fear and FINALLY allowing me to gently scoop it up and release it out into the world.

Having watched this scenario play out OH SO MANY times over the past couple days, I have been struck by the similarity between humans and flies. These flies leave you wondering. WHAT THE HELL??!! ARE YOU REALLY SO DAMN STUPID?? I AM HERE – ARE YOU BLIND?! MY HAND! It is GUIDING YOU OUT – SEE THERE!! THE OPEN WINDOW!!!! IT’S RIGHT THEEERRRRRREEE!! I AM TRYING TO SAVE YOU, YOU MORON!!!

When a human becomes trapped – and here I am speaking rather metaphorically – so by this I could mean a myriad of things. But when a human becomes similarly “trapped” w/ no hope of escape, their response is very much like the fly. We are stubborn. We are STUPID. We do not want Help. We don’t NEED HELP. Instead we rush round looking for a means of escape. OH! And there it is. But it’s not, not really. No, it’s an impenetrable hurdle. So we bang out heads against the proverbial glass, frustrating ourselves and every conceivable attempt at freedom. And when that *Great Hand from the Sky* reaches down to help, what do we do?? We fail to see it. Or if we do, we RUN THE HELL AWAY.

Sometimes life presents you w/ a metaphor that you just can’t help but notice. I do not profess to be any more in tune w/ the great Cosmos than the next guy, but I can tell you this whole FLY THING has gotten my attention. The past several days have been pretty hard for me. I do not like vertigo. Yes, it is BAD. Having to steady myself constantly against the rotational force of the planet, whilst everyone else goes about their daily business blissfully unencumbered SUCKS. Feeling shitty always puts me in a slightly philosophical frame of mind. SO. Feeling this way, I would just like to say HEY. HEY BIG GUY. If you are up there, pitying me or watching me with amusement, FEEL FREE TO HELP. I am here, just smacking my head against the glass, so You just FEEL FREE to stick that big ol’ mitt out for me already. As long as you’re not going to smash me dead, I_am_YOURS.

What’s the first thing you notice about someone?

A friend once sent me one of those email quizzes where you have to answer a long list of personal questions. Perhaps you’ve gotten one of these yourself? I see quite a few of them posted on other people’s blogs, and I think they’re sort of interesting. Anyway, these quizzes tend to ask many of the same questions (mostly about favorites, what you’re wearing, listening to, etc.), but the one my friend sent also had the question: What is the first thing you notice about someone?

Vertigo is a little something like my friend’s quiz – a semi-illuminating answer that only hints at what’s below. I can describe to you what it feels like, but until you experience it firsthand, you’ll never really understand. Up until a week ago, I had a really good hold on my Meniere’s symptoms and had the feeling that I was in control of the disease. I don’t know what being on that boat did to me – whether it was the food, the motion, or some combination thereof, but this past week has shown me that control is an illusion. We simply can’t control much of what happens to and around us.

Yesterday evening, 2 teenagers with a sawed-off shotgun assaulted a man right around the corner from my home. They tried to rob him, but he didn’t have any money or valuables, and that really pissed them off – so they blew an enormous hole in his leg. His blood is still pooled on the front steps of the house behind mine. It made me think of my husband’s response to the same quiz question I listed above: What is the first thing you notice about someone? Whether they’re packing [heat].

I guess that’s life as we know it in Philadelphia, November 11, 2007.

Not funny at all.

We can’t control much of what happens in our lives, but we can all make choices. Today I am well enough to be out of bed – and I’m making the choice to share with others something I learned this week.

If you’re waiting until everything is *just so* in your life before allowing yourself to really live and be happy, you’re destined to be one sad sack. Things will likely never be perfect. So do the best you can with what you’ve got – because I can guarantee there are people who have it way worse than you. And surprisingly, many of those people have a better attitude. When terrible things happen, don’t look to the heavens, shaking your fist at God and wondering why you’ve been cursed. Look inside, believe in yourself, and understand there are things beyond your control. We may never understand why horrible things happen, but I do believe there is a greater plan. Be the change you want to see in the world. Don’t wait around for someone else to do it, don’t sit around complaining that things suck. Fight against injustice, DON’T be a part of the problem. And always, always, embrace the positive. Love and respect yourself and those around you. And for the love of God, get over yourself already (No, it’s NOT really “all about you”), take time to share and be a servant to the world, rather than expect everyone to bow down before your sorry ass. Despite what your tee-shirt says, you are NOT royalty.

You’re probably wondering what any of this has to do with the title of my post. Well, I guess in my own roundabout way I’m trying to make a point. What is the first thing you notice about someone? Is it their eyes? Their crutches? The gun pointed at your face? What do we see when we look at others? What do we see when we look inside ourselves?

I was about as low as I’ve been this week, but illness is not necessarily a bad thing if it renders you a wiser, humbler, and more appreciative person. If you can laugh at pain and hold strong in times of fear, then you’re no longer captive to either. And that is a worthy goal.