As the sun begins to set over the charming little village nestled in the rolling hills of my barony, I can usually be found on the balcony of my palatial country estate. More often than not, I’ll be joined by a handful of villagers or a few invited guests. There we’ll sit, talking and laughing, until the show begins. When that happens, the talking stops.
Not talking isn’t a rule or mandate, it’s simply the way most people react . It’s so common people refer to it as the Silent Sunset. When the sun begins to dip below the horizon, and it’s rays strike the undulating hills at precisely the right angle, the rich and vibrant colors that are hidden at any other time of day are briefly revealed.
This happens because the hills around my barony are covered with a rare and unique type of grass that only grows here. Each blades contain millions of microscopic prisms that act just like any other prisms … except they’re teeny, tiny and there are gazillions of them.
A botanical engineer who lived in the village long before my time, developed the strain quite accidentally. She was conducting experiments in an effort to develop a grass that was tastier and more nutritious for the free-range cattle that once roamed these hills. What she found, however, was that watering the grass using only rainwater that had fallen while a rainbow was visible in the sky, produced this unique grass.
The cows hated it, which was bad. But so did almost everything else, which turned out to be good. What the engineer discovered was that the grass acted as a natural insect repellent. So the cattle were sent off to new grazing areas and the grass was planted over the entire barony … which is why the barony is bug-free even today.
When you spend your life in a place without bugs, it’s easy to forget that they still exist in the rest of the world. And with the travel required for the charity fundraisers, humanitarian missions and video poker tournaments with which I’m involved, I sometimes find myself reminded of this fact in the most unpleasant ways.
I wouldn’t call my feelings about bugs a full-blown phobia; but I am definitely uncomfortable around many them and do my best to avoid places and events that might put me in their presence. For instance, as a result of watching Animal Planet and the Discovery Channel, I’ve determined that I can’t go to Australia. Aside from every living thing there being poisonous, and I’m pretty sure that includes babies, puppies and grandparents, it seems they have a spider called the Funnel Web, that disproves the old trope “they’re more afraid of you than you are of them.” If I have to come face to face with an arachnid, I want it to be intimidated by my size and squashing ability; and not one that asks, “What are you looking at?” before she starts handing off her jewelry to her friends while describing how kicked my ass is about to be.
But just because their motto is “Australia … where your worst venom fueled nightmares come true!” that doesn’t mean other parts of the world aren’t harboring their fair share of God’s horrifying mistakes. Take southern California, for instance, where you can legally be fired from a job for not meeting the state’s attractiveness requirements. You might think only cute insects like lady bugs, honey bees and roly-polies would live there. But you’d be wrong. California is also home to these – – –
Although they’re often called Potato Bugs, despite not eating or living on potatoes, that delightful little being is actually a Jerusalem Cricket. So named for no discernible reason because it’s neither native to Jerusalem nor part of the cricket family. But the inexplicable names don’t stop there! In Mexico it’s called niño de la tierra (“earth child”) or cara de niño (“child’s face”). As you might imagine, the children of the entomologist who came up with those names must have been either shockingly unattractive or highly offended.
I addressed my opinion on spiders in a post I wrote some time ago, so I won’t rehash it all here. Suffice to say, they’re not my favorite creatures. I do what I can to avoid them, but my efforts don’t always pay off. Years ago I went with some friends on a camping/jet skiing weekend. I’m not sure where we went, only that there was a river and the desert and not much else.
While topping off the gas tanks in preparation to put the jet skis in the water, a friends sloshed some of the gasoline/oil mix on the ski and asked me to get her a rag to clean it up. As I reached into the bucket where I’d seen the rags, I saw movement out of the corner of my eye and turned to take a better look. What I saw looked something like this monstrosity:
Oh. I should probably mention the spider I saw was about the size of a silver dollar and perched on the back of my hand. That’s when I learned that I apparently lack a fight or flight response; and, in the face of unimaginable horror and my greatest fear, I froze. Seriously couldn’t move, couldn’t talk, couldn’t run away, froze. I’m guessing that in a fire, flood, earthquake or angry bear scenario, that reaction is unlikely to serve me well.
Oddly, while spiders are definitely at the top of my “creepy-crawlies I could do without” list, I find that I’m not at all bothered by jumping spiders. In fact, they can be pretty gosh darn adorable! Maybe it’s their big eyes, or their sturdy little legs, or the way they can accessorize any outfit with just a little drop of water.
Awww! This little fella wants a kiss! Pucker up!