Monday, July 5, 2010

In Which Mr. Jackson Is Enlightened

or I Love It When You Bug Me

A while ago I wrote about an unexpected thing that happened when I provided the gift of water to the small creatures in my garden. Lately I've discovered a gift I provided to Mr. Jackson (aka Mr. Toad) without meaning to. I'm warning you, however—this is a small happening, small even by the standards of someone with a blog called "Microcosm." The explanation-to-event ratio is waaaay out of proportion, but I'd love it if you could bear with me through this one.

Our story begins with the sad fact of waterbugs. These are large, outdoor cockroaches that like to come indoors at night primarily looking for water, though they also enjoy air conditioning, and they won't turn down a dish of dog food or an interesting trash can. (And a trash can under the kitchen sink near the water—OMG, OMG, OMG.) They don't seem to want to move in, though I'm sure they would if I made the place inviting enough; I've watched them march straight out the door (well, under the door) at the crack of dawn on more than one occasion. I was almost surprised that they didn't punch a tiny time clock on their way out.

I don't like them. Even though to the objective eye they are actually kind of a nice coppery shade of brown and seem quite cheeky and rather gregarious, mine is not an objective eye. The mess they make when you squish them is too...textured. I do my best to deter them each summer by making sure that the trash can never is interesting, putting all food garbage in the freezer until trash day, sprinkling diatomaceous earth around entryways, etc.   None of it really works.  Apparently, hope springs eternal, even for cockroaches. Maybe even especially for cockroaches. That is to say, waterbugs.

My latest strategy is to leave the kitchen light on from dusk until bedtime. It's not the "greenest" of solutions, but it does seem to work. The light shines out through the glass panels on the kitchen door and deters the waterbugs from entering. They may still come in after I've turned the light off and gone to bed, but I don't see them, and that's the main thing.

While light may deter some insects, of course, it also attracts others. Re-enter Mr. Jackson. On more than one evening, I have found him sitting on the path outside the kitchen door, with beams of light falling all around him. (And lo, how like a warty angel did he appear unto me.) He has been feasting on the insects hovering around the door—and possibly devouring some waterbugs into the bargain.

It never ever occurred to me that in turning on a light, I could feed a toad. (Note to the patient reader: that was the event.)

Why do I find this so beautiful? I'm not entirely sure. It tickles my funny bone, yes, but that's not quite it. Perhaps it's the serendipity, or maybe the efficiency of it—nature letting no gifts go to waste.  But I suspect it's more the awe of discovering how small actions have unforeseen consequences. It's kind of like "The Butterfly Effect" (the idea that a butterfly flapping its wings in Brazil could set off a tornado in Texas), only smaller, and with a hypothetical butterfly that actually knows that it caused a storm.

In fact, the more I write about it, the more certain I am that that's what I love about this little eventlet. We so seldom see the effects of our more-or-less random acts:  the small steps we take that reverberate across a larger plane. To see those reverberations in action—and to know that they're accidentally feeding a fat, happy toad—is a rare and wondrous thing. That knowledge is also comforting.  Since becoming ill with CFS, my life often feels horribly restricted, and the reminder that even small actions can have far-reaching consequences gives me hope. And of course, the adventurer in me is inspired to act even more. Because who knows what might happen?

Take a step, and set the world in motion.

Anything can happen.


  1. I love this piece! And I love the word 'eventlet'. you're right, even the small actions matter and have an effect on life.

  2. Thanks, Michelloui--and thanks for stopping by!

  3. I find myself staying up far too late reading through your wonderful blog! I didn't know this was yours. It's so beautifully written. Wow. What a gift!

  4. My dear Tierra, I'm just so pleased that you're enjoying it! It's great to have you here, old friend.