Squirmy Squirmerson

Thursday, 6 January 2011

The sound of 200 locusts flying through the air at once is a gentle one, like soft rain.  Inside your A-frame holiday house they ping themselves against the roof outside for hours on end, one after the other.  You begin telling yourself that the sound is simply the roof contracting in the heat.

When you are in your car, tons of them fly into the windscreen every second.  You can tell the locals on the roads by the mesh patches covering the front of their cars to protect their radiators.

Even the windscreen carnage becomes something you ignore after a while.  You just block it out because it's gross and you feel awful that all of these bugs are dying.  But even feeling gross, you simply do not notice it after a while, in the same way that familiarity causes the mansion dweller with the million dollar views to not see the Harbour anymore when he looks out his window.

When you both clean the front of the car with a brush and soapy water, you make sounds and feel ill.  The colour of a splattered locust is mustard.  A darker yellow than the fat on the dead human bodies when you watched Anatomy for Beginners and almost as vomit-worthy.

You feel awful for the locusts;  they are just going about doing their locusty thing, after all.  The weather conditions in Victoria have been ripe for them.  The state government has spent millions of dollars trying to eradicate them. You don't want to think about the chemicals they have been using to eradicate them.  One more toxic load of chemicals to add to the already toxic liver load that human beings suffer under every day.  Perhaps it would have been easier to leave them be.

Only to die on the windscreen of a Ford Focus.  You feel guilty, because you are a hypocrite.  You want to practise non-violence towards all living beings.  Your Jainist heart wants to wear a piece of fine material over your face so you don't inadvertently swallow even a bug, but you have killed hundreds of little beings on the way to your holiday destination, where you spray flies with fly spray and eat chicken.

You wonder how you would feel about the locusts, however, if they were to become a swarm.  The ones you saw were not a swarm.  There were large numbers of them, but the pesticides kept their numbers down simply to large numbers of locusts, flying in all different directions, diffuse.  In higher densities, just like humans, their behaviour changes and they become an army, moving as one, out of necessity, for food (unlike so many of our army movements of recent times, based on overactive fear and greed and power hunger).

You do not think the sound of locusts movements would be like gentle rain then, if it was a swarm.  It would be something more sinister, that would strip crops bare.  And then you wonder, would you begin to hate them then, when they have wreaked so much havoc?

You observed a locust at close range late one afternoon when you were out preparing to eat barbecued chicken sausages and salad and the locusts were preparing to bed down for the night, back into the holes from whence they came.  It looked different somehow to the others you saw - no striping on its body.  Perhaps it was a juvenile.  You looked at it right up close.  Its eyes were closed, and it looked intricately fashioned out of a piece of wicker.  A beautiful thing, really.  Beautiful like a human, potentially destructive like one too.  But still, like a human, wanting to live, intricately fashioned, beautiful and awful, simply living in the best way it knows how.

Locust housing


  1. Wow. Thanks for sharing. I think. I suspect you have some deeper philosophical meaning here, but I can't get past the mustard. Ew.

    We are very fortunate here in the NW. We might not have the best weather, but we don't have bugs, either. Not like some places, anyhow.

  2. Do I have a deeper philosophical meaning? I dunno :) But then, *sigh* who am I kidding? Why does bloody everything have to have a deeper philosophical meaning to me, or else I'm not satisfied. *Sigh* :D

    Yeah, Melbourne hasn't had any locusts either. But we got flies and mozzies to burn. Bring your insect repellent when you come :)

  3. I was thinking it was some environmental statement about how even the locusts are important to the ecology of an area, and how we should appreciate their contribution -- because after all, they are just doing what they are supposed to do.

    Or something like that. :)

  4. Yeah, that *was* pretty much what I was meaning, too. I just look at how unbalanced things are. And the chemicals that we are using to help control the locust populations are ones that are uber detrimental to bees. And bee populations have been steadily declining in recent years, as I'm sure you've heard about, and if the bees disappear we're stuffed as far as our food supply goes because we need the bees to pollinate so much of our food.

    I just get frustrated because we are SO heavy-handed and I guess I feel embarrassed about the human race, the arrogance we display towards the natural world, the way we as a people have allowed the less savoury elements of ourselves (our big pharma, our profit-making, our stakeholders, our blah blah blah) to determine our world ... and to fuck it up.

    I guess I get frustrated too that we are so intent on eradicating the "evil" amongst us in our heavy-handed giant baby fashion and sometimes that "evil" belongs also. That sometimes destruction comes, and we can't always guard against us.

    Something like that, anyway :)

  5. In other words, a deep philosophical meaning. :)

    We can't do much about where we are and what we've done in the past, but maybe if we hadn't spent 2 centuries driving living things out of their natural habitats, this wouldn't be a problem. It's so complicated now because of the way civilization has developed. But I don't believe we've started an unstoppable landslide. At least we are more aware.

  6. I'm sort of where Erin started - can't get past the mustard!
    But what brilliant descriptions you give here, especially of the sound. Everything's so bloody complicated, isn't it?

  7. It was very naughty of me to write this to make you squirm. But the mustard ... well, it's gross.

    Thank you for your lovely comment Tess and yeah, it's all so unbelievably bloody complicated!! :)


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