Mandan News

Brian L. Gray: Summer brings out the best in all creatures, two legged and eight

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There’s something about this weather that makes me giddy.

It gets me so giddy, in fact, that I have no shame in actually using the word “giddy.”

I’ll admit up front that my favorite time of the year is autumn, but when it comes to summer, I can’t get enough of the warm North Dakota sun. With this year in particular, it may have something to do with the five harsh months of the relentless winter we just had, but even with my fragile Irish skin, I can’t keep myself away from being outside. Even if I had second degree burns all over my body, that would not keep me from relishing in this weather.

Besides, in this state, where our summer season lasts for roughly the length of nine-inning baseball game, no one knows how to enjoy this season better than us, as it takes the bitter of winter to truly appreciate the sweet of summer.

The only thing that gets in my way from enjoying the outdoors is work.

I, for one, have been glad that the summer season is late, because I live in an apartment that is incomplete. It has no air conditioner. The place didn’t come with one, and I’m not one to spend money on something like that, especially for a place I don’t see myself staying at for an extended time. But I’ve implemented the European technique that has served me well – at night, I open my windows and let the cool air in. This has, up to this point at least, made things very comfortable.

With the positive, however, drawbacks always tend to follow. There are negative aspects to this weather. One that has personally affected me is the emergence of insects – spiders, in particular.

My bathroom is also partially completed; it was renovated a few months back, but the people working on my place only did the major work, and neglected to finish the small stuff, leaving me without baseboards and a cover for my light switch. This was never a problem for me – until spiders began coming out of the woodwork and freely making their way into my apartment. 

And I not only hate spiders, but I hate it even worse when they intrude in my home. I’ve watched the “Indiana Jones” movies way too many times since childhood to not jump a bit when I see one. I am very territorial when it comes to my place – if I see a spider in my home, it normally has to die. If it doesn’t struggle with me, I’ll trap it and take it outside.

It’s not very rational of me to kill spiders just because they invade my space, but for what I pay, I wouldn’t mind their presence one bit if they forked over some cash to help pay my rent. But they don’t, so they don’t belong there.

And I don’t intend to get violent. I know humans are immune to most poisons that spiders emit, but I’m no arachnophologist, so I have no idea which ones I’m not immune to. I’m so ignorant when it comes to spiders, in fact, that I have no idea if “arachnophologist” is even a word.

So I don’t take my chances when it comes to spiders. And I’ve seen my share so far. I have noticed, in the small amount of time between me finding and killing them, that they’re very complex creatures. I’ve seen a multitude of reactions spiders have made when encountering me in my home. One spider I ran across played dead; another incredibly small one casually crawled across my bare feet one time. I tracked it as it moved along my living room, and watched up close as the spider displayed no fear of me at all. Then this other black spider, which I originally mistook for a cricket, noticed me and flipped out, frantically running for a safe haven.

But there was one spider that really fascinated me. I discovered it making a home for itself on my patio, which is also incomplete. It lacks the proper lumber support and has a large gaping hole in it that contains a ladder leading down to the ground floor. Some people call this a fire escape. I call it a patio, and I’d been watching this small yellow spider relaxing on its web. It never hid from me, and I never bothered it, so the two of us were fine. I was actually enjoying this spider’s company when I went outside on my patio, and like I would with a pet, was watching it grow the last few months.

One day I woke up early in the morning, and went outside for a cigarette (not my best habit, I admit), and this spider was on its web, which it normally was when I stepped onto my patio. But for the first time ever, this spider crawled away from me. I began to feel bad, that maybe my cigarette smoke was blowing by the spider and bothering it or something. Then it occurred to me – this was my home, and I was allowing myself to feel bad about a spider.

I had to step away from my mood for a moment and allow practicality to prevail. How strange it was of me – if this spider had planted itself one foot further into my apartment, I probably would have killed it, but with it outside here I was, trying to relate to the spider’s actions.

Was I that protective over a place that didn’t even have an air conditioner or baseboards? Maybe it was because I claimed the apartment as my own that I reacted this way, killing spiders if they intruded on my space. But outside, it was all “live and let live” as far as I was concerned, and I felt completely in tune with them.

How could a one foot distance make such a difference, and create such a gaping inconsistency in my character? Maybe the summer heat was just messing with my head.

I should probably get out and buy an air conditioner.

I’m not one to complain about things, so I won’t say I don’t like the state of my apartment, or all the spiders that terrorize me.

The summer season is just as incomplete as my apartment is, and the only thing I know to do is to get out there and make the most of it.