A city girl’s encounter with some new acquaintances in Provence: scorpions.
Provence. Any guidebook in any language will have plenty to say about my new home and it all sounds so good. Rolling hills and almond groves. Apricots and cherries. Vineyards as far as the eye can see — vineyards whose yields can be purchased locally for a pittance!
Van Gogh’s poppies and Peter Mayle’s lavender. Award-winning olive oil at every turn. Skies so clear and blue that even the non-artist will feel compelled to traipse around, paintbrush in hand. La belle vie. La vie en rose.
In conditions like these, you will even love the Mistral. You’ll see.
And they are right.
I mean, is there a person alive who would not be struck silly by the sheer beauty to be found in this little corner of the world? Is there not a reason that everyone, but everyone, wants to set up house in the South of France? After almost ten years of visiting the area, it certainly didn’t take much to convince me that this would be a nice place to live.
So why – why, why, why – couldn’t someone have warned me about the scorpions?
Though a city girl at heart — accustomed primarily to the occasional bee or fly buzzing in through the kitchen window — I am still not so naïve that I didn’t expect some manner of beast or critter to be living here when we moved in.
A very old townhouse whose cellar alone contains more square footage than even the biggest apartment we had in Paris? Surely there is a snake (so far, only one), maybe a centipede or two (o.k., a hundred), spiders (check), and just what are those big blue things that zoom around the rose bushes outside, anyway? Half-insect, half-hummingbird?
(Here, I’ll interject that merely expecting critters to be living in our house does not mean that I was in any way prepared for the sheer boldness that seems to characterize les bêtes in Provence: spiders who run towards me instead of away; one sitting on the sink, watching me as I washed the dinner dishes recently. Her sheer audacity was astounding.)
And, too, I went to university in Florida? Florida, with its semi-tropical climate boasting creatures one might otherwise find only on the Discovery channel. And I grew up swimming in Louisiana ponds alongside water moccasins. Yes, it’s true. We all did.
Everyone has an irrational fear
And yet, nothing – nothing – scares me like the thought of a scorpion. Everyone has an irrational fear. Scorpions (okay, and also sharks) are mine.
So you can believe that nothing – nothing – has ever scared the pants off me like seeing one sitting quietly on the wall, not far at all from the bed in which I was preparing to lie down with my 6-month-old baby one night last week.
After a borderline hysterical half-hour (during which time I bounced frantically around with the baby, tearing at my pajamas, looking very much like the giraffe in ‘Madagascar’ —”Ugh! Get it OFF! I’ve got nature all over me!”), I made my husband:
(a) kill the scorpion (me, the one who always insists that he put captured creatures outside in the garden), then
(b) pull the bed away from the wall and check everything under it,
(c) shake out every piece of linen we own, and finally
(d) wake up our 3-year-old, who slept (wonder of wonders) quietly in the next room through my fit, and place him in the bed with us because, of course, now that I had seen one, there must be more, and surely one would sting my baby while he dreamed.
See? Irrational fears, I know, but the thing about irrational fears is that you can’t very well force yourself to be rational when confronted with them, can you?
So now, in spite of the fact that our research indicates that, yes, although they are quite common in this area, their sting will hurt (like a wasp, they say – oh, joy) but will not be fatal; in spite of the fact that a fellow blogging buddy introduced me to the idea of mopping the floors with lavender water to ward them off; in spite of the fact that I am now careful to shake out the bedclothes each night and check the toes of my shoes before sliding my foot into one, every day last week I could nevertheless be found surfing around on www.seloger.fr, looking for real estate.
Photo credit: Alpes de Haute Provence (Provence).