Critters

by Tom Swift

One sign of the warm weather that has finally arrived for us is the increasing presence of bugs. Mostly a nuisance and never courted, summer would not be summer without some critters crawling and flying in your space — critters not present (at least visible) the rest of the year. The uninvited summer guests.

Living in a new home I am seeing bugs anew for the first time since perhaps I was a child. For I am regularly encountering new-to me insects at unexpected moments. At first these sightings give me a start: do I need to worry about this one? It’s not the case the answer is always no. Carpenter ants, for example. Yet I write these words to make something of the small fears that arise in these moment and — I hope — to better acknowledge what is real: the circle of life, the whole of all living things, the wonder that can be had when you look, really look, at another living thing. The more foreign the creature, the more you might see.

The minute green guy that makes it onto the fleshy part of your hand while you sit in the sun, for example; you almost kill him with the usual movements, such as the wiping the sweat off your brow. The black beetle that scurries over the same grass on which you play ball with your dog: that is my black beetle, you think. And it’s not yours. And it is — you own nothing, really, and yet it is also the case you are the little thing’s most direct overlord. So there is that. And it’s a cheap and easy example but I don’t care: the monarch butterflies that have turned up of late. Growth personified — beauty embodied — to watch the slow-winged monarch air dance across one’s immediate view is surely better for the soul than anything you can see on Netflix.

Inside the house or out — the wonder factor is different, to be sure. And those little slivery buggers that seem to like water almost as much as you …. well, it’s hard to summon affection for them. But the bits that have arisen in my consciousness of late I shall put like this: even if I have few specific memories of particular bugs at particular times, collectively, these critters carry inside my home and through my lawn mirrors of memory, to a time when summer was all-day baseball and late nights of card games and noisy fans blowing and juicy tomato sandwiches and cold milk shakes and the pervasive sense that anything could happen.

In these reimagined scenes the screen door is always closed, keeping the bugs out. But they are there. A moth and some friends are probably pressed up against the door. We don’t let them in, not intentionally, of course, but how different life would be if they were not right there with us.