Thursday, October 15, 2009

Give me a bug

Beetles, courtesy of The Auckland War Memorial Museum.

Bug hoover, courtesy of my daughter. Spider, discourteous! Note how many times the legs are folded at set junctures, thus seemingly smaller than in actuality, though not as large as in my fear-riddled mind!

Bugs: they really bug me!

I don't have a positive relationship with spiders. I am okay if I know they are there - unless they are larger than my thumbnail, or, in the case of the one pictured above, larger than my whole thumb with legs outstretched! - But it is the element of surprise which makes my nerves jangle and the hairs stand to attention on the back of my neck. This wee beastie (note humour used to diffuse fear) brushed against my little finger as I reached for a teaspoon off the sink drainer. I vomited. Don't worry, if you were thinking of popping in for tea and are now concerned abut hygeine - it went on the floor tiles and I bleached! Luckily, I had the bug hoover my daughter bought me for my birthday handy! It was difficult to suck it up - the spider probably weighed as much as the battery used to power the hoover! But the really strange part is, once I caught it, I had to look at it.

(I think it was only there because it was dying, otherwise I doubt it would have hung around long enough for me to lay my clammy hand to the bug catcher.)

It's similar to when you're watching a horror film and the unwitting victim is about to go into the darkened room where you know the evil bloodthirsty thingymebob is lurking in wait, and you shout "don't do it, don't go in - RUN!" And then they go in and get mutilated and you squirm and don't look, and tuck your knees in to your chest. That's me. And then I peek. I repeat this ridiculous behavioural sequence a non-sensicle number of times until I feel unafraid. But I don't touch the thing that I'm afraid of. That would be sick.

So I write about bugs. I find them fascinating. Beetles I find beautiful in their own many coloured intricate way. Spiders: "Know thine enemy"! I embrace my fear for the benefit of my writing.


Thomas Taylor said...

Yes, there is something about spiders, isn't there? Where I am it's autumn and they are lurking in the bushes by the back door in the same way that Americans seem to think all Mexicans are hanging around the Rio Grande, whistling. Phobias distroy common sense.

I like the beetles though.


I love these bug shots. I have similar photos of the Scarab beetle - and displayed together they look like jewels. I also write occasionally about spiders Rachel - a similar fear/fascination thing. Do you know the work of artist Louise Bourgeois? The spider theme permeates her work. Also in a recent Guardian featuring ecological poems - Kathleen Jaimie has a beautiful poem called simply, The Spider. Stunning poem - it's probably on the web somewhere. I'll see if I can post my Scarab beetle shot - from a very old National Geographic. I just love these bugs.

Rachel Fenton said...

I am afraid (ha, pun intended), Thomas, that I have only a single story to tell regarding spiders! ;)

Jaki, hi, thanks for those mentions, I hadn't heard/seen/read, but will do now.

I think it is mostly the element of surprise that sets my nerves a skittering. And spiders move at a preternatural speed! I have ten fingers and cannot type as fast as they can run! What's that all about?

Bugs in a frame are much the best way to view them :)


Hello again Rachel. I just realised how much 'spiders' figure in human thinking also - world wide web - the web - as bloggers we're all like little spiders really! Then there's the beautiful story of Ariadne...oh I'm off on this one I've reminded me also of this amazing feature I read recently in the New York Times. These guys displayed an enormous piece of silk woven by spiders - this spider's silk is stronger in weight than gold. Take a look:

Golden West said...

Here in the US, we only have two types of poisonous spiders - the black widow and brown recluse - so knowing all the rest are benign makes them a lot less scary. As an avid gardener, I welcome them in the flower beds, as they'll eat bugs that would eat my plants!

Lori said...

You are a scary lady! Brave! I meant brave!

I am not so much scared of spiders (although your specimen does look more menacing than others) but those beetles... Really, if I look at them more I am going to get nightmares.

Anonymous said...

Rachel, when I saw that first picture I thought'Spider alert' and I was right! I could barely scroll down to see what was coming next, but you are right, I HAD to peek. Even knowing it was dead, the other side of the world and in a different time zone didn't help. I think you were very brave...

Rachel Fenton said...

Jaki, that's what intrigues me, also. I love the myth of Ariadne, too, and I am thrilled to have set you off on one! i love things that spark my imagination and trigger all kinds of connections (that web is there again). We used to have to plan stories at school by starting with a spidergram, later they got called brainstorms and now (since the Buzan brothers), mind mapping, but the spidergram is the one which i most think of when planning anything!

I'm going to write about them again now, just have that urge to scare myself some more!

Thanks Jaki, and the link is wonderful! Spiders are fascinating awesome little (big) creatures. I need to find out when/why they got so BIG in the human consciousness.

Golden West - only two? - cough splutter - ahahaha! How reassuring :) I was a keen gardener in the UK but the bugs in my NZ garden do get in the way of my green fingers just a tad, and it isn't particularly the spiders which scare me here in the great outdoors! Weta, cicada, preying mantis, some kind of flea which looks like a sideways woodlice/flea cross! Still, I have to look at the things and really scare myself! I have yet to find a slug eating spider!

Only two in the US though - going to have to psych myself up before I visit America!

Lori - don't you find that with most creatures that it is only when they exceed a particualar size that they become really scary. I can hold tony spiders and tiny beetles but I cannot go near anything larder than my little finger nail. The bench mark for me is, if I can see their features, they're too big! Don't have nightmares - write about them! Best 'cure' for fear!

Penny - there was another one on the longe wall this morning! Blurgh! Isn't it funny how beetles are just about okay, but spiders are a definite NO. Thanks for braving the bugs!

