Sunday, October 26, 2008

More Spiders and Stuff

First, a reminder of Autumn. We don't have all the sugar maple reds that we used to in Indiana, but we've had a gorgeous Fall anyway. By now, approaching the end of October, we are used to the weather having turned much colder. It will, but so far we've had lovely weather and the yard and garden remain beautiful. Lois' autumn joy (above) is a special delight.

And now the spiders. Or, if you prefer, spiderman (as my car pool mates call me). We have tried vacuuming out the bed, plugging up holes in the wall, everything except setting off Konk (a pressurized aerosol that kills everything in the room -- but I can't quite imagine sleeping in the residue). And I have still gotten bitten each night for the past three weeks. We have found two different friends who have had the same problem, so we know more about what's going on; but we still do not know what kind of spider is involved.
I did get a brief respite by sleeping in Nevin's room for two nights, well covered up. Last night I returned to my own bed, attired thus:

Socks tucked over the sweatpants, gloves pulled over the sweatshirt, and a mosquito net over my head. I'm not sure that it actually worked: things tend to gap when the wearer is asleep, and I may still have gotten a bite. But it gives me some sense of taking action while we try to find the spiders. If I hadn't killed one crawling over my ear a couple of weeks ago, I would think that the bites came from something else. But one of the two friends who had spiders described the nest she found: 20 some spiders quite small (1/2 inch across) and perfectly round (body like a little ball and legs also making a circle), a tan coloured body. The description matches the one that I killed.
They may be in our mattress, which is quite old. We can of course replace it. They may be in the wall. We'll do some spraying of baseboards and see what happens. Eventually I hope we get rid of them, and I can return to lying in bed comfortably, without putting on a suit of spider armour.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008


Some of my blogging friends do wonders with pictures. I wish I could take pictures of spiders, but as soon as I see them I squash them! I'm usually quite calm when I see a spider (or insects flying about the house): I tell Lois to kill them. But I have a good reason for becoming more active in my response.

I like spiders. They kill and eat other insects and keep the mosquito population (for example) under control. But at this moment I am in an uncharitable mood. Spiders bite! At least I think that's the problem. Here's my story.

Two weeks ago and a bit, I found a swelling on my neck. A couple of days later the swelling migrated to my left eye. Now I already feel self-conscious about the 58-year-old bags under my eyes. Usually I don't mind them: badges of honour I think. But when they fill with fluid and make me look puffy and drunk, I don't like them! At first I thought the swelling might be a reaction to a medication I had started taking. (One of those 50something things that 20somethings don't understand. I didn't 30 years ago. I do now.) I went to the doctor and showed him the original swelling and my puffy eye. He took me off the medication, but added that both looked more like the result of a spider bite to him than anything else.

So the saga began. I remember now that I have had similar swellings on my neck for some months, but disregarded them since they went away quickly enough. The doctor (who used to practice in Indiana) observed that our Manitoba spiders do not produce as severe a reaction as bites down south. That's good, but I kept checking for bites.

They came regularly. Over the past two weeks I have had bites on my scalp and neck almost every night. At least I think they're spider bites. The most compelling evidence came last week. I woke up to feel something on my ear, slapped at it, then turned on the light. Lo! A dead spider on my pillow! I thought, "Great! Now I can sleep without getting bitten!"

No such luck. The bites kept coming. Finally Sunday afternoon Lois and I pulled the bed out, cleared everything from under the bed (no more boxes of memorabilia there), and vacuumed carefully, including the baseboard. Lois performed a temporary plugging of a hole in the corner that could have been providing access for the spiders. Then we moved everything back into place.

Sunday night I tried to sleep, but Monday morning I found three more bites on my scalp, along with a puffy left eye. Back to the doctor, who saw no infection in the eye, so no real problem, but agreed that the bites were a nuisance. I also killed a spider that I found on the floor. I think it got lost trying to get back home after feasting on me! Lois had plugged its usual escape route, so it wandered about the floor until morning. I killed another downstairs this evening, which may or may not be connected to our bedroom spiders.

