Friday, December 9, 2011

Spiders and Snakes

I was never what you would call a "girly girl," but I was also never very fond of bugs while I was growing up. Many childhood "bug" memories stick with me, and most of them still kind of make my skin crawl.
  • My childhood home was in an apartment in Langley Park, Maryland, just "over the line" from the city limits of northeast Washington, DC. Heat and humidity define summers there, and our air conditioner was always running on high. I remember some sort of leak and the resulting wet areas of a rug. When I lifted the corner of the rug, several large cockroaches scurried out. Ewwww!
  • The cockroach disdain grew from there! In 10th grade biology class, we were assigned a project to collect and mount insects from all the different classifications. The insects were placed in a "kill jar" and then mounted to a foam display board, with a straight pin piercing the insect's middle (thorax!) section. I captured a cockroach, committed insecticide with the kill-jar and then mounted it. I was awakened in the middle of the night by a scratching sound. When I turned on the light, I found the cockroach alive and spinning in place around the pin, using his legs to propel the rotations. I kid you not! General disgust of cockroaches notwithstanding, I had extra reasons for really hating those things.
  • I was a Girl Scout for only one year, at age 11, because my softball and basketball team practices were scheduled to be on the same days as scout meetings. A girl's gotta do what a girl's gotta do, and I chose to go for sporting glory over badge-earning endeavors. Anyway, Girl Scout cookie-selling season came around and my mom volunteered to take charge of cookie delivery and storage for our troop. Imagine hundreds of boxes of cookies in our apartment-size living room! The individual cookie packages were packed inside large cardboard boxes, which were stacked everywhere. A few days into this, we saw ants on the wood floor around the boxes. Moving the boxes revealed more ants, and finally, we discovered armies of ants inside the boxes. Zillions of ants marching all over the cookie packages... Ugh!
  • Another ant incident comes to mind -- I'd forgotten I even had this memory! Raisin Bran cereal... Pieces of raisin skin would rise to the top in my cereal bowl, floating around in the milk. I swear for the longest time I was convinced they were ants! And I still won't eat Raisin Bran. And candied dates, which we always had at our house during the Passover holiday, looked like cockroaches to me.
  • Finally, snakes have always been part of my consciousness.  And courtesy of my mom, not in a good way! She is an ophidiophobe, one with an irrational fear of snakes.  It's as true now as it was then that even when she sees a snake on TV, she screams. Whether it's Indiana Jones in "Raiders of the Lost Ark," the animated "Jungle Book" movie, or a National Geographic documentary, you know the scream is coming.  Even when we went to the National Zoo, she would warn us to stay away from the snakes.
So I'd never been a big fan of the creepy or the crawly or the slithery creatures. I thought nothing of squishing them, swatting them, and disposing of them down the toilet. When I started practicing yoga and exposing myself to some Buddhist teachings, my stance softened. After all, "they are sentient beings" just like you and me. And "I am not separate" from them. When I moved up to the Vineyard -- the "country" -- I really changed my thinking.

In and around my house, landscaping, garden and vineyard, there are spiders of every kind. I'm pretty sure they view our property as an arachnid safe haven, and invite all their friends and family to move in. I still draw the line at scorpions (and black widows!) inside the house. All of those are scooped up and relocated outdoors. But spiders are okay! We have reached an understanding, a d├ętente, and we coexist mostly peacefully, indoors and out.

Spider at home in its web in the syrah vines
As for snakes, they've played some new roles in my life. Turns out that my husband collected snakes as a kid, so he's comfortable around snakes and can quickly identify beneficial and harmless snakes from the nuisance and dangerous snakes. Rattlesnakes have a frequent summer presence here in the heated rocky foothills. I've found them in the vineyard, in the sheep pasture, in the garage, and sunbathing in the driveway. After my dog was bitten on the nose (and survived) and my cat was bitten on the neck (and didn't survive), rattlesnakes get no slack, zero tolerance. Farmer John whacks them with a hoe, slicing off their heads. DONE.

A rattler, with the hoe that felled him
But gopher snakes, garter snakes, sharp-tailed snakes, and king snakes are welcome here.

A long garter snake made an appearance while brother and S-I-L,
Lawrence and Nelli, were here. John had to convince them it wasn't a rattler.
I enjoy seeing these snakes around. It's become a game with us to see who spots them first, and I always do a "victory dance" when it's me!  When I see a spider in the house (like, every day), I'll often say hello to it, hoping they don't mind that I call them all by the same name (Spidey.)  

Who knew, when I said "I Do," that I would ever actually view spiders and snakes as salutary creatures, let alone worthy co-inhabitants of my home and planet Earth? I've come a long way baby!

No comments:

Post a Comment