My Foe verses my Enemy

Who overcomes by force, hath overcome but half his foe.
John Milton

The battlefield is a scene of constant chaos. The winner will be the one who controls that chaos, both his own and the enemies.
Napoleon Bonaparte

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(“the enemy has grown bold in my neglect”—Julie Cook / 2014)

I come to you, lying in a pool of my own sweat, from somewhere on the floor of a cavernous basement.
The cement beneath me is hard, dusty but cool.
Flat on my back I stare bleary eyed at the wooden joists overhead.
“How do those cobwebs get up there and where do they keep coming from. . .”
These odd thoughts swirl through my mushy mind as I will myself to not give in to the overwhelming exhaustion.
I close my eyes.
I prefer not to see what I must clean.

Lungs and limbs alike now burn and ache.
I think I hear the sounds of angels, far off someplace in the great distance, singing.
“Is it help come to save me. . .?”
Oh, yeah, that’s my iPhone.
“Oh Bono, he’s still singing. . .”
“Bless his heart”
“He just won’t give up on me” a pleasant thought as a slight smile comes to my parched lips
The timer beeps.
“Must find water. . .” I hear myself mumble.

Not much has changed since I last met this nemesis, this foe of mine. Was it back in say late June or early July? We had been constant companions, it and I, for better or for worse–since Valentine’s day.
Day in and day out for months–as it promised to help me become the svelte mother of the groom.
We worked together every single day.
It never wavered.
I wanted to throw up.

Yet, my butt actually began to feel as if it could fit comfortably into my shorts.
My thighs no longer waved in the breeze.
My arms actually had a bit of definition.
My heart said “thank you”

The windows are still dirty.
The cobwebs are still hanging down from the ceiling.
Yet the robins are gone from the back yard only to be replaced with the summer resident catbirds.
The sun still shines through the lefthand window making me duly hot before I break my first bead of sweat.
As the elliptical just sits there, silently goading and taunting me. . .

The calendar has turned a page.
The seasons are changing.
My new leaf is ready to be turned over.
The excuse of Summer is no longer viable.
It’s time to get back to a healthier routine. . .

Which in a round about way, brings me around to the whole concept of “my foe verses my enemy.”
In my mind, I believe a foe to be a formidable opponent.
I find that we usually have respect for our foe(s).
We feel competitive toward this said foe.
We may actually develop an affinity for this said foe.
Be it the scales, the elliptical, the mountain, the wave, the mess, the deer, the cat’s litter box (digressing), the whatever it is that is staring us in the face and goading or taunting us to master it, to beat it, to out smart it, to clean it, to better it, to eventually better ourselves. . .

An enemy, on the other hand, is more sinister.
More callous.
There is no feeling of camaraderie.
No kinsmenship.
The enemy does not want me to better myself.
It does not wish me well.
It does not care.

Pondering this fine line of difference between foe and enemy, as I look off the back deck drinking my protein smoothie–yuck— I spy the small group of deer, who have been goading and taunting me all season long with my garden, boldly going where I have valiantly fought keeping them from. . .
Oooooo, they have now grown most bold and defiant as I have grown haplessly weary.
Daylight or dusk they now wander into the midst of my territory undeterred.

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We went round and round, those deer and I.
And yet, I never truly wished them harm.
I simply wanted to keep them at bay, long enough for me to gather, literally, the fruits of my labors.
I did not mind sharing those “fruits.”
I did grow frustrated.
Even discouraged.
I felt challenged.
And yet I knew that they did not wish me ill.
They simply saw an opportunity and took full advantage of it.
And now that I have grown weary, as the garden has grown over, they have thrown caution to the wind and are enjoying, with gusto I might add, the lingering fruits of my previous labors.

Others in this world of ours are not so docile.
Foe and enemy gather round–just as the clouds gather over head.
They are opportunistic to our weariness, our ignorance, our self obsessions.
They are poised to take advantage of the “crack in the door.”

There are foes who will always seem to be the proverbial thrones in our sides.
They will preen and strut, taunting and goading us, yet truly they do not wish to witness our destruction because in the back of their minds they are smart enough to realize that our destruction would be their own.

