[“Let Inga Tell You,” La Jolla Light, published October 17, 2022] ©2022
While my husband Olof and I have many common interests, we will be the first to admit we suffer from insect incompatibility. He’s a spider guy and I’m a cricket person.
I’m not particular bug-phobic. But I’ve never managed to make friends with spiders.
My husband, however, is probably their biggest fan. Hence, fall is his favorite season. The other night he went outside to put the garbage bag in the black bin but was back again still carrying it. “There was a huge spider web right next to it,” he explained reverently. “I didn’t want to disturb it.”
I, meanwhile, keep several old brooms around the outside of the house for the specific purpose of disturbing spider webs. If it had been me bringing out the trash, I would have said, “Sorry, cowboy, dinner’s over. This is a loading zone.”
My husband considers spiders to be fellow engineers and has only the utmost respect – almost a veneration - of their talent.
Olof loves to wax awestruck about spiders. Who, he marvels, programmed the brains of these amazing creatures with such sophistication as to be able to create such complicated webs night and after? How could anyone not be impressed, nay, dazzled?
My arachnophiliac husband points out that spiders are good for the environment, eating disease-carrying and crop-destroying insects among them others. I have pointed out to him that our little chunk of La Jolla heaven is minimally agriculture-intensive, although if spiders were willing to consume whatever pest chomps on my basil plants, my opinion of them could change considerably. In the decades I’ve been in my house, I know where spiders’ favorite places are: Across the steps of our front porch. Between our cars in the driveway. Silhouetted in the trees. Under the house. Especially under the house.
At various times in my 12 years of chronically-broke single momdom, I was forced to crawl under the house – a heavily-populated arthropodal Hell - to pour muriatic acid into the cleanout pipe. My list of lifetime goals includes never doing it again.
I realize that arachnids are just trying to make a living like everyone else. I remember first being informed of this at a workshop at Esalen Institute at Big Sur years ago when I breathlessly reported that our room had black widow spiders. The front desk counter-culture kid replied with barely disguised ennui that the spiders had just as much right to life as I did. (I chose to squash them.)
If there were a product called Arachnid Death, I wouldn't mind spraying it around the outside of the house when my husband wasn't looking. But Olof would be bereft. Olof is aware that this time of year, I'm offing spiders pretty regularly. It's one of those "don't ask, don't tell" things. Olof would never squash a fellow engineer.
Meanwhile, while Olof is enraptured watching spiders spin their webs, I’m sitting in my lawn chair waiting for the crickets to start their nightly orgy. Nocturnal creatures, they sleep off last night’s bacchanalia during the day and come to crepuscular life ready to look for a late lunch and a hot female cricket. It’s the male crickets who are rubbing their wings together to create a vibration called stridulation, Latin for “hey, baby, wanna see my etchings?”. No actually, it means “harsh sound” but neither lady crickets nor I would agree with that description.
I just find there’s something very Zen about cricket chirping. I love listening to them, communing with nature. It makes up for all the years that I didn’t commune with anything but my watch.
It’s not that Olof dislikes crickets. He just thinks their eat-sleep-mate repertoire is a little limited. Although he fully admits that there was a time when this would have been his ideal life.
Sometimes crickets will find their way into our bedroom which is fine with me. A few years ago, around New Years, Olof and I were lying in bed late one night, he reading, and I enjoying a cricket concert. I commented to Olof how late the cricket season seemed to be this year. And after a pause, Olof says, “Um, Inga, I don’t hear any crickets.”
Turns out Inga had developed a form of tinnitus (ringing in the ears) that mimics the sounds of crickets chirping. As opposed to the other common tinnitus sounds (ringing, clicking, buzzing, and roaring), this was fortuitous indeed. The other ones would make me nuts. But hallucinating cricket sounds off-season was pure pleasure, until it disappeared as quickly as it had come.
After all these years of Olof's influence, I am trying to develop empathy for spiders. Still, just before I whacked a web across our front porch, I said to the spider, "See that tan house across the street with the Ford Explorer in the driveway? I hear they're friendlier." It was the best I could do.