Thursday, February 15, 2007

The Tarantula and the Earthquake

The first Friday after arriving here on the coast, I was reminded that we are now in a different place. In the morning, while out in the fields looking at the vegetables being grown by our landlord I nearly stepped on a tarantula. I saw it out of the corner of my eye about 4 feet away. It was coming in the direction I was going. Quickly, I stepped back sideways around Manuel who was showing me the bell peppers and tomatoes (a slight act of cowardice on my part, but more reflex than premeditated chicken shit behavior). At least I didn’t him push towards the tarantula as a distraction while I ran in the other direction. Anyway, Manuel laughed and got a stick. Not to spear it mind you, but simply shoo it away. The tarantula was not the one from the horror movies that’s 10 feet high, but he wasn’t little by any stretch of the imagination. The thing about tarantulas is not so much their length. It’s more the roundness of their bodies. Most spiders are flat in shape. Tarantulas have this girth that’s just uncomfortable to look at.

While we escorted the tarantula away from our garden (me, a step behind Manuel) we paused a moment so Manuel could flip the little guy over and show me his red fangs (that’s where all the poison is). I was tempted to drop down on the ground and do a Crocodile Hunter impersonation, but respect for dead, and my own life made me pass on that comedic moment. Manuel wouldn’t have gotten it anyway, which would have only exacerbated the stupidity of my fatal mistake had I been bitten in the face by a tarantula. Actually, I never thought, at any point, about dropping down to the ground. It just sounded good while I was writing.

Later in that same evening while Sylvie and I were yukking it up with our guests, the architects who are designing our soon-to-be wonderful property, there was an earthquake in our living room. The earthquake was actually throughout the entire area, not just our living room. But that’s the strange thing about earthquakes. They cover a huge area of space, but they’re an extremely personal experience. I mean, even though I was sitting on the same couch as Sylvie I’m sure she had a very different experience than me. Point in fact, she calls it a tremor to this day. It shook the earth, foundation of the house, floor, and seat right underneath me. It personally touched me and disturbed my place in the Earth’s gravitational pull. As I discovered, that is a very special and important connection that I have been taking for granted for way too long. Earthquakes are like bad in-laws (I have a great ones by the way) who get in the middle of your relationship.

What have I learned from this experience? Everyday while Sylvie and I ride our bikes, we get chased by dogs. They run at our feet and bark. At first you think they might try to bite you, but they’re not really out for that. They’re just protecting their property. Tarantulas don’t bite unless you step on their homes or threaten them. Even earthquakes (and natural disasters) act as reminders of the fragile place we have on this planet. A cosmic interpretation could be that we need to be careful to protect our homes which include the planet and our environment. Another is that Ecuador is a dangerous, scary place, and we’re stupid for being here. I’ll go with the former. Personally, I was humbled and continue to be. Living closer to the earth is giving me a heightened sense of respect for the fine balance of our ecosystem - the one we are now rapidly losing.

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