Something there is that doesn't love a 4 bedroom, 2 1/2 bath brick-and-aluminum colonial, That wants it down And its inhabitants out, That in winter sends the icy ground swell beneath, Opening gaps even "Patch N Bond" can't hide. In the warmer months, the work of invertebrates is another thing. Newly arrived at homeownership and in West Springfield, I survey my domain. A twig snaps and falls to the ground in the late autumn chill; This is followed by a peculiar munching sound. Where the twig fell is now no more than sawdust. I watch as the black wave on the ground recedes to its mound. I mention my experience to a naturalist acquaintance of mine. He smiles, explaining patiently that mound-building termites live only in Africa. I show him my backyard. He stands agape. The first evidence is there. Nature is reclaiming West Springfield! It is early spring. Above the whine of the lawn mower comes a sharper, shriller sound. I swat at my ear. The lone scout is gone, but only to be replaced by leader and wing man, then by squadrons, and wings. I retreat in the direction of my neighbor. Where his escort of gnats joins with mine, they blot out the midday sun. Nature is reclaiming West Springfield! There is a wasp in the baby's room, my wife informs me one early fall afternoon. As I start up the stairs, in comes another and another. Within minutes, my stairway is busier than the approach to National Airport. In the living room wasps are hanging from the shades like bats in some primeval cave. As I peer into the fireplace, wondering what unseen hand could have opened the flue, another wriggles through the tiny smoke hole in the closed damper. A screen is taped in front of the fireplace, and for as long as we remain in West Springfield, that screen and the tape that holds it will remain central to our lives. It is enough to drive you out. Nature is reclaiming West Springfield! Late summer again. A blood-curdling scream escapes from the basement. I investigate and find my wife cowering in a corner. I attack her assailant with my shoe. What is that? she stammers. Recourse to an entomology book reveals the intruder to be a cricket. Not a wise and cheerful relative of Walt Disney's Jiminey, But an aggressive, filthy, rug-eating cousin of a roach. I mean, you don't know where those things have been, And they don't wipe their feet before they come into your house.
After the first sighting, we are subjected to the constant cacophony of their chirping, punctuated only by brief silences when I open the basement door and yell down for them to "knock it off"! (The chirping of crickets, incidentally, is caused by the males rubbing their hind legs together to attact the female. In the kind of logic of a higher order than only Nature could ordain, And only my wife claims to understand, Female crickets are deaf.) Over the next several days, I earn countless notches on my tennis shoe. I spray with some stuff that says it is harmless to humans and pets. It is safe for crickets as well. Desperate for some sleep, a professional exterminator is summoned. The next day I count the toll. Two dead, $15.50 per head. My victory is pyrrhic. Nature is reclaiming West Springfield! I receive a phone call from my brother who has just returned from being feted and gifted by various heads of state, on a whirlwind tour of East Africa. My brother, I should hasten to point out, is a prominent neurosurgeon in the New York City-suburban New Jersey area. I know that he is a prominent neurosurgeon, Because he told me so. Several times. Burt, he said, I am a prominent neurosurgeon in the New York City-suburban New Jersey area. So well thought of is he that he is affiliated with six of the best hospitals in the area, And at each, chairs the hospital's tissue committee. I once asked him if he thought "Cottonelle" was really soft then "White Cloud." Over the years, we have forged a strong mutual respect, my brother and I. I respect -- no, revere -- him, as without equal as a judge and patron of bizarre residential architecture. For his part, he turns to me as the ultimate repository of obscure information. Thus, he is calling me about his problem. His priceless East African artifacts are emitting strange popping and clicking sounds that have baffled no less an authority than the chairman of the department of African bric-a-brac of Columbia University. Carpenter beetles, say I. I know they are carpenter beetles because I have heard the same popping and clicking noises coming from my woodpile for months. Lately I have seen the creatures themselves scurrying across my carport, and know they are carpenter beetles, because they always have their tools with them. Nature is reclaiming West Springfield! I don't know why Nature has said, "From here will I push back the puny men with their puny earth-moving machines, from here I will banish the aluminum siding." I only know that she has. Surely there are more humid places, Although I don't actually know of any. I only know that here Nature has chosen to make her stand. Slowly she comes, relentlessly she comes, by day and night she comes. Nature is reclaiming West Springfield! I walk the line in my backyard. Each year, inch by inch, the grass recedes, and the earth, weeds, and wild flowers advance. Nature is reclaiming West Springfield! I know now that resistance is futile. I am at one with the plan. I will approach the Board of Supervisors with plans for the moth festival, I will write another poem, For I know the tick nows and the wasp knows. I know the song that the mother sod webworm sings to her young. Nature is reclaiming West Springfield! I will return to West Springfield in a year, certainly no more than two. Cautiously I will hack my way through the underbrush There, by the large termite mound. You can still see the red stain in the earth left by the bricks. There, there I will point, there is where the house was. For nature will have reclaimed West Springfield.