Broken Bay Writers – Stories of NSW Central Coast and beyond

Scribbles on life, the universe and everything… Woy Woy, Ettalong, Umina and teh Central Coast that is!

Tag Archives: Spiders

Feel the Fear and Do it Anyway!

Imagine my disgust as a person who strives to be unique and walk to the beat of my own drum, I find myself with the most common phobia known to man…the fear of spiders. Worse yet, it’s not my only fear. There is also the fear of heights, fear of flying, fear of dirt… Wow, that list is long.

I can’t say I have conquered many of my fears, but what I have done is learn to face them. My fear of heights used to be so extreme that I couldn’t stand on a chair. The problem with having this fear is it gets in the way of having fun, if you let it.

Spelunking…I found myself in the situation where I was attached to a rope (or whatever they call it) and was asked to lean over the hole backwards until I was horizontal and then start walking down the side into a 100ft deep hole. I did it and I am damn proud of it.

I have been to mountain tops via the chairlift. Sure I have to concentrate on my breathing, but who would want to miss that view, it’s spectacular! I have ridden in the highest gondola in the world that stretches the longest span. I didn’t look down, but at least I went in it. So much for my fear of heights! I may not stand on the edge of an open cliff, that’s okay, common sense says one should not stand to close to the edge without a safety harness anyway!

My fear of flying most certainly comes from my Mother, as most of my fears probably do. And, I have had some horrible trips in planes, but at least I get on the planes, I didn’t used to. In high school I missed out on trips to Morocco and Paris because I refused to fly so far. As I matured something strange happened, my curiosity to see the world and find out what’s around the next corner got the better of the fear! I didn’t want to miss out on other opportunities to see the world, so I refused to let the fear overcome.

I have flown quite a bit in my lifetime and have learned to practice little things to help me with my anxiety. I must look out the window on takeoff and landing and have the ability to look out the window at any time during the flight. I concentrate on my breathing or else I will forget to breathe and start to feel dizzy. The important thing is, I just do it. Amazingly, I find myself with family in Canada while I live in Australia which necessitates a yearly trip across the ocean. Such is life, I wouldn’t change it for the world.

My fear of dirt definitely comes from my Mother. I was in my 20’s when I learned that most people do not mop their floors three times a day. It was at that time I decided to try to handle small amounts of dirt in my life and not be so concerned with having my house spotless. Unfortunately, it took me many years to learn how to control this phobia. Consequently, I have missed out on many picnics because I couldn’t eat outside where there is dirt and I spent more time cleaning my house than spending quality time playing with my kids. But I am getting better. I now only clean the house once a week, although I still like order, except in closets and drawers where it has become a free for all!

So, why is it that those pesky little spiders still send me in to a panic attack?  The other day Al and I went off to the store. Al was driving. Suddenly a huntsman spider crossed on the outside of our windshield. We had the windows down so Al immediately hit the button to put the windows up. I, in my panic hit the button on top of his finger and pushed harder. I know it doesn’t make the window go up faster, but logic does not come into it when one is dealing with a phobia. The spider decided to go down into the vent on the hood. Our vehicle is fairly new, so it has screens on the vents to filter out air pollution. That fact didn’t’ help me as I struggled to close all the vents inside, pulled my legs up and hyperventilate all at the same time.

Al pulled over as soon as he could. I was out of the vehicle in a shot. Pacing up and down the sidewalk, crying and trying to breathe! It was horrible.

Worse, I now had a choice to make…get back in the car and go home or walk home which was an option because I was not that far from home. I stood for a minute and told myself, “this is an irrational fear, that spider can not harm you” and I got back in the car.

I got back in the car because I understand that irrational fear is a state of mind. It’s okay to be scared, but I can not let that fear rule my life. If I did I wouldn’t be living with the most wonderful man in the world because I had to get on a plane to get here and move to Australia…known for it’s spiders, killer spiders! And, I live in the area where some of those killer spiders live, the feared funnel web.

We made it home without the spider showing itself again. Al, being the honey that he is, got a hose and flushed the huntsman out of the vehicle.

The thing is I know I have to get on top of this fear, after all, what if