Sunday, June 06, 2010

Bug Off!

Today Roberto and I tried a new parrilla (grill restaurant) that opened up just down the street from his childhood home. We immediately approved of the ambiance, perhaps "early gaucho,” very woody and horsey, with comfy booths. As it was nearly 3 p.m., we quickly ordered some grilled beef, naturally, a salad of arugula with parmesan, plus a Coke and small bottle of malbec.

Well, the salad showed up in about 10 minutes with a bonus--a little extra protein in the form of a small black bug. The beetle, smaller than my pinky's nail, was nestled in the chopped arugula. It was surprisingly entire, so it probably entered after the knife. I called the waiter, who whisked it away with a zillion "I'm sorry's" (in English!). He brought me a side of hot
 crispy french fries as a consolation, which I graciously accepted, and we just went on with the meal. Still aghast at bill time, the waiter insisted on explaining to me the bags of chopped greens came from a supplier, and surely the intruder had come from there. No matter, I said (but do let the supplier know, I added).

I was pleased to notice that I felt totally unfazed by the beetle in my arugula, taking it as more confirmation of my growing equanimity. It also reminded me of how much my relationship to the natural world has changed since moving here. It seems I am not the only live creature to prefer Latitude 33° South to Latitude 43° North!

From tiny gnat-like insects to humungous flying beetles that can cause concussions if you are in their flight path, insects are part of my day. They bite me, I swat them. They nibble on my food, and I suspect I've eaten some of them. In summer outdoors, I breathe them in. They buzz in the morning and during siesta hour. Mosquitoes are just a fact of life here, and I see more in one day than I saw in a year in upstate New York.

I can coexist with most of these, but not the fire ants. I've innocently stepped on their mounds and had to rush to the clinic for cortisone shots, watching my foot swell and blister within minutes. The pain is so awful that I cannot work, nor can I read or play Lexulous, so it is really a drag! I break all ecological vows and have Roberto pour ant killer on their domed homes the minute I spot them now. I'm not fond of the carpenter ants that munch on the rafters either, leaving small piles of sawdust in their wake.

At other times, I am transfixed by the life all around me, on ground and in sky. For example, on a brilliant fall afternoon, I can see dozens of amazing giant cobwebs floating across the sky, silver threads on an azure background, taking spiders to their new homes. I rejoice that the temperate weather tempts me to spend so much time outdoors.
My perennial favorites are the fireflies (los bichos de luz), a fabulous kinetic art show in our garden on summer nights. Sometimes when I've forgotten the clothes drying on the line, I've run out in the evening into thick clouds of these little bioluminescent latin lovers dancing under the jacaranda and magnolia, along with the T-shirts and towels. It makes me glad that I am not very efficient about laundry tasks!

The stars of the daytime insect dramas are surely the dragonflies (los alguaciles). Roberto and I have lingered over many a summer lunch on the patio, mesmerized by their air shows. Think back to any WWII documentary you ever saw that showed swarms of planes zooming around in combat--and then imagine the planes to be dragonflies, swooping, hovering, capturing prey, and all the while their lacy wings glinting in the midday sun.

Who will later eat these angelic hosts? Who knows? But I do know that there are lots of resident frogs and birds, and even one iguana, who consider my garden their permanent buffet. Given that no one here uses pesticides on lawns, this miraculous chain will continue. . . and I am a part of it. Amen.
P.S. The waiter took the salad, fries, and a coke off our bill. So we will go back! Beetles beware!

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