Walter White

What are YOU doing here?

Nature should stay outside. I mean the crawly, lively part of nature, the ants, the mice. Spiders come with their own mythology and their webs are such things of beauty. I've always been a sucker for beauty. Not that I couldn't admire those same webs from my side of the glass. Because that's really all that separates us from nature. Maybe it's double-paned glass set into a slab of wood that is covered with sheet rock. Maybe it's brick or stone, But really, such a modest barrier between us and them.

Now these, a group of fifteen to twenty big ants, black ones, gathered right near the crack in the rafter supporting the roof of this old wood house. Lining up as if for free lunch, or checking into some Holiday Ant Inn for an ant convention. Ants! Carpenter ants. They nest in wood and chew it into sawdust. They chew on insulation material and make multiple nests within it. While not as serious as termites, they don't belong there in the wall, just above my head when I sleep. No wonder I've had a few nuits blanches recently.  They have to go.

Buddha counselled respect for all living creatures. But shouldn't that work both ways?  My local pest control guy suggested a relatively benign dust to exterminate them, mostly diatomaceous earth. Less toxic than Raid. He crawled into the narrow entrance with his headlamp, wearing normal clothes. Nothing like Walter White and his Vamanos crew. But the outfit didn't seem to matter.  He felt good about the result of the dusting he did. He thought he got them all. We stood outside the back door watching a wobbly-legged refugee trying to make it across the treated perimeter. Anything else, I'd feel bad watching it suffer, but ants, in the house? Big ones? Chewing it?

"You might see one or two in the house for a few days. Those would be escapees looking for a new home," the pest controller advised when he handed me the bill.

But it's more than one or two. At least three crawled out from under a bathroom rug, another half dozen scouted the terrain around my desk, one by one, teasing me into thinking the problem is solved and they were just part of the doomed survivor contingent. But he'd said one or two. How many now? I should have written it down. I imagine tiny bites and feel a crawling sensation on my calves The vacuum cleaner sucks over a patch of carpet where something black seemed to move. They are just ants, and yet, they are ants and it's my house.

For not the first and not the worst time small wild critters have challenged my borders.

I used to love to open my eyes just as light was breaking near a wild and scenic river in southwest Washington State. On the bank up from the river, fir trees grew trunks thick enough for two, even three people to bracelet. The wide, mullioned window in the bedroom broke the view of the forest into little squares. A single thickness of glass and a window sill level with the mattress. Such a flimsy barrier, really. Almost like being outside. It felt luxurious to lie on flannel sheets, beneath a thick down comforter and listen to small things, birds and chattery little chipmunks, until a logging truck passed and dominated every sound for a minute or two. Always tempting to lie in longer than usual, watch, listen, daydream. One morning when the time came to roll up, I threw back the duvet and the top sheet and there on the other side of the bed lay a small furry grey mouse. Dead but not desiccated. A recently dead mouse in the bed where I had lazed daydreaming for at least half an hour. Had I actually slept with the bloody thing? Yah!

The pest controller called last night. He'll get back here as soon as he can. Could be there's a satellite nest in another part of the attic. Meantime, I am considering or reconsidering my relationship with my natural environment. To zap the house invaders again feels draconian, yet it wouldn't have to happen if those critters just knew their place.