There's something decidedly ART about framed beetles. I cannot see myself wanting to frame a community of spiders! And to think, I used to be scared of the UK house spiders. Hmn. Thank you, Penny. You, too, get a medal of bug bravery!

Michelle said...

Is this how the museum display the beetles now? How sad. As a child, the room that had the insects was my favourite - cases and cases of insects neatly grouped, each with taxonomy and place of origin hand-written in a neat Edwardian copperplate. Used to set my imagination wild - I wondered who it was that may have tramped through jungles &c to get these creatures (some, butterflies as big as my head - or perhaps not. Childhood memory tending to inflation). I wanted to be that pith-helmeted adventurer! (although, having since read Rachael King's Sound of Butterflies - perhaps not so much). Anyway, went to museum as an adult, and they were gone. heartily disappointed. It had gone a bit Te Papa-ish.
Sorry - first comment and gone all rambling. Great blog, BTW.

steven said...

hello rachel, my son is horribly afraid of bugs. especially spiders. i love them. they don't frighten me at all. large spiders are not something i've had to deal with. seeing them walking on people is very upsetting so i get your fear/anxiety!!! i like the idea of a "bug hoover" for just that reason. have a peaceful evening. steven

Rachel Fenton said...

Michelle, this was just one case that caught my eye, it was situated by the information desk (where I was asking about a tooth I had found on the beach), and they were about to reorganise the whole animal/creature department. I went later and I found the other bugs - hundreds of them, but I didn't see this little lot again.
:( FEEL FREE TO RAMBLE. Oops, Caps lock!
And thanks, glad you like the blog :)

Rachel Fenton said...

Hi Steven, you snook in there!
I like to catch them humanely (bugmanely) - it's a karma type thing: I should hate for some gigantic critter to come and settle the score!
I think my own fear grew out of being surprised by them and, as with most phobias, ignorance of them. I have learnt so much about them now, I don't understand why they still scare me :(
Anyhow, all things are relative so I don't sweat it, too much! I like to write about them so I must thank day, maybe I'll not throw up when I touch a big toothy spider!

Rachel Fenton said...

Jaki - your link didn't work but I found it here: silk art&st=cse&scp=1

thanks, it looks amazing, but check out the spiders on the guy's hand! One of them has decidedly less than eight limbs! The price of Art, eh! At least spiders can re-grow their legs (or is that a myth?)


Hi Rachel,
Here is that poem I mentioned by Kathleen Jaimie - The Spider:

When I appear to you
by dark, descended
not from heaven, but the lowest
branch of the walnut tree
bearing no annunciation,
suspended like a slub
in the air's weave -
and you shriek, you shriek
so prettily I'm reminded
of the birds - don't they also
cultivate elaborate beauty, devour
what catches their eye?
Hence my night shift,
my sulphur and black striped
jacket - poison - a lie
to cloak me while, exposed,
I squeeze from my own gut
the one material;
Who tore the night?
Who caused this rupture?
You, staring in horror
- have you never considered
how the world sustains?
- the ants by day
clearing, clearing,
the spiders mending endlessly.

Rachel Fenton said...

Jaki, thank for this. It really is a wonderful poem.

I have come face to face with many a low hanging spider. Had a few on my head. I particularly love the description of the spider's jacket! Reminds me of the illustrations in a poetry book of my daughters (will dig out and pop the title/illustrator in the comments later), where the creatures have clothes.

And that has to be the best use of the word "slub"!

Thank you.

Donna Hosie said...

Next time I visit your blog, I'm wearing a Hazmat suit for protection!

Rachel Fenton said...

Donna, I daren't even go to Australia!

Andrea said...

The picture of bugs is great! Makes me think about various spider and bug poems and stories - I won't bore you with a list. I think the ones that fly are the ones I find most unnerving. They are better kept at a distance in books or museum cases.

Rachel Fenton said...

A cicada flew down my top last summer, its sticklebrick legs were hooked into my skin and bra - barf!

Glad you like the bugs! "In books" made me laugh - you mean squashed of illustrated? :) Thanks!

Dave King said...

Whether you love them or hate them there's something going on deep in the psyche, I think.

Rachel Fenton said...

Definitely, Dave, only I wish "going" were the operative word when it comes to spiders! Thanks for your input!

Shanti Perez said...

Hi Rachel,

Enjoyed your post about bugs. I laughed. I used to have a terrible phobia of spiders. It was so bad that, when I was a teenager, I couldn't even turn the page of a book to a photograph with a spider in it without sitting paralyzed, adrenalin rushing. I became fascinated with them, too, like you. The difference, however, is you're in Australia so there are some extremely large and venomous species about, which I'm sure you are quite aware! But, this self-exposure to the creature I feared began to cause a sort of fascination and now, years later, I'm not so scared anymore. In fact, I can even pick up certain species and I love to follow them with my camera.

I laughed at this: It's similar to when you're watching a horror film and the unwitting victim is about to go into the darkened room where you know the evil bloodthirsty thingymebob is lurking in wait, and you shout "don't do it, don't go in - RUN!" And then they go in and get mutilated and you squirm and don't look, and tuck your knees in to your chest. -- except I could picture it being from the spider's point-of-view, which made it even funnier.

Thanks for sharing! :)

Rachel Fenton said...

Glad I made you laugh, Shanti!

Before I moved to NZ I researched the bugs - supposedly there were no "native" baddies! Actually there is one but by saying there are no native ones, they mislead you away from the non'native ones - the visitors from Australia (still talking about spiders here)!

Shanti Perez said...

Those visitors from Australia...they will keep you on your toes.

Rachel Fenton said...

Hehe, definitely, Shanti! But, no fear, I have my trusty bug hoover!