There are also enemies who are secretly plotting and planning.
They remain often in the shadows, waiting and watching.
They are patient, cunning and ever watchful.
They, unlike our foes, do seek our destruction because in their minds they see our defeat, our destruction, as their glory.. .
. . .Despite the fact that that glory would in turn be their own demise. . .

Consider and answer me, O LORD my God; Enlighten my eyes, or I will sleep the sleep of death, And my enemy will say, “I have overcome him,” And my adversaries will rejoice when I am shaken. But I have trusted in Your lovingkindness; My heart shall rejoice in Your salvation. . .
Psalm 13:3-5

Woven, yet freaking me out just a bit

Humankind has not woven the web of life. We are but one thread within it. Whatever we do to the web, we do to ourselves. All things are bound together. All things connect.
Chief Seattle

The only faith that wears well and holds its color in all weathers is that which is woven of conviction and set with the sharp mordant of experience.

James Russell Lowell

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(image taken last April while out in the yard / Julie Cook / 2013)

Okay, I’ve written about this before.
Simple fact number 1—
I can’t stand spiders.

Yeah, I get it, you’re tying to tell me how beneficial they can be. . .they’re great out in the yard. . .they eat other bugs. . .yada, yada, yada. . .
You think good and I think black widows, brown recluse. . .you get the picture.

Lest I remind you that a couple of years ago, while at school, I was sitting at my desk in my office during my planning block— I turned around in my chair, reaching for something in the filing cabinet, suddenly sensing a bit of movement just out of the corner of my eye. .
Do you have any idea how large things can grow in a 51 year old school building which has dust bunnies as big as, well, real rabbits?!

Slowly and quite controlled, a couple of legs, yep, I said a couple,—long spindly legs, more like large antenna, come creeping out from the corner of the filing cabinet.
“OH DEAR GOD!!!” is the immediate scream in my head.

Very cautiously I ease myself up from my chair, leaning over as far as I dare, making certain I’m not seeing things.
“OH DEAR GOD AAAAGGGGGHHHHHH”

This time– the in my head scream is now quite audible.
I run out of the office, out into the empty hall.
I scan left, then right. . .
“S – P – I – D – E – R ”
The word haltingly spills from out of my mouth as I search in vain for a passerby. However, this is 2nd block, no one from the neighboring classrooms are on planning and no one is in the hall—just what an administrator dreams for. . . an empty hall— a panicked individual wants / needs people.

No matter.

I boldly open the door to the math teacher’s room across the hall, interrupting Algebra I (I never did understand the big deal about Algebra anyway, but my disdain for math is for another day), I calmly ask if I could please speak with the teacher out in the hall.
All 35 sets of eyes sense something serious was taking place as my eyes were as big a saucers, my teeth were clenched and I’m certain those on the front row could see the sweat beading on my forehead. . .

My friend and colleague steps out into the hall with me, closing the classroom door behind him. I’m sure he must have thought the worst considering my hands were shaking.
“s – p – i – d – e – r” barley lifts from my voice. By now I think I must be very pale as I think I may faint.

“What?!” my friend asks most concerned.
SPIDER” I now mange to pull the word out of my mouth.

Long story short, my friend, who I suddenly deemed mad and daft, proceeds to march into my office, grabbing the nearest ruler he can find.
“What are you doing?” I stammer, “Measuring it?!”
To my dismay, he gently coaxes the spider, web and all, out of the tight corner and proceeds to make his way outside to “save” it.
The spider is a wolf spider and is as big as a freaking golf ball!

“ARE YOU CRAZY?!” I scream.
“KILL IT!!!!”
By now, my former friend and colleague, has done his good deed by releasing, back into the wilds, a giant spider who I imagine was chomping at the bit to get back inside and back into his cubby spot in my office. . .

I tell you all of this as I am in a state of potentially freaking out as I type.

Breathe in, exhale, repeat. . .
Ok, here goes the real story. . .

A couple of months back, Michael, over on michaelswoodcraft.wordpress.com, wrote a tale concerning his son as a little boy. Michael recalled how his son had found an abandoned bird’s nest out in a bush bringing it in to the house. He kept his prize find in his room. Long story short, as the nest warmed in the house, the eggs of hundreds of baby praying mantis sprung into action—all over his son’s room.
Michael’s moral to the story was to always spray anything such as a nest, etc, for insects, otherwise an unwelcome infestation could be, literally, hatching.

