Saturday, October 24, 2009
Death by Ladybugs
I can't remember a time when I haven't been obsessed with my own death. The when, the where, the how--everything from who would show at my funeral to what song would play during the inevitable highlight video of my life. I most often think about the details when it seems death is inevitable--when traveling internationally, stuck in a conversation with someone boring, or when I'm wearing ugly underwear that I wouldn't want seen. But I never, ever pondered death on an unseasonably warm, sunny Saturday in Weston, surrounded by colorful trees and friendly neighbors.
That is, not until today.
While heading down the nature trail leading to the state park, I was practically a walking cliche, holding a freshly-steeped cup of apple cinnamon tea and dressed in sensible shoes. It was, by even the hum-buggiest of grouches, a perfect afternoon. I looked down at one point and saw a tiny red bug on the arm of my hooded sweater. "How sweet," I said to no one. "A ladybug." I carefully placed my index finger under it so it would climb aboard, then gently lifted it up so it could fly away. I felt at one with nature. Maybe I should live more simply, I thought. Maybe I should appreciate nature more.
When the next ladybug hit head-on into my sunglasses, I thought it weird that it would be flying with enough force to actually hit and fall, but didn't give it any more thought. Until I looked down and saw three more stuck to my pants. At first, I was excited, like you would be in a butterfly house, where being surrounded by insects feels like good luck, not an attack. But soon, they were flying into my tea. My hair. My face. I began swatting and jumping erratically, appearing by any standards to those nearby that I had indeed, lost my mind entirely.
At this point, I turned around. I was sad to cut my connection with nature short, but this was getting damned annoying. Now, instead of helping tiny ladybugs take flight to spread their beauty somewhere else, I was flicking them off, two at a time. To a passerby, I must have looked like the live action character of Pigpen, with a cloud of bugs following me.
I removed my sweater, just in case these stubborn bugs, lady or not, were actually Japanese beetles, which bite. This is the exact moment that a bee dove under my bracelet, apparently pissed because it had been blocked from getting to me sooner, stinging my hand. I could now add screaming loudly to my list of odd behavior on the nature trail, and this time I not only scared people but a dog, as well, which immediately began growling and barking at my outburst. The bee lay dead.
Turning to run away in pain, embarrassment, but mostly, confusion, I felt something squish under my foot. I looked down to see the bottom half of a mouse under my shoe, innards dangling. There was no sign of its murderer, but I have one guess, and it ends with "adybugs."
I finally returned home without further incident, where I knew my life would now be defined by two very distinct stages: when I liked ladybugs, and when they hosted my personal edition of Faces of Death.
For more information on the strange, yet unisolated phenomenon of swarming ladybugs, see Ladybugs May Murder You and Your Family.