FEAR NOT

For years I said the best way to torture me would be to put me in a small room full of bugs. I guess my soul was really hankering for a challenge when I decided to move to the jungle. If the best way to alleviate fear is by looking straight at it, I put myself on the fast track to dissolving my entomophobia. Now I often see more bugs in a day than I used to see in a year.

Thankfully, the bugs come in cycles. One week we'll be driven to distraction by the deafening buzz of giant cicadas, and the next week we'll be dealing with an invasion of pool deck-loving centipedes.

I can't figure out where they come from or where they go when they're done bugging us. Whether a rain shower lasts five minutes or five hours, the moment it stops centipedes materialize out of nowhere and settle onto our pool deck. When stepped on, they sound like Pop Rocks candy. That popping sound which is so appealing in a sweet treat is not at all amusing under a bare foot in the dark. The locals insist that there were no centipedes until building materials from outside our area arrived for construction of the (mostly empty) condos up the road from us. Lately when I walk in the forest I see centipedes everywhere.

But just when we think our lifestyle is being threatened by an influx of one species or another, they'll vanish as mysteriously as they appeared.

There doesn't seem to be a formula for predicting who will be showing up when. One year we'll have tons of honeybees around the pool and at the same time the following year they'll be replaced by centipedes or grasshoppers or beetles or what have you. Every day in the jungle is a new adventure.

Thankfully, the balance of nature is so exquisite in our location that we aren't bothered much by mosquitos or other annoying airborne creatures. We have plenty of bats, frogs, toads, and geckos to keep them under control. Recently we've had more mosquitos than usual, but by now we feel confident that they'll soon cycle themselves out and be gone.

The first time I encountered this giant, brilliantly colored grasshopper, I photographed it next to my size 8 Birkenstock so I could prove to everyone how big it was. Now we're quite used to spotting maxi-bugs.

All I can think of when I look at the face of a grasshopper is Jiminy Cricket, who, if you haven't noticed, is really a grasshopper. Since Jiminy was appointed by the Blue Fairy to serve as Pinocchio's conscience, the gaze of a grasshopper can give me pause to determine if I've been a good person lately. The next time you see a grasshopper take a good look at its face to discover if it stirs up anything inside you.

So you see, I've come full circle in the bug department. I'm talking as though bugs are my peers. That one love philosophy permeates the jungle. And yes, I talk to them all the time.

Here's a crazy specimen to wrap up this little bug chat. You'll be hearing a lot more about my friends the bugs in future blog posts, as they now play such a big role in my life.