I saw the first bug of the year today. Under the lamp outside our front door. The lamp is a faux colonial exterior lamp which burns out bulbs almost as fast as I can replace them. It glows more than illuminates, but the animal world loves this dim beacon. I check it each morning when I leave the house for work. Today, I saw the first insect of the year. A small brown Hemipteran or ‘true bug’ of plain description. As the weather heats and we move toward summer, the rough brick will be covered with spiders and moths and beetles each morning.
A few frogs will show up, and I’ve never figured out where they go during the day. They creep from somewhere and often spend the night resting on the decorative ess on the lamp’s base. Except for the thrumming of their throats, they never appear to move. Nature loves a ground state. Sometimes the frogs glom onto the windows near the door, and you can see straight through their transparent bellies. I wonder what evolutionary advantage is conferred with transparent skin? A kind of sexual selection? “Yup. I can see that you’ve got all your parts. Let’s get it on!” It sounds like a stretch to me, but I’m not a frog.
A couple of years ago we had a snake living in the gutter just above the lamp. It would slip into a groove between the bricks and poke its head out just to the eyes from behind the light. I feared for the frogs as they had become my friends. The snake? Important to nature but not to me. That beady-eyed thing scared me every time I saw it. I assume the snake ate bugs and frogs, but the nightly numbers never waned. The wall was always covered in bugs and always had three or four frogs. Maybe, like light bulbs, they are replaced as soon as one dies?
Last fall, we had a baby copper head hanging from the light. It was late, and I was going running, and I saw this thing, its skin fresh and bright, hanging from the light. I called my wife who has the same fascination and fear of snakes that I do, and we watched it as it watched us. “What are you going to do about it?”, she asked me. “I was just going to ask you the same thing,” I said. Something had to be done. These snakes are highly poisonous, especially when first-born, and once in the flower beds are, for all purposes, invisible. Gladly, they are also docile. I changed from my running shoes to tall rubber boots and nudged it with a lawn rake until it fell to the concrete. I thwacked the little guy and thought he could fall into the flapping gap at the top of my boot. I’m sure there’s a punishment in hell that includes pit vipers in boots. True to its nature, the snake coiled up and sat. I scooped it up with the rake and walked it half a mile down the road and released it into the woods. I don’t want these guys hanging out at my house, but I don’t want to harm them either.
All of this brings me, oddly, ’round to an interesting report on happiness. Someone, somewhere, has compiled a data-set of words used in social media. They collected something like a couple of billion words from 25 sites in ten languages. That’s a lot of words. Of course, these are used to tell us all kinds of things about ourselves that may or may not be true. One thing observed in the language was how much more people appear to be happy the further they are from home.
Why? Well, it’s not obvious but, per the test, when you think about the sources, it comes into focus. We don’t usually post on Facebook about how we came outside and found a bug on the wall. Instead, social media is used to tell the world just how fabulous our lives are. We talk about birthday parties, the love of our life, and how we hate or love that candidate. And when we travel, we post pictures of sunsets, write about exotic foods, and model our new clothes. The medium skews the communal message toward something better, bigger, and more beautiful than your silly old boring life at home.
I’m always happy poking around the yard. I’m even happier with one of the twins in tow. Now, I love travel and food and history, and my head just might blow up if I got to snowboard in Japan or munch on blinis in Moscow. But remember: people in Japan and Russia save for their entire lives to visit right where you live and to eat the food that you eat and to drive past the gorgeous and picturesque vistas that you’ve driven past for years without ever noticing.
I’ve come to see something good in boring. More than once, when my father was dying of leukemia, and now as my Mom struggles with her own health, I’ve thought about easy, slow, boring days. Coloring with the girls or baking bread. Watching bad TV with my wife. I’ve learned that you are never bored when you find everything around you fascinating. So thanks to you Mr. Bug, for a little smile this morning.
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