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Sunday, September 24, 2000

The first major skirmish in the War of the Ants took place today at the Fortress. I knew it was inevitable, but I've been putting it off. Then last night I found myself spraying in the bathroom, all along the tub and the wall. I found a tiny hole which was their apparent point of entry. I freaked out, spraying inside the hole until Raid dripped down the wall.

This is not an old house, but there are places where the trim is uneven or windows won't close all the way. It's like inviting ants to take shelter from the cruel world outside.

So today I rescinded the invitation. I had to clean the dead ants out of the bathroom before I could take a shower, and that was enough to provoke me into action. I placed ant stakes at the appropriate places around the outside perimeter, and sprayed around the windows and doorways.

I don't think I've endangered any of the lizards and frogs that add character to the garden. On the other hand, if I've sent any snails to their doom, it's an added bonus.

At the risk of being the victim of my own hubris, I don't expect any new ants in the house, at least for a while. Once I've wiped out the stragglers, I should be able to walk from room to room without compulsively checking windowsills and countertops for the pesky little creatures. When I stop seeing them for real, I'll stop seeing them in my imagination, and out of the corner of my eye.

I've come to terms with watering the immense garden area that I inherited along with all the advantages that made me leap at the chance to move here. This doesn't mean that the garden is a disadvantage, just that it's overwhelming to me.

I know that I'll never be a gardener. I can't pull weeds for ten minutes without the skin on my arms breaking out in a rash of scratches and scrapes, and my head filling up with the airborne irritants unleashed by vengeful vegetation.

I always think that Mother Nature is out to get me. So I leave her alone as much as I can.

But watering, that's okay. I even bought a new oscillating sprinkler, and I've worked out a schedule of rotating it in the areas it will reach. Two or three times a week, I'll stand out there personally, hose in hand, and take care of the areas that are too uneven to be sprinkled mechanically. I don't even mind this, but it tends to be the only thing I do outside.

Once I've gone to the trouble of watering, I'll usually rest on my laurels and consider that I've done enough for one day. And I won't do anything else until the next time I have to water. Sometimes that includes work inside the house, like running the vacuum or dusting for cobwebs. Can't do that today, I watered.

This makes me wonder if I'm even cut out to live alone in a big house. I absolutely love it here and never want to move again, but it makes me feel small and helpless at times.

You know that new outdoor thermometer Suzanne brought me last week? Until today, it's been hanging on the front door, simply because there was a nail there already. It was rendered useless by the direct sunlight hitting it nearly all day. I guess that didn't matter, since I couldn't see it without opening the door anyway.

So today I drove a nail in one of the posts on the back porch and repositioned the thermometer to a place where I can see it through the sliding glass door. It gets little direct sunlight there. I was pleased with myself. I patted myself on the back, popped the tab on a Diet Pepsi, and sat doing nothing for the longest time. It wasn't hard, driving a single nail, but for some reason it felt like enough.

Taking care of a place this size is going to force me to change these slacker habits. I'm going to have to be more persistent in assigning chores to myself and then completing them. There's no one to tell me what to do except me. If I'm not going to be a taskmaster, the place will deteriorate, and the reasons I made the move will dissipate.

I can't afford to let that happen, even if it means a change of attitude that I haven't shown any ability to put into effect. I'll start, I think, by making a "to do" list, one that's reasonable and undemanding (at least to a normal person).

Yes, I think that's exactly what I'll do.


Or the day after, at the latest.

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