This is a story of irony, hypocrisy, and maybe hilarity. You be the judge.
I spent last week in the picturesque Finger Lakes region of New York, indulging in a personal writing retreat. I’d chosen an isolated place where I would have privacy and quiet, planning to spend most days writing and walking in the woods.
I’m always a bit anxious before I arrive at a new vacation rental, not knowing if it’s going to live up to my hopes and expectations. But I found the place easily and my car managed to make it up the steep gravel driveway. The cabin was cozy and had everything I needed. So far so good.
I enjoyed reading the magnetic poetry left behind by previous guests.
After a quick exploration of the cabin, I walked up through the woods to the top of the hill to see the wind turbines. I’d been concerned about being so close to these monstrosities, but after I saw them I felt okay about it. And I couldn’t see them from the cabin, so they didn’t bother me too much. Although when I was outside I could hear a steady hum and occasional clicking sounds from them, so I know I could never live near one of those things. My sensory processing sensitivity (SPS) would cause me to fixate on the noise and it would make me crazy.
After I settled in, I got plenty of writing done and enjoyed taking breaks to photograph insects in the nearby woods and meadows. As you would expect, the cabin also had its share of insects and spiders inside. I’m used to seeing the occasional spider or beetle in my own house, and I always enjoy trying to identify them before releasing them outdoors or just letting them go about their business. A rustic cabin in the woods is a whole different experience though. I knew it would be a challenge for me to live up to my “do no harm” policy toward the larger numbers of six- and eight-legged critters.
I didn’t mind the numerous moths who found their way indoors, as they mostly ended up on lamp shades or in the window screens, and I know they pose no threat to me anyway. But on my last night there, I was sitting in bed reading when a large wolf spider ran across the sheet beside me and scared the bejeebers out of me. I jumped out of bed so fast I almost hit my head on the loft ceiling. I shook out all the bedding and shivered as I wondered where the heck it had gone. After a minute or so, I reluctantly got back in bed and picked up my book. Two minutes later I felt something on my head and reached up to find another spider in my hair. Out of bed again…not happy at all at this point.
I know, I know. I constantly write about how we shouldn’t fear insects and spiders, and we should leave them alone to live their lives if they aren’t hurting us. But as tolerant as I want to be, if a spider startles me by running across my bed or my head, that’s where I draw the line! I’m not saying I’d purposely kill a spider for this egregious violation of my personal space, but I take no responsibility for any accidental injuries they might sustain from being flung across the room when I panic.
At the end of my week, I’d had several sleepless nights in the cabin and was looking forward to returning home and getting caught up on my sleep. (Don’t judge me, but I was scared being alone in the woods and couldn’t sleep well. And there were two days of steady pouring rain and wind that made me worry about getting down off of that hill alive….) My drive home should have taken six hours, but it ended up being closer to eight because of weather-related detours and multiple stops for caffeine. The area I’d been staying in was impacted by tropical storm Fred, and on the day of my departure there was a state of emergency due to flooding in local communities. Travel was prohibited along the route I’d planned to take, so I changed my route to avoid the flooded areas.
I finally arrived home in the evening and greeted my happy cats, who then “helped” me unload my luggage. My plan was to quickly throw all the dirty laundry in the washer, get a quick shower, and fall into bed.
But as I walked into my kitchen, I couldn’t believe my eyes: the windows were covered with flies! There had to be a couple hundred of them — it was like a horror movie. I’ve never seen anything like it, and I hope I never do again.
I texted my friend who had been in the house that morning to take care of my cats. “Um, did you see any flies in my kitchen today?” “Yeah, there were four or five and I killed them.” Based on that information, I figured they had all emerged that afternoon from…someplace…in the house. But there was no rotting food or any obvious source, so I still don’t know where they came from. I suppose a fly could have laid eggs on a dead mouse in the walls or the attic. Gross. (I swear, I don’t live in a filthy house!)
I opened the windows and swatted about 80% of them out within the first half hour. That left me to deal with a few dozen of them. As I started slamming them against the windows, I admit I got great satisfaction in watching each lifeless body drop to the windowsill or floor. I’ve spent many happy hours watching other types of flies, but these nasty ones are a different story. If they’re the common greenbottle flies, as I suspect, they can lay up to 200 eggs per clutch, so it was important to get rid of them before they were able to lay more eggs.
As I was killing them (and saying “sorry” to each one), I realized the hilarious irony of how I’d been looking forward to coming home to get away from the excessive numbers of insects and spiders in the cabin, only to walk into my own personal Hitchcock movie. I also wondered why my two lazy cats weren’t showing the slightest interest in helping me catch the flies. Useless felines.
Am I a hypocrite? Maybe. It’s so easy to tell people to respect insects, but I don’t deny that there are definitely some exceptions to that. I still believe we shouldn’t just reflexively kill any insect we see — without good reason. But I decided that 200 flies in my kitchen was a good reason to use any means necessary to get them out.
The next day I found a couple dozen more, and on the third day just two or three. I hope they’re gone now. But something really cool happened on the third day. I was sitting in my sunroom talking to my parents on the phone. I saw a lone straggler fly on the window. I also saw a little jumping spider on the wall. I’d been watching that jumping spider for a couple days, enjoying having him in there. (You’ll remember me writing about the cuteness of jumping spiders before.)
Anyway, it happened so fast I couldn’t believe it., but the spider ran over and grabbed the fly. The spider was no bigger than the fly, and yet he caught it easily. My parents laughed as I interrupted our conversation so I could use my phone camera to try to get photos of the capture. That didn’t work because the spider and fly were backlit by the bright outside light. So after I ended the phone call, I got my real camera and tried to get better pictures as the spider continued to dine on its bounty. I went outside to tape a piece of green construction paper behind them, then went back inside and got some decent photos.
I’m grateful to the spider and I say “good riddance” to the fly. Hosting this jumping spider in my house makes me feel somewhat redeemed for my unwarranted fears of the spiders in the cabin. I’m telling you all of this so you’ll understand that (most) spiders are awesome and you should be happy to have them in your house (unless they’re venomous, of course).
In the end, I suppose I understand and accept my hypocrisy as part of being a human in a complicated world. I’m doing my best to help other people get over their fear of insects by teaching about them here, but it’s clear I still have some work to do on my own fears. I’d love to hear your thoughts on this, so fire away in the comments!
[…] comes to irrational behaviors. You may remember in that same post last fall that I wrote a sort of confessional about my failure at overcoming my fear of spiders in certain situations. I just know that the more time I spend looking at photos of spiders or reading about them or […]
[…] incredibly empowering. I’ve been sharing my own journey with you on this blog, admitting to my setbacks and rejoicing when I discover something new and exciting. And occasionally one of you will tell me […]
oh Kim! What a story! I hope you are now enjoying a fly-less home, and the spiders in your hair are only a distant memory. I hope your writing time went well — you have such great stories to tell. Here’s to a quieter week! Cindy 🙂
Haha, yes, I’m happy to report that my house is a fly-free zone now. My writing time was productive, and I’m hoping to talk to you about it soon…I think you might be able to give me some valuable advice if you’re willing. Thanks so much for taking the time to read and comment, Cindy!
So good to hear you are normal. No need to feel like a hypocrite or that you lack anything. Sounds to me you have a lot of common sense and are quite brave to go off in the woods by yourself. I would have taken my dog or someone with me. Someone that can lose themselves in a book like myself.
Lisa, I think that’s the first time I’ve ever been called normal! I needed to be alone so I could write without distractions, but next time I’ll pick some place that’s not quite as isolated.
Our house was infested with those darn flies…hundreds of them for two years in a row. This year found a dead bat in the attic covered with…ugh…maggots. So I suspect that is where the infestations were coming from. Now…to keep bats from crawling on my pillow in the middle of the night…
Ugh, I guess I need to check out my attic too!
A very fun and funny story, and easy to identify with.
Just a thought on the Nature is my Therapy thing, and it’s not on you because it’s my thing too, and many others, but what’s Nature’s therapy? It’s certainly not us humans.
Good question Bob. It would be the absence of humans, for sure!
Hi. I think an insect’s place is outdoors. When I encounter them in my house, I send them to their maker.
Neil, you should read “Never Home Alone.” It’s about the many, many other life forms that share our homes with us. I think it’ll keep you busy trying to send them all to their maker, LOL.
LikeLiked by 1 person
Oh man, I LOL at the “random sunset picture”! And how interesting the theme of insects and spiders followed you home! Did you leave any poems for the next guest?
Jean, I did, but it wasn’t nearly as good as the ones already there. I didn’t want to take any of their words away. Mine said, “Relaxing here between peace and quiet.” Clearly I made my “poem” before the “spiders in my bed” incident. Thanks for reading!