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The Three Pure Precepts

Welcome to My Green Vermont - A Blog by Eulalia Benejam Cobb.
By Eulalia Benejam Cobb


This is not a self portrait, and not just because of the hair: I would no more trap a spider under a glass in order to release it outside than I would slather my bare feet with honey and walk into a nest of fire ants. Tiny spiders with skinny legs I can tolerate, but if I’m sitting reading and minding my own business and a mouse-sized wolf spider scuttles by, instead of rushing to get a glass I run to get the broom and beat the poor creature until it curls up its eight legs and expires. I can’t even bear to pick up the remains with a tissue prior to flushing them down the toilet, but sweep them into my dust pan, keeping fingers well out of the way.

I feel guilty about my inability to save the wolf spiders that visit my house in the summer and fall, and I admire my brave friends who piously trap and release them into their proper habitat, there to get on with their little spider lives. Saving the many beings is clearly beyond my reach. But I can save some beings—I’m thinking about the grass snakes, the occasional toad, and the myriad anonymous insects that thrive in the long grass of my tiny backyard, which gets mowed only once a year. I hope that providing these creatures with a cozy home compensates a bit for my frequent arachnicides.

Renouncing all evil is also not in the cards for me. I will go to my grave being overly critical of my fellow humans, intolerant of their weaknesses, irritated by…well, their humanity. But I can try to keep my criticisms and irritations to myself, cultivating the pause between stimulus (a speech that goes on three minutes longer than it should) and response (eye roll followed by audible snort) that allows kindness to do its work.

As for practicing all good, I read about José Andrés and his World Central Kitchen and think, that is what doing good looks like—and any virtuous intentions on my part seem pitiful and worthless. I can’t leave my retirement community and go off to feed the starving children of Gaza. Aside from contributing pitiful amounts of money to worthy NGOs, there are few ways I can help. But when I buy a loaf of bread, if I choose (and can afford) a loaf baked by a local baker, made with organic grain grown by a nearby farmer, with that small act, done mindfully, I am practicing the good.

And I haven’t given up on spiders. As the weather warms, I plan to keep a glass handy. I will start with the wee delicate not scary ones and work my way gradually to more disturbing specimens. And perhaps with luck and the help of Saint Felix, patron saint of spiders, I will make the shift from arachnophobia to arachnophilia. I’ll let you know how it goes.

4 Responses

  1. Wonderful, Lali. Thank you! This morning after CUP, I heard Doug Tallamy, “Homegrown National Park.” Your kindness to the creatures, aside from the spiders, is just what he is espousing!

  2. So true and right on! Inspired happy signs of recognition and chuckle. What we can do is think globally and act locally…with kindness as much as we can on any given day. Thank you!

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