Fireflies and carpenter ants and spiders, oh my.
One night, after dinner, my Firefly Lodge host, Deb, and I took a walk down Appalachian Way to the pond. We took seats on the bank and settled in for the feature. Eyes tuning in, we watched the fireflies rise out of the meadow and fill the forest around us, blinking on-off-on-again, like Christmas lights. Lying back in the dewy grass, we listened to the cicadas’ crescendo and diminuendo, in Sensurround, as the trees and sky sparkled above, mind doing its best to capture the breadth and depth.
I brought that spacious sensation to bed, and fell asleep with twinkling behind my eyes.
Awake, refreshed, the next morning, I sauntered from the cottage over to the lodge; and just before I entered, I stopped in my tracks. Eyes wide, I ogled a veritable museum collection of exotic moths on display around the door, clinging to the shingles and screen, splayed atop the welcome mat – with wings of preppy pink and green, one tiger-striped, another albino, one with fuzz, and one that mimicked a ginkgo leaf – the eyes in their wings staring right at me.
I smiled back, reaching out to touch, then pulling back – leaving them in their stillness, suspended, still asleep or in some neverland.
Eventually, I pulled myself away to begin my day, coffee and journaling. Though, as I took my first sips, I noticed, on the white crescent couch, something strange – a parade of black ants marching along the armrest. I stood up, cup in hand, and followed their path with my eyes. Lifting the cushion, I discovered a surprise: an entire colony of fat black ants living beneath me, thriving, really, busily constructing high-rises to house the next generation incubating in the giant communal nest.
I jumped away, shifting from enthrall to appall in a gasp of breath.
Then I shouted for Deb who, gasped along with me, then bolted to the closet for the Hoover. Together, we kicked into remediation mode, scrambling on tip-toes, little eeks seeping from us as we thrust the nozzle into the upholstery and sucked up the creepy mess.
I thought for a flash of the story of the Buddhist monks who, in ritual meditation, upon discovering they were seated amidst a nest of fire ants, remained calm. Abiding the respect for all living beings, they figured out a way to reverse the vacuum and blow the fiery devils back into the forest rather than suck them up alive.
Deb and I had not quite the Zen equanimity for such a mindful act. Voraciously we vacuumed, moving furniture, lifting rugs, only to discover satellite colonies. Oh, there, oh there! One pointed as the other sucked, clearing one area, then the next, only to discover, five minutes later, a new pile of larva, like magic, had appeared.
After an hour’s effort, panting and sweating, scratching our scalps and skin of the creepy-crawlies, we plopped in our chairs and let out a duet of sighs, satisfied with our dominance over nature – at least temporarily, as we awaited the arrival of Paramount Pest.
Exhaling, back at my desk, as I belatedly began my writing day, I felt something tickling my leg. Tearing my PJ bottoms down, I discovered a brown furry spider crawling up my thigh. I let out a hoot.
I so wished I could show the creature mercy, but, instead, I swatted him off me, held my flip-flop over my head and then – thinking better of it – thinking of the sublime beauty, of the twinkling behind my eyes – I pretended to be Zen for a minute and scooched him out of my cottage into the grass.
Friend and host Deb Weir, in her book, Calm the Animal Within, reminds us that we are all animals - that animals arrive, nest, attach, panic, collapse, imprint, hurt, and evolve.
There is much to say about this concept that warrants an entire post, or series of them. But for now, I will suffice to say, at Firefly Lodge, I am experiencing the full array of animal behaviors, in nature around me, and within.
The trick may be to pause, immerse, and let it all in - the dark and light, the creepy and the sublime.