A bug’s life

Yesterday the ladybug made its way downstairs. It was flitting about the light by my side of the sofa. The extra movement like a conversation. I wished I could decipher what it was trying to say to me, but I couldn’t read the pattern. These past months I’ve grown out of practice in the fine art of reading body language.

Maybe it was angry. A ladybird flipping me the bird for my accidental murder of its kin. I had stepped on number two in a fit of housecleaning last weekend. Its tiny carcass lay on a stair, wings depressed and stuck in a slight shrug, as if to say, “what could I do?”

With the first cold days in November, the falling darkness of winter, the ladybugs found their way inside for safety. I noticed them in the upstairs bathroom, a wise location given the warmth of the afternoon sunlight on that southern wall and window. There were two, maybe three, it’s hard to know since they all look similar to my untrained eye. They cheered me.

The one bug is far more adventurous and extroverted. It joined us for pre-dinner mocktails one evening in the kitchen and regularly appears for a chat while I’m brushing my teeth before bed. Although I’ve since learned in a fit of internet research that they are not bugs at all, but rather beetles, that are customarily regarded as cute, pretty even. As children we draw pictures of the red spotted beetle, we imagine them with long, furry, unintimidating antennae poking out for direction, we dress up in Halloween costumes painting rosy red cheeks with black spots on our faces.

What happened to Halloween this year? Oh yeah, there was one knock at the door while we were eating dinner, and which prompted us to turn out all the lights and hide in the basement with the centipedes.

Insects have taken on a new prominence in my solitary life this year. In summer, I spent a remarkable amount of time gazing with fascination at a bumble bee collecting pollen from the Zinnias in my container garden. At the time, I thought of it as a sure sign of how Zen I was, how connected to nature, to life. In that moment of mindfulness, I was completely relaxed. There was no boredom, no urge to be doing or achieving anything. The bee worked and I became still.

Now, I think maybe I was so still because I didn’t want to frighten off the closest living thing (besides my partner) I’d seen in days. Rather than screeching and swatting, I routinely found myself reaching for newspaper or a glass to transport “outdoor” insects back to their domain. The ladybug family is the only visitor we’ve had in the house in nearly 10 months. They can stay. I’ve pulled out the nice linen and set out the futon. I can’t guarantee they’ll be safe from Morris, the spider who lives in the corner of my home office, but I don’t think he ventures far. Although it really is too bad that we can’t all just gather around the espresso machine for a quick afternoon pick me up and swap stories. Maybe in 2021.

What would be left of our tragedies if an insect were to present us his?

Emil Cioran

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