Saturday, May 12, 2012

Is it Bad Luck to Kill Grasshoppers?

After traveling around the country with a visiting friend, I returned a few days ago to my village in Morocco to find that in the mere span of a week, the cool spring days we had been having before I left had disappeared. The temperatures had gone from temperate all the way to the almost intolerable heat we didn’t have last year until later in the season. With the early onset of summer, my roommate told me, had also come the dreaded onslaught of flying critters invading our rooftop terrace apartment. Last year we had these horrid flying-cockroach-like things. This year, apparently, we were getting grasshoppers.

“Is it bad luck to kill grasshoppers?” he asked. “Because I think I killed about three.”

I didn’t know, so I looked it up. All I found was a survey of the symbolic significance of grasshoppers in various societies throughout history. In China, they are a symbol of good cheer, good luck, abundance and virtue. In Ancient Greece, they signified nobility. In many other societies, they represented honor and respect. In answer to someone’s question about whether to kill a grasshopper, one respondent advised that a grasshopper is more like a messenger. They are merely telling you there is something in your life where you need to leap forward. He said, “Trust your inner voice. What works for you probably won’t always be what works for everyone else.”

So it’s more like a spiritual thing, I thought absently, unconsciously reassured, and moved on with the rest of my day. As it came time to go to bed, and it still being 84 degrees in my room, I stripped down to the bare minimum, opened the window and lay down on my bed uncovered.

Unaware that the motif from earlier in the day was to become recurring, and thinking that staying cool was the biggest challenge that lay ahead, I was startled when I heard something flop into my room. I leaped out of bed, turned on the light, and found a little brown grasshopper-like critter clinging to the side of my nightstand, dazed but determined. For myself, my heart was racing but I was just as determined. Confident I would be the victor, I was nevertheless unsure how this would come about. I made several ineffectual attempts that only succeeded in knocking him further away from me, between the nightstand and the wall. But fortunately, of his own accord, he reemerged and made himself available for capture. As he was standing on the wall, as only insects can do, my brain kicked in and overcame my reactive instincts, and I used my change dish and a piece of paper to restore him to his rightful outdoor home.

Satisfied from my relatively easy victory, though still a bit shaken, I then shut my window, wedging it in with just a crack to bring in some air. But just as I was drifting off to sleep, I heard another flop. The intrepidness of my opponent was becoming apparent, as was the thinness of my defenses. The dance began again. I realized I wouldn’t be able to have the window open at all, so I sealed it off completely before lying down again presumably for the last time.

As I was lying there sweltering, though almost asleep, I heard to my horror, for the third time, that dreaded flop. We had left our terrace door open, and the little bastard had come in from under my bedroom door. So, after sending him on his way using my time-worn method, I sealed off the space under my door and settled in, finally confident, to a peaceful night’s sleep in my own sweat.

But as I lay there, my mind began working in a new direction, disturbing my well-earned peace yet again. Man, why are there so many of them? I thought. Three in the course of a half an hour… And so high off the ground? (We’re on the third floor.) Doesn’t their name GRASShoppers kind of indicate a limited vertical range? And then it occurred to me: These aren’t grasshoppers, Larissa. This is North Africa. We are very close to where the Bible happened, and we all know what happened in the Bible. PLAGUES OF LOCUSTS. These are locusts, and this is a plague.

Oh man, it’s going to be a long summer.

So even though they are only 8 dirhams per square meter, or approximately a dollar, nothing has yet inspired me to buy screens for my windows. Until now. 

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