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Lions Roar : March 2011
61 SHAMBHALA SUN MARCH 2011 hear an ocean rush, the sound of hundreds of scrambling feet. on several occasions, five, maybe six, i chose the largest doodle- bugs for sacrifice. First, i tried tossing them whole into the web. the doodlebugs instinctively curled up, passed through the gaps or bounced off the threads, and landed in the grass. then i tried plac- ing them. i picked up a doodlebug in mid-crawl with my thumb and forefinger on either side of its body and set it feet first into the web. despite my steady dexterity, i was afraid i’d tangle my fingers and i managed to place only one or two this way. My bloodlust (on some level, i knew what i was doing) reached its height when i ripped a few doodlebugs in half and tossed their wriggling carcasses into space. Success. Several pieces held long enough in the sticky silk. the spider dashed from one to the next, wrapping them in fate. i have other confessions, other deaths under my hand for which i must atone. the occasional worm i flung in the midst of ants, which attacked en masse. that was a brutal, writhing end. the one daddy longlegs—so gentle and spindly—i subjected to amputa- tion, until all that was left was the disk of its body. i can’t claim that my actions were because of childhood curi- osity, a what would happen if...? i had watched spiders and ants enough to know what they did to the hapless creatures that chanced across their paths. i knew the daddy longlegs could not survive if it couldn’t walk. although i didn’t think about it, i knew terrible pain was involved. i embodied a primal lack of compassion in those moments, a wicked disregard for the better choice. Children are cruel, adults have said—but why? is there an instinct to destroy without rea- son, seemingly without consequence? is there a desire for power by whatever means possible, because being a child is a vulner- able, fateful condition over which the young one has no control? is it a dark mystery within nature itself? When i WaS tWelve, i awoke one night to an incessant noise. i lay still long enough to realize there was a cricket in the house. i tried to go back to sleep, but it whirred and chirped with exceptional persistence. the hunt was on. i stepped around my bedroom and paused to listen. i searched the hall, then the living room. the noise was softer there. i went back into the hall and entered the bathroom. Silence, brief wholesome quiet, and then the chirp. it seemed to come from the area behind the bathroom door. nothing moved. the whir continued. i opened the bottom cabinet and tossed aside dirty laundry. Up bounced the little black troublemaker. “Come here, you,” i said. i coaxed it into the light. Crickets garnered my special affec- tion. they were hopelessly dapper with their sleek, black coats and shiny, smooth eyes. their back legs sported powerful upper parts and snazzy, tined lower parts that tickled my hands when i held them. he didn’t fight capture for long. i held him between my cupped hands. he jumped and scuffled his feet against my palm. he didn’t make a sound. the love song was over for the moment. the front door had a mail chute that led directly outside. other innocent beasties—beetles, June bugs—had gone back to the wild through that portal. i took care not to crush the cricket as i flipped the brass hinge open and poised him for release. one nudge, and he was gone. later in a high school history class, i sat in a back corner near a window. through cracks around the sill, tiny black ants marched along the wall, over desks, and across the floor. they found bits of contraband soft drinks and food. every day, they skittered along the same fine line on the far edge of my desktop. the teacher bored me, but the ants did not, even though they always did the same thing, minute to minute. i flattened my hands on the desk, propped my chin up, and watched them share their chemical lan- guage among antennae. Sometimes, i’d open my lunch sack and leave a crumb for them to divide and carry. a friend who sat next to me had no trail of ants but did get stragglers. She’d press her finger into their bodies, blot blot blot, and wipe them away. i couldn’t pass judgment, really. i had my own personal hit list, one i considered justified. Mine was a thoughtful act per- formed for the benefit of humanity or, at least, my own fam- ily. in the interest of health and sanitation, i swatted flies and stomped roaches. each one i killed left one fewer adult to dance its germy jigs on our food, counters, and floors. none would be missed. there were plenty more where they came from. i Still Feel reMorSe for one murder. My partner todd and i rented a house when we were in col- lege that had a respectable little backyard. our landlord allowed me to build a garden. i was then a glimmer of what i’d come to be more fully—someone who wanted balance and harmony with the natural world. i learned marigolds thwarted insect pests and planted seeds along the vegetable garden’s perimeter, ones that grew into golden flowers with crimson-tipped petals.