It was a beautiful evening in Haiku, Hawaii. The birds sang their evening songs. The Maui breeze rustled through the pine and rainbow eucalyptus trees. I decided it was a good time to clean up the leaves and pine needles collecting at the base of the trees. We lived on half an acre and there were a lot of trees.
I’ve never used gardening gloves. They feel stifling and hot and sweaty. I love the feel and texture of the grass and dirt and leaves in my hands. It’s therapeutic.
My green refuse bucket began to fill. My progress looked amazing after clearing dead things away.
As I stood to toss another pile of leaves into the bin, I felt a pinch on my thumb. Instantly and instinctively I shook my hand. I didn’t even realize something had actually happened until I saw something flying through the air. What was THAT?!
I started picking up the leaves I’d tossed all around, cautiously. Then suddenly, the pinch exploded. Fire entered my veins and progressed up my arm, to my shoulders, and into my back. Shocked, I stood there staring at my hand. I could see a teeny little something on my thumb. What had happened to me?
I found my husband and explained what happened. We decided it must be centipede. He started looking for help online while I tried to hold myself together. He couldn’t find anything conclusive. The pain pounded on every nerve. I seriously felt my arm was not only on fire but internally infested with alien life forms ripping my insides apart bite by bite.
We went to the home of our friend and neighbors, the Abellas, for advice. Joe confirmed that it probably had been a centipede sting and gave some advice, but said I’d really just have to wait till the venom exited my system. After a couple of days I could move my arm and shoulder without residual pain, but the injection spot on my thumb was tender for months.
I started noticing centipedes in the yard. The blue ones were hauntingly beautiful. The centipedes ranged from teeny to massive. Whenever we saw one, we’d grab the shovel and chop it in half. But the centipede wasn’t feared by everything at our house. We watched the neighbor chickens jump the fence to visit our yard in search of centipedes, their favorite treat. We stared dumbstruck as a chicken grabbed an 8 inch centipede in its beak and then systematically swallowed it while the remaining parts of its prey wriggled around in the air. Shocking.
But, the scene was soon commonplace. Apparently we had enough centipedes in our yard to keep 10 chickens visiting daily for that delectable snack.
I really don’t like killing living things. I instinctively slap a mosquito that lands on me, but I don’t like it. I’m not afraid of insects or crawly things. I don’t necessarily love them. But I don’t like murdering them. Anthony laughs at me when I say that, but that’s kind of how I feel.
A couple of days ago, after working really late, I finally decided to go to bed. I walked from the couch to the kitchen in our townhome and saw a 6 inch centipede crawling next to the baseboard towards me. It was pretty obvious on the white tile. I froze and watched it running. AAK. I mobilized and ran to find something, anything to defend myself. I grabbed Anthony’s shoe.
When I ran back to the spot, it had vaporized. Vanished. I moved the couches and the dog’s beds. I looked in closets and back in the kitchen. I thought it might have climbed up in the couch when the dog and I sit and kept imagining the doggie getting stung and dying.
Anthony was sick and had gone to bed much earlier. I stood over the bed for several minutes. He was sleeping so soundly. I finally decided to wake him. He jumped right up, put on his motorcycle boots and joined the search. We looked for 30 minutes. I promised him I wasn’t hallucinating.
We eventually went back to bed and drifted off into a restless sleep. We’ve heard so many stories of centipedes in beds.
The next night, I worked late again. At about the same time of the night, in my peripheral vision, I saw the centipede hurrying across the floor of the living room. He ran for cover under the dog’s bed. Anthony’s motorcycle boots were nearby. I grabbed one and cautiously approached.
I really hate killing things. But, seeing it camping out under the doggy bed grew my determination. I grabbed the bed and jumped back as it ran towards me. Smash! Smash! Smash! I realized that every time I lifted the boot, little centipede legs flew all over the floor. It repulsed me.
Apparently, I’d been shrieking every time I whacked the centipede. And loudly enough to raise Anthony from his sickness-induced sleep. He came to the room to see what was happening. I kept saying, the legs were flying everywhere! The floor is covered in legs!
Anthony grabbed something to stick under the still moving but mostly smashed into the floor centipede and flushed it. Anthony gave me a hug, called me his Warrior Princess, made some comment about the centipede being Ammon-ized, and went back to bed.
I was left to pick up the rest of the pieces…literally.
I rarely get that affected. I tried to understand why I was feeling what I was feeling…and what I was feeling. The experiences in our lives provide multiple layers of learning. I prefer it that way to re-experiencing learning experiences.
Applying the Lesson
I realized what the lesson was for me at this time in my life. Hopefully I can learn other things later on from the centipede’s sacrifice.
A verse from Nephi’s Psalm came to mind the next morning. “Oh Lord, wilt thou redeem my soul? Wilt thou deliver me out of the hands of mine enemies? Wilt thou make me that I may shake at the appearance of sin?”
The memory of the first centipede experience flooded my mind. I remembered the frenzied shaking to free my thumb. I remembered the effects of not shaking quickly enough. I remembered how frantic I felt when I saw the second centipede in my house. I remembered how vulnerable and worried I felt for those in my household.
Do I shake at the appearance of sin? Have I before? Well, I’ve turned away from sin. We all have that opportunity multiple times, to a larger or lesser degree, every day. But have I SHAKEN?
I knew that that large of a centipede posed imminent danger for our dog who has never encountered one before. The centipede dwarfed the one I flicked off my thumb. I literally trembled at the thought of how much its bite would hurt.
Cause and Effect
I’m at the point in life I can see cause and effect. Some choices create easily identifiable consequences. Some are more invisible.
Several years ago I started studying people’s faces as an experiment to understand mixed messages I got from them. I began gaining insight into their lives. I learned that peace radiates from a face. And so does resentment. I noticed tightened lips and worried looks. I began to recognize what people told me even when their words said the opposite.
I started craving people at peace. I didn’t need to talk to them, I just want to see them. They really are few and far between. And they’re generally older.
There’s a lady at the Laie Temple who has me confused with the daughter of a woman she used to know. I tried to explain, but I don’t think it took. But, I see her radiating light and peace every week. And I’m glad she thinks I’m a long lost friend because every week she wraps me in the arms of her peace. And every week, I drink that in. Maybe she did understand my explanation and just knows I crave her presence. That kind of peace is possible through a constant companionship of the Holy Ghost–which is possible by resisting sin.
Still with all the searching and feeling and internalizing, I still don’t shake at the presence of sin. But, I want to. And Nephi’s prayer is a great beginning. Alma suggested that “if ye will awake and arouse your faculties, even to an experiment upon my words, and exercise a particle of faith, yea, even if ye can no more than desire to believe, let this desire work in you.”
And so, I’m on a quest to shake. I can see cause and effects of sin. I know what is right and wrong. I know what I’m personally doing or not doing.
One of my favorite Isaiah verses became more meaningful after the centipede experience. “Shake thyself from the dust; arise…loose thyself from the bands of thy neck, O captive daughter of Zion.”
Shake the dirt off, the worldliness off, sin off. And don’t let it back on. Not only will you be free of the pain and consequences lurking in the dust, but instead of being surrounded by dust, you’ll see the clarity of heaven. Arise. Be free.
I am a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I have moved 64 times and have not tired of experiencing this beautiful earth! I love the people, languages, histories/anthropologies, & especially religious cultures of the world. My life long passion is the study & searching out of religious symbolism, specifically related to ancient & modern temples. My husband Anthony and I love our bulldog Stig, adventures, traveling, movies, motorcycling, and time with friends and family.