I’ve picked up nests for years, as well as feathers, the occasional animal bone, shaded deer antler, etc, during my escapades out in the woods. I use to keep these things in my classroom as they made for wonderful artistic subject matter. I never worried about bugs as they all looked perfectly fine to me and I had never had an incident. . .until. . .

I like to think I keep a rather clean house. Being pretty particular as to tidiness, order as well as cleanliness. Now let’s remember that I was out of town for a few days recently. I naturally cleaned the house quite thoroughly before departing on the trip, as I have this fear that if, let’s say, something, God forbid, were to happen while I’m away and I don’t, er, come back, and my house had been left a mess—- People would come into my house thinking, “Oh my gosh Julie was such a slob.”
No, I won’t have that.
If people have to come into my house, should something unfortunate transpire during a time away, then they may remark “my goodness, what an immaculate house Julie has, imagine that, she has two cats and it looks and smells amazing. . .” I digress.
You get the picture.

So the other evening, once we finally arrived home from our very long day of flying and driving, I immediately plopped down on the couch– having been too tired to unpack–I simply plunked down the bags as soon as we walked in the door.
Sitting down, basking in the fact that I was no longer in some sort of perpetual motion, I notice, at the far end of the couch just by the lamp on the table, what appeared to be about three tiny little gnats of sorts or perhaps it was merely a piece of fuzz suspended from the lamp shade.

Mental note, “check out that lamp and dust that table tomorrow.”
I get up, dragging myself down the hall to take a shower before hitting the hay, when I feel like I just walked into the strand of a cobweb. Ugh. “Is the dust that bad on the door jam” I wonder.
Another mental note to self–dust door jams tomorrow.

The following morning, as the sun rose and I was now prepared to unpack and re-clean an already clean house, I spy what I thought to have been the fuzz the night before.
Horrors!
It’s some sort of little web with some tiny baby spiders.
OH DEAR GOD!
Upon further investigation, that cobweb dust business in the hall was actually a web, the entire banister was sheeted with a fine mesh web with hundreds of baby spiders

AAAAGGGGGHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!I am living the Twilight Zone—OH DEAR GOD!!!

This story could go on for days, but let’s wrap this up shall we because this is all creeping me out just reliving the nightmare. I saw that horrible B movie from the 60’s— you know the one—- the story of the giant spider that lived in a cave wrapping people up in a cocoon type web sucking out their blood. There are reasons why children should never see certain things and may it be known that a 1960’s B movie can , does leave lasting scars.

My we just say that I have since attacked the house– with the target area being where I first saw this initial massive spider nursery.
I’ve vacuumed, dusted, wiped everything down with poison, yes poision—the more the better—I might die from cancer due do the absorption of poison into my system as I’ve wiped down banisters, door jams, lamp shades, but by God, there will be no spiders within 100 miles.

In my sheer state of panic, my mind wandered to the question. . .
“Where in the heck did these things come from?
Is there some sort of giant spider mother living in my attic waiting to wrap me in a cocoon as I sleep, poised to suck out my blood?!”
—when it dawned on me. . .
The basket.
The basket under the antique secretary in the hallway.
What is in that freaking basket?!”

I get down on my hands and knees pulling out the basket. I note some more of that sheer webbing and a few more of the hundreds of the freaking spider babies.
Poison, quick, where’s the poison?!

The basket holds a few of my treasures from my adventures in the woods. The turkey, hawk and owl feathers, the shed antlers I’ve found, even a few intact skulls of a raccoon, an armadillo, and even a small deer complete with horns—my treasures from my time spent wandering in the woods. I always bring them home, leaving them outside for a few days checking for any sort of stow away creature. Perhaps the temperatures having been so cold, caused any and all life to lie dormant—just waiting for me to bring it in to the incubator, aka, my house.

Update: The basket, complete with woodland treasures, is currently sitting outside, sprayed down heavily with poison. The house is re-dusted, poisoned, vacuumed, re-dusted some more, re-poisoned and vacuumed again. I now sit nervously on the couch, eyes constantly scanning the horizon, as if I am on the ready for the hidden enemy, finger poised on the trigger, of poison that is—-I have declared WAR on spider babies and spider mothers, and spider fathers. . . arachnids, be warned!