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My Werner Herzog Moment


I wish this blog post was about fresh, personal and committed motion picture making and how I discovered my ‘voice’ in Costa Rica. But it’s not. This post is about almost losing it because of insects. (please see “Burden of Dreams” by Les Blank A wonderful film about the making of ” Fitzcarraldo ” to catch the Herzog reference). Where to begin? Perhaps with the moment the counter gave way beneath my tortillas because the termites have almost completed their work consuming it from below. Although we were told we had to spray every month, it seems these are now immune to the poison. Or should I start with my very first sighting of the horse piss spider? That would be dramatic. But no, let’s just get right to it, the creatures that made me temporarily mad were … the ants. Yes they are a vast army with all the qualities one imagines are needed to make up a crack unit – awe-inspiring tenacity, impossible strength, and a single-minded pursuit of their goal. When we first moved here, we didn’t have ants indoors. There were plenty outside, but hell, that’s where they live. Everyone (thing) has a right to Be. The bites of fire ants pissed me off, but really — how hard is it to simply move to another spot on a hectare of land? Then my nephew came to stay and well, after a few days, I started to notice these small monsters were freely enjoying our inside space. Lots and lots of them. Travelling in formidable numbers, along well defined lines, to and fro who knows where. I would brush them off the table and out the door. But that didn’t really stop anything.

So I took a closer look and discovered they were coming in through a crack in the floor. AHa! I said to myself and applied a powerful tool at my disposal – Cloro (A common cleaning substance, comes as a liquid, smells like a pool, and is a crucial part of the house cleaning ritual I wrote about previously. You guessed it, it’s chlorine.) I poured it down that hole and watched with a certain malicious glee as dozens upon dozens of ants flooded out trying to escape – directly into my trap of yet more Cloro. Once all the ants were defeated, I went, self-satisfied, back to my tortillas in peace.

The next day I go to reach for something on the table next to the counter and it is COMPLETELY teeming with ants. They are having the biggest party ever. I toss the thing outside and wipe down the table and I guess the ants followed because that was the end of that.

What fools are we who believe we can master nature? I mistook the battles I’d won as if it were the whole war. The next day they were all over the counter. WTF?! And there were many, many more of them. I spray them with our All-natural Surface Cleaner and this stalls their progress slightly. But they kept coming. More All-natural Surface Cleaner and paper towel with which to capture them and smash them (back and forth) along the broken edges of tile that presently make our countertop. Still more come, (what fools are they!) although their numbers are dwindling. And so, after some time, lot’s of All-natural Surface Cleaner, paper towel (totally against my code btw) and rinsing I seem to have subdued my enemy. But no. The next day I wake up and they are crawling freely all up and down the wall beside the sink. Fuck shit piss, there are HUNDREDS of them. Merrily making a train of whatever glee ants do when they are after something. Every time I think I’ve got them beat, they find another place from which to taunt me. This time I use the Cloro and a wicked loofa (we are growing them, so…) so I can capture them from off the wall — trap them in the loofa and submerge in more Cloro for good measure. This takes quite some time because they just keep coming and the loofa isn’t huge and I REALLY don’t want any to make it onto my hands where they will bite me for sure.

I should note that while wiping at them I do discover the small cupboard on that wall has cooking oil on the top – it’s where we kept our bottles – and is teeming with ants – clearly this what they are after. I wipe it all down with soap and water getting every last morsel and put all the oils in the fridge (where the open bags of dry goods are already). The tuna tin I’m using to drown the ants in Cloro is getting really full of dead ants. As is the weave of the loofa. After a while of this and they still aren’t really getting my message, I discover they don’t care for the smell of onion! OMG. Could it be I don’t have to use harsh chemicals but rather just cut up fresh onion and stuff the pieces wherever the ants are to drive them back into Hell? I spare no time and start chopping and stuffing in all the cracks, scattering across all the surfaces – the kitchen is begins to look like it’s being dressed with flower petals for a Hindu wedding.

It’s a miracle, the ants are finally repelled. I leave – heaving a sigh of relief. Because by now I had begun to feel a little bit unhinged. I was really glad to have found a solution. So when I go back into the pungently smelling kitchen for, oh I don’t know – a glass of water, I’m completely freaked out by the THOUSANDS of ants crawling all over the other wall by the stove. They are clearly eating something on the wall, but I can’t see it. There are THOUSANDS of them. It is a horror movie scene. I lose it. I screech that we are going to poison them all. “If you don’t do it I will!”. “I can’t live with this another day!” “I SWEAR TO GOD!” “WHAT ARE THEY EATING THERE ANYWAY?!”

So, I’m not going to meticulously do the Cloro and loofa thing, it would take me until midnight. I stand there feeling completely overpowered, beaten, ready to fly back home when — out of any other more clever ideas — I grab the broom and sweep them off the wall onto the floor and out the door. THOUSANDS of them. I keep at it until they are all gone. I wash the wall. With Cloro. I loudly vow I will not go into the kitchen again and retreat to my computer looking for solace. Seeking something I understand. Something I can understand. When I do return to the kitchen (of course, I get hungry too) there are no ants. wtf you say? well, thing was, the kitchen was finally clean again. For no matter how much we told our city-born & bred nephew that he had to clean up after himself in the kitchen, he didn’t really. When he cooked (points there) there were big grease splatters on the wall. When he used the oil, he let it drip down the side of the bottle. Counters went unwiped, sugar was left spilled, etc. etc.

Now when I see ants, I just think – okay then, gotta clean something up. I don’t freak – I clean. I am transformed. I live in a place where you can’t break nature. If you try, it will just laugh in your face while it munches freely on your arrogance and naivete.

Originally published February 21, 2012

Benedict I suspect your ants are a bit more tenacious than Toronto ants but every year we brought plants in for the winter we would be plagued with them as well……Until……..I discovered, Ant-B-Gone, a sticky syrup that must be like ant crack or something, they lap it up and take it back to the nest, et voila! no more ants…….. Reply

karen Ant-B-Gone you say. I’m checking Google translate now for the Spanish for that! Reply

Janet Karen, if I didn’t relate to the pain and horror of crawly insects in the house I’d laugh my head off at this story. It really does have a comic visual going on. In malarial countries, they used to put the bed legs in bowls of sugar water so the ants wouldn’t get the patients, unfortunately, they didn’t understand yet about mosquitoes, standing water and malaria. Janet Reply

karen holy crap, one step forward, two steps back, huh?

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