This morning I think there were no new bites. My eye has returned almost to normal. The swellings on my head have migrated together into one lump on the back of my neck, and I'm waiting to see what happens tonight.

"What happens to Lois?" I hear you ask. They don't bite her. If they did, I might suspect bed bugs or mites or some other pest. But she has escaped unscathed. She buries her head under the blankets every night, as she has for a long time. The spiders can't find her! So they crawl over the head they find -- mine. I've tried to copy her, but 58 years of sleeping habits can't be so easily undone. I think that all I've done is make sure that the bites are on my scalp.

I don't even know for sure that spiders are the problem. I do know that the swellings are not from the medication! I feel like I need my old mosquito net from sleeping in Zambia. If anyone has any advice or help for me, let me know!

Sunday, October 19, 2008

A Long Autumn

C. S. Lewis once wrote that old age was the best time of life, like Autumn. But like Autumn, he said, it doesn't last. Old age, or maturity past the full flower of summer.

We are having a delightful Fall in Manitoba. Our colours are not as showy as I remember from Indiana and Pennsylvania. In spite of the leaf on our country's flag, we have few red maples here: they are (I'm told) back in Ontario, which thinks it's Canada. (Hence the flag.) But the colours and temperatures and sun and clouds have all been lovely. Like a fading maturity.

I'm approaching 60 in another year and a half: maybe that's why I think of this. Sometimes getting older is a delight. To be with the wife of my youth (I was 27 years old then: it seems so young now, but it certainly did not at the time) for 31 years has been great joy. Another 31 years would bring me close to my father's age today. Which gives an idea of how old he was when I was born.

Sometimes I enjoy the Autumn, or at least late summer, the declining season of my life. Not always. Physical things that one shakes off quickly when young become more difficult to deal with. I exchange news of physical ailments with my friends in a way that no 2o something would think of doing! But most of the time I realize that God is good, and that Autumn is a wonderful season. Just too short -- especially in Manitoba.

The snow should come next month and stay until April, if past years are any guide. Meanwhile I listen to my jazz and world music, and work on my sermons and class lessons, and listen to people around me and listen for God's voice. Scott Peck said that the gift of our declining years is to be stripped of self-sufficiency so as to enter the presence of Omnipotence with an attitude of complete and total dependence: the only safe frame of mind with which to enter the presence of Omnipotence.

Autumn: long and warmly chill, coloured and shaded with reflective joy.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Back Again

School has started -- almost halfway through the fall semester. I'm in a routine, sort of. Car pooling with several other people from Steinbach to Providence. Teaching class. Reading and assessing essays. Learning to know new people and situations, and trying to keep a genuine awareness of God at the heart of the whole process.

We've just finished an election in Canada. That vote was pretty easy for me: Go Green! It's a protest vote in our riding, where the Conservative candidate takes almost twice as many votes as all other candidates combined. I'm also hoping to help the Green Party gain enough of a percentage to get people's attention, especially political type people.

We could vote in the American election too, based on dual citizenship; but somehow I don't feel right voting twice. So I vote where I live at the moment. If I did vote in the States, again it would be an easy call. I have opposed the invasion of Iraq from the beginning, and the primary recourse our system has for expressing such opposition is by voting against the architects and their supporters.

Whoever wins (McCain or Obama), I feel more hopeful about the future. It's a funny thing that: I hear one person after another talking as though, if the other guy wins, we're doomed! Obama will be the end of freedom in our country! McCain will take us to war with everyone else! I doubt it. Both of them seem to me to represent positive change in our foreign policy. They differ more at home, but congress carries the greater responsibility to pass any legislation proposed. I'm looking forward to a change.

Bush? I feel real regret. I supported him once, and wish I still could; but the course he has taken have pushed me right away. I'm looking forward to the next presidency. It won't fix very much, but at least I hope it won't invade anyone else.