Monday, June 7, 2010

My Life With Bugs

The catastrophic oil spill in the Gulf has awakened almost everyone to environmental issues. People who have never had one thought about gas consumption or pollution have now been forced to see the tar balls on those stunning white sugar sand stretches in Alabama and Florida. All those fun fishing trips to the coast have come to a halt. And who knows when fishing can resume? Or if.

On a personal note, I find that even though my involvement in environmental awareness has been pitifully small, as a Southerner who loves the land, maybe even I can be labeled "tree hugger". When my husband and I bought our first new car in 1980, we chose the model that got the best gas mileage (47 mpg) and didn't blink that it didn't have air conditioning. When we bought lake property twenty years ago, it took us fifteen years to buy a water toy that required gasoline. We had three canoes, one sailboat, and six windsurfing boards. Our kids were almost grown before we broke down and bought a fishing boat with a Mercury outboard. We didn't like the way oil products looked when spilled in the water. We were odd.

But whereas we may be odd as a couple, I'm pretty sure my husband is secretly convinced I am beyond odd and over into Crazyville. I don't really like to use a clothes dryer, for one thing. I don't really feel comfortable in central air-conditioning, for another. And then the worst of all: I don't really mind bugs.

In the spring, every spring, ants appear at my kitchen sink. It's one way I know spring has arrived. They do not invade my stored food in the pantry. They do not wander around the house. They just like my sink. Sometimes there will be a strawberry top that I forget to grind up in the disposal. This really excites them and they begin turning out in droves. I sprinkle cleanser in the sink and leave it for a few hours and the ants disappear. I don't see a problem with this.

Similarly, in the fall, spiders like to show up in the corner of the downstairs bathroom. They like to build comfy webs on the front porch and work their way through the facings around the French doors in the family room. Spiders are just a part of a house. Their webs remind you when it is time to vacuum more than the floors.

And then there are the roaches. We live in the historic district where large roaches sometimes called Palmetto bugs live in the trees and will fly into your house at night if you leave the door open while you're getting in the dog or going to the car for the second bag of groceries. In the day time they apparently sleep, but when the sun goes down, they have a party out in the back yard. Once I burned some brown rice on the stove and raced the pan out into the yard so that the smoke would not smell up the house. The next morning when I went to retrieve the pan, there were no less than fifty roaches having a picnic. Burned basmati must be roach chum. With this kind of outside population, every once in a while, some of them try to make a run into the house. I don't like them, but I can pick them up and sweep them back outside when I see one.

Here is where the two heads collide in the marriage . I grew up in the country where I saw plenty of bugs, wasps, spiders, worms, bees, hornets, and garden pests. I would rather live with a few than spray poison in my home to kill them. I don't want to breathe the poison. I don't want to walk in the poison. I don't want my dog rolling around in the poison.

I think I know how my other half feels. The only acceptable insect in the house is his boyhood butterfy collection, and they've been dead quite a while.

For some people, a live insect in a house is the surest sign of slovenliness. Ants spread disease. Bees and wasps are Satan's handmaidens. And all spiders came directly from "Arachnophobia".

My concession to the roach thing was to spray a protective barrier around the perimeter of the outside of the house. Now when the roaches get inside, they are in their wobbly death throes, crawling around in a drunken, dying frenzy.

My mother-in-law's exterminator paid us a visit. For some reason, he thought we needed his services.

Whenever I doubt my principles on this, I think of the older woman I met at the roadside vegetable stand in Richmond. She was the typical older Virginia housewife, the kind who swept her porch morning and night, starched and ironed her white curtains every spring and fall, who knew when to can Hanover tomatoes, make applesauce, wait for the first snowfall to take her Oriental rugs outside and give them a good beating facedown in the drifts. I was standing at a bin of Silver Queen corn, complaining under my breath at all the corn worms eating through the silks into the rows of kernels, trying to find a dozen ears fit to buy.

She gave me a withering look and loaded up a sack with all it would hold. "The worms are how you know it's good," she said without smiling and in that unmistakeable Tidewater accent. "Won't kill the worms, won't kill you."

No one would have had the guts to call her a tree hugger to her face. She would have boxed their ears and whacked them over the head with an ear of corn.


Wanda Stricklin Robertson said...

I'm really glad to know I am not the only woman in North Alabama who dislikes central air conditioning. I love leaving the windows open, so I can hear the life outside. I'm married to someone who would keep it 60 degrees if he was living alone. Thanks for sharing!

theprofessionalpalate said...

I always new you were weird. It's in your DNA ;-)

Jeanie Thompson said...

Anita, only you could write a beautiful discourse on a dying roach. Once again I'm so glad I have a friend who talks in accents!
Your blog looks great, by the way, lots of things to do/see/hear on it. Keep it up!

Anita Miller Garner said...

Wanda, don't you wish we could have dual climate control rooms in our homes the way we have dual climate controls in our cars.

Believe me, in the car we are
always on different settings!