Tuesday, November 08, 2011

Making progress, one centipede at a time

Anyone who knows me well is aware that I am absolutely phobic about spiders. Spiders, in fact, have no reason for existence in my personal universe.  I don't give a damn what other bugs they eat, or whatever other good things they do for the ecosystem. Pffft! Spiders go with cans of Raid like mustard goes with hotdogs. A few years ago, however, after a guilty struggle, I did become able to tolerate a spider's presence on my porch -- providing it stayed at the uninhabited end of it, down by the wind chime, spinning its nasty webs down from the porch roof to the top of the woodpile, and with the assumption that the spider would conveniently freeze to death (or whatever happens to spiders in the fall) long before I would ever need the wood.

I guess you could say I kind of feel negative about insects in general.

Now, in my defense, I have to say that I am downright fond of certain creatures that don't make most peoples' top-ten list: snakes, rodents of all kinds, and lizards of any variety. In fact, I managed to heartily embarass my children at Parents' Night at camp, when I was the only mother (my daughter kept repeating) who wanted to hold the snake at the nature center (I can still see the looks of mortification on the kids' little faces).

Until recently, having read quite a few books on Buddhism, I thought I was really making significant progress with the interconnected-of-all-beings idea.  In fact, I was sitting on my bed one night curled up with the three dogs, reading a new book by Thich Nhat Hanh, and thinking cozy thoughts about the welfare of all beings. Out of the corner of my eye, however, I detected a suspicious gliding motion.

It was a three-inch-long centipede on the ceiling.  It stopped right above my innocent head.

I removed my innocent head from target range, and retreated to the end of the room.  The dogs, unaware of my mortal danger, looked up in bewilderment.

Now I had a real problem.  My husband was traveling -- normally I would I point out the insect visitor, and then retreat to a safe distance while he proceeded with the kleenex. My son was up in his room (with his girlfriend); no hope there. The dogs were oblivious. I was on my own.

I told myself stories about the centipede.  It wouldn't drop down on a web. It was just as afraid of me as I was of it (even I don't believe this).  I looked at the smiling picture of Thich Nhat Hanh on the bookcover. He would tell me the centipede was my brother. The centipede and I were one with all creation. All creation is good. Therefore ...

It started to move.  It glided (eeewww!!!) across the ceiling towards the bathroom door. I waited, transfixed.  It crawled onto the bathroom ceiling.

Boldly, I sprang forward and slammed the bathroom door with a mighty crash. Trapped! Certainly it would not come back. Right?

I used the other bathroom while my husband was away. The dogs slept with me.  I managed not to kill my brother centipede.  Moral progress is made like ths, in tiny steps, I think.

And on hundreds of little legs.



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