Shoo Fly Shoo! Go Away Breakfast!

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I have had a forced break from posting on my blog due to the fact that we moved houses. As mentioned in a past post, we moved out of central Bodrum to a place called Kızılağac (Red Tree). Kızılağac (pronounced Keu’zeul’aach) is a very small village about 7 minutes’ drive from Bodrum. We however although in the district of Kızılağac, are not actually in it but rather on the side of the road going to it. There are four houses tucked down from the main road in a little lush valley and ours is one of them. During the move, my mother came to visit and thanks to her ability to entertain and spoil a two-year old, I was able to sort out the house so that it is a comfortable family home. Additionally, my husband’s cousin helped set up a lot of the furniture and a friend’s vacating her apartment and generously offloading some things onto us, all colluded to create a space I am truly happy in; much happier than in Bodrum.

Again, if you have read past posts then you will know that the house in Bodrum had mould which is an accepted condition of houses there. Accepted by the local population who doesn’t seem to mind that every winter sickness-inducing spores cover some of their ceilings and walls with their black presence. Perhaps I am being dramatic, but I cannot describe to you the contempt I have for the otherwise intelligent people here who underestimate the danger of this seasonal phenomena. Every winter they open their homes to this hardy fungus and every summer see its exit, by way of the strong rays of the sun. A lick of plastic plaint, a few months of good health, a selective memory and the mould problem is no more. In our previous house however, the 40 degree heat and pounding sun could not dry out the mould and if that is the case, then as everyone here advises: the house is no good, you’ll have to move. At least we agree on one thing…

So move we did and without the mould, noise, traffic, human trafficking, oh and cockroaches I am undeniably happier. Cockroaches? Yes, well, we apparently had a family, a very large family of cockroaches living in the old house. I only discovered their extent as I spent days packing up and cleaning. I knew they were there because I used to go on a killing spree every night after the baby went to bed when they came out to roam around the kitchen area, but I didn’t realise that they had taken up permanent residence. I only thought that ours was one of their nightly pit stops. That they were passing through to see if the baby had left any crumbs on the floor or water in her cup as everything else I usually tidied away perfectly. I am partially to blame for them getting a foothold, because when the first one or two emerged last winter, I just ignored them. I am against killing most things, I mean, I hardly even eat meat. I cry if I kill a house plant and unless I think something is a danger to myself or my daughter, I just let it on its way. Bad idea when it comes to cockroaches. The funny thing is that I didn’t realise that it was a cockroach. I had never seen a Turkish cockroach, only a North American one. I just thought it was a pretty orange beetle. I only clocked on when my husband came home late one evening and we were chatting in the kitchen, all of a sudden, he slammed his hand onto the counter. “What are you doing?” I asked “Killing something,” was his reply. “What is it…. forget what it is in English.” A quick reference of the dictionary confirmed that he had just killed a cockroach. I examined the shmushed bug and realised that the pretty orange beetle that I had allowed to carry on in my kitchen was probably by now a huge problem and that the one orange beetle that I thought was nightly hanging out on the wall by the door, like a teenager at 7 Eleven, was most likely interchangeable with 100 of its relatives. Fantastic! Still I refused to get inhumane (in-insecte?) traps and so sought to control their population by beating those that made themselves visible, with my shoe (a quick painless death). This form of population control was frustrating for the executioner and largely ineffective. As I said, I only discovered how ineffective when getting the house prepared for the big move and discovering evidence of cockroach habitat as well as they themselves, all over my kitchen. This resulted in many of their deaths along with my sister-in-law and I actually bleaching the entire room and everything in it, as a way to stop their migration to our new space – a strategy that seems to have worked.

Oh, the odd few managed the voyage, tucked in the handles of a washing basket or ensconced in a bag of shoes, but a bit of Raid and some nasty poison traps, yes, I finally succumbed, not to mention their own natural predators have seen their demise. Of course there are cockroaches out here in the country too but this last population control device is what keeps them in check; the absence of which, allows them to flourish not only in my last kitchen but in Bodrum as a whole and in many cities in the world. Everything on earth has and needs a predator because without it, the natural balance of things goes array. Distinct populations must be kept in check because an overgrowth of one causes problems for the others; this goes for flora and fauna. Bed bugs, rats, mice, cockroaches and other inner city vermin that I have not thought of or encountered, thrive because they have been allowed to find a foothold in an unnatural environment. An environment where their natural predators haven’t been included. In our new home, spiders, centipedes, millipedes, and the like are happily overlooked so that they can continue their role as cockroach controllers. My daughter runs around going “Who is that? Who is that?” and I dutifully name the discovered insect for her to file away in her growing lexicon of words. Sad that part of her lexicon is “Die cockroach die!”, usually uttered with my shoe in her hand and miming a slamming on the ground motion, but better that she has now replaced that with “Shoo fly shoo! Go away breakfast!” There is a lesson found here in this observed toddler behavior which suggests the point of this post.

I moved from an unnatural environment to a natural environment for the good of our family. In the country there is a natural balance not found in the manmade cities where we have structured our living in such an artificial way. There we have strove to make things as we want them to be with buildings housing people, pets, products, and conveniences. We want to live in concrete houses that beg for mould in the winter and air conditioning in the summer. We want to walk to the grocery store and buy a pomegranate instead of just walking out of our houses and picking one off a tree. We want to control our environment and strip it of things we find inconvenient, unnecessary and undesirable, but we are fools to think that we can actually succeed at this, something cockroaches, rats and bed bugs have been trying to tell us. Something modern diseases such as Lyme disease, Multiple Sclerosis, and Epstein Bar have been hinting at. Something I know deep down in my soul that is true which is that our moving away from our natural environment has harmed us and will eventually be the death of us. Not just physically but also mentally.  I cannot shake the belief that living in cities, all crowded together competing for jobs, mates, resources, Cronuts and whatever else, the media tells us we need to be happy, is a very stressful existence that many folk can no longer shoulder. Look at the modern phenomena of depression especially in First World countries. Look at the recently soaring suicide rates of young men. Look at the understaffed overfull psych wards packed with mentally disturbed people in need of help. Could our mental health be closely tied to our artificial environment which is lacking in true substance, community and communion?

On the second morning at our new house, my mother, husband’s cousin, daughter and I ventured out to our patio for breakfast. Surrounded by olive, pomegranate, fig, grape, jasmine and other trees and flowers I have no knowledge only experience of, we sat down at the table and started our feast. My mother directed our attention to one of the plastic patio chairs, upon which was a strange, long, straw coloured insect. It was the most unique insect we had seen. It moved in graceful, slow movements. Exposed, it was trying to get to the underside of the chair, but could only do so at an inching pace. So fascinating was this creature that our meal was suspended by our intent staring at its glorious strangeness. Time seemed to stop as much as did our rumbling stomachs and we shared a collective obsession that kept us in the moment. We even paused to take photographs like we were a group of tourists at the Taj Mahal, Acropolis, or Pyramids of Giza, because you see, although there are some magnificent man-made structures on earth, nothing really beats the beauty and singularity of Mother Nature’s creations. We too are one of those creations and part of a living breathing natural world that we seem to have forgotten about and that soon may forget about us.

As we put our shared attention on that insect, which we later found out was aptly for me, a Praying Mantis , I thought about how we were having an almost religious experience.  One which, in times past we would have experienced in a pew, knelt in shared prayer. Modern man, however has not only cast nature aside but God too.  In not all countries has this shift yet occurred.  In Turkey, I see men and women working the natural land together gathering olives grown wild and without intervention.  I see men and women walk down the cobbled streets when the call to pray sounds so that they might pray in the mosque together.  In the Western World and other First World countries what has taken these rituals’ places? Shopping, eating, watching TV, surfing the Internet? Where is the contemplation, refection and quieting of one’s mind? Where is the commiseration, shared experience and direction of will that working in nature and worshiping in a holy place bring? If we wholly reject nature and religion, what will we draw to ourselves instead?  What will protect us from our man-made isolation which has taken us out of the divine dance and cast us out only to find ourselves more  physically and mentally sick than in the past?  You might not put religion and nature in the same category but most Indigenous cultures’ do.  Their spirituality is rooted in an indivisible relationship between nature and the Creative Force of the Universe.  Finding that unseen force in nature helps us transcend our own ego, problems, worries and condition. It is a mechanism for mindfulness in a modern world characterised by mindlessness.

Sometimes if I am stressed out I take the bucket of rocks that my daughter and I collected this summer at various beaches in the area. I dump them out on the floor and sit picking each one up, holding it in my hand, examining it with my touch and sight before putting it back in the bucket. There are a lot of rocks.  I have never counted how many, but enough so that by the time they are all back in their bucket, I have forgotten about the things that made me sit down with them in the first place. I am fortunate now to not only have that bucket of rocks but an entire garden of rocks, trees, flowers and insects to examine, touch and disappear into. It is not easy or perfect living here. When it rains the metal roof makes it sound like there is a meteor shower hitting our house; don’t even think about sleeping. When I want to take a hot shower I have to build a fire in the bottom of the water boiler in the bathroom. There is no central heating and again a fire is required in the wood burning stove for us to be toasty and warm. The electricity can be dodgy and boiling the kettle at certain times seems to take hours. All of that said, however I wouldn’t move for the world, because all of the little inconveniences do not outweigh the weight that lifted off of my shoulders once I came here.  All of the noise of modern city living was quieted and I could finally hear my own head and heart. In this place, everything is in balance and living in that balance makes me feel balanced; I am back on solid ground. I feel connected to creation as a whole, not just to part of it.  Here my daughter will more often have to pull “Shoo fly shoo!  Go away breakfast!” out of her growing lexicon of words then she will “Die cockroach, die!”, at least until summer when she might have to replace cockroach with scorpion, but nothing is perfect.

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