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Saturday, Nov. 14, 2009


Nature is indeed a creepy thing

Something was fishy. Whenever I heard a knock at the door, no one was there. When my cell phone rang, no one was on the other end. In addition, there was no record of anyone having called.

I told the island policeman about it, thinking he might need something to do. He took note, but told me not to worry. After all, on a Japanese island of just 666 people in the middle of the Seto Inland Sea with zero crime last year, the likelihood of trespassers was small. A visit from the devil, however, was a possibility.

I've always felt this strange relationship with nature, and I've come to understand that nature is a creepy thing. Take vines, for example. I saw this bicycle that had been parked next to a fence a little too long. Within a couple months the bicycle had almost completely disappeared among vines.

I asked the bicycle: "Why didn't you just move?! You have two wheels — use them!" I did not think this was a big ask for a bicycle since we all know they lay down in the wind. "I didn't realize what was happening," said the bicycle. "The vines, they just crept coming!"

With the seas rising and natural disasters doing everything they can to wipe nature's canvas clean of humanity, nature's intentions are clear: Nature is set to take over the world.

I see it in more subtle ways too. Like the way the young people who come out to the island to stay at the international villa say, "You mean we have to climb that hill to get to the villa?!" Nature is already winning against the young people.

Every year, the trees in back of my house creep closer and closer. Last night, I could hear their rustling leaves in the wind. They were discussing their next move: "You go ahead and bang on the window," said one branch to the other, "While I hurl acorns at the house."

While this was happening, in the front of the house the annual Sardine Invasion was taking place in the port. During autumn, thousands of sardines swarm into balls and swim around the port in a furious fashion, like a sardine mosh pit. In constant motion, these sardine balls create loud swooshing sounds as they occasionally break the surface of the water. To me, it's obvious — they're casing the joint.

The sardines are very nervous too, another sign they're up to something fishy. If you shine a flashlight across the surface of the water at night, the sardines panic and jump into the beam of light before swimming away. You just can't rest easy feeling there is going to be a sardine uprising soon.

Furthermore, the sardines only come at night. During the daytime, the port is filled with the usual ducks, seagulls and herons.

But autumn always brings on this gripping sensation, like a spider wrapping you up into a bundle and sucking out your insides.

Yesterday, I came across a snake while hiking. I was cautious, knowing snakes are looking for a fat juicy meal to ingest just before hibernation.

There are always plenty of snakes around, but as long as you don't see them, it's easy to pretend they're not there. When you do see one, you are reminded that every day snakes around the world are suffocating their next meal or at the very least, swallowing it whole.

I learned in school that a snake's skin serves as camouflage. A snake could look like a tree branch, for example. But I remember thinking, if you can't tell a snake from a tree, you must be really dense. Besides, if snakes looked that much like tree branches, we'd be afraid of trees.

Which got me thinking, maybe those aren't trees in the back of my house after all.

As I passed the snake, I could tell he was considering me in a Last Supper kind of way. Then, just as the bad guy always reveals all before he attempts to take your life, the snake started pelting me with acorns. "Aha — it was you who was banging on my window and knocking at my door!" I said.

The snake poised and opened his mouth, ready to strike. Just one thing before you swallow me, I said. "How do you explain the cell phone ringing but no one on the other end?"

"Easy," he said. "You have an iPhone, right? With a duck quack ringtone, right? Just a simple trick I played with the ducks in the port."

"Hey, that's not fair," I protested. But the snake grabbed me by the feet and started making a strange sucking sound. "Do . . . you . . . realize," I said, "welrialkang . . . koelel . . ."

Burp. "Ahhhh."

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