I have an admission to make. I am unable to squash things.
I carry spiders out of my house on little squares of toilet paper.
This distresses my daughter to no end. The capture and transport of tiny, helpless creatures takes much longer than the squashing. Fearlessness of creepy crawlies is apparently not genetically transferred. Or perhaps if it is, it skips a generation.
Living things are free to roam in my house.
I'm not completely certain about cockroaches, but we've fortunately never had one. The very thought makes me nauseous. Mind you, not the thought of the roach itself, rather the thought of the loud crunching sound I imagine a roach being squashed would make. Or those bugs are large enough it might even hiss or shriek. Excruciating torture to my ears!
Judging from our experience with ants, crickets, spiders, lizards...I remember the Christmas when an entire colony of hibernating ladybugs hatched as soon we brought our freshly cut tree inside the loft. I am guessing I would attempt to capture a cockroah and set it free outside. I always remind the creatures on the way out the door, to "just please stay outside of the house from now on."
Wow! I talk to bugs. This just keeps getting better!
I have no idea when these symptoms began. I have no clear memory of the first time I saved a bug, carried it lovingly out the door and safely set it free in the garden. In college, I came home one night and found an enormous trail of ants marching across my bed. I was horrified!
I do remember feeling a sense of relief (I wasn't completely crazy, yet) and connection to all life when I began to study the Yoga Sutras. In the sutras, Patanjali elaborates on the practice of Ahimsa, or non-harming: "the practitioner will cease to encounter hostility from others."
Is that transferable?
If I'm kind to enough tiny creatures does that cancel out being rude and hostile to the customer service agent who kept me on hold for 20 minutes? Or wanting to throttle the driver who nearly t-boned me running a traffic light?
You better not…
As kids we would taunt each other over this idea. You hesitated to squash something because you might one day be resurrected as that creature.
Fascinating! Even at a young age we began conjuring theories that there was no actual, concrete and final end to life. The first law of thermodynamics, conservation of energy, states: Energy cannot be created nor destroyed. The energy of life is converted, simply given a different shape. What peace this brings. Each time I glimpse a squirrel scurrying up a tree trunk at Balboa Park I imagine my beloved cat Linus has been reincarnated!
Sometimes I even encounter resistance from the bugs!
Case in point, this morning during breakfast I noticed several straggling ants wandering through the kitchen. I reached for a nearby seed packet, stiff paper is better for carrying ants, and began coaxing the ants onto it. What did they do? Panicked and ran the other direction! Not helpful. After all, I was trying to save them and NOT to squash them. Of course, I began to calmly explain this to the ants. My daughter arrived just in time to ask who I was talking to. I repeated this exercise many more times throughout the course of the morning. Ants, it seems, seldom travel alone. They send out scouts. There are always more on the way.
At what point is enough, enough?
Valid question. I evaluate case by case, day by day. I wrangled about a dozen ants before I left the house this morning. If there was a full-scale ant invasion, hundreds across the countertop, for instance, I would have to take more drastic action. I wish I could negotiate with them, convince them to turn around and go back outside peacefully! In this case, I would resort to a non-toxic citrus oil spray that I keep on hand...
Yes, it still kills them, just not us. Toxic to ants, not humans.
And then I feel very guilty afterwards. All of those tiny, lifeless ant corpses scattered across the counter, up the wall and back across the floor. It feels a bit like genocide to me. I am fairly certain they were here first. I am the one who built the house on top of them. And we all know bugs far outnumber even humans. Spiders are easier to handle. I lightly capture them in a piece of tissue and deposit them outside. They don't travel in large colonies.
In a blind fright, one tiny ant scampered across the seed packet this morning and right across my hand. I followed him as he marched back and forth across my open hand, tracing what I believe palm readers would call my life line.
I suppose another person might have simply squeezed…
It's unclear to me whether I save these creatures because I fear the proximity of death, the karmic ramifications of my actions or if I simply have a great respect for these tiny, complex creatures and the precious life force contained within in them. There's a complicated brew of my emotions, combined with hand-selected scientific data, at work here. For now, whatever the reason, my tiny acts of mercy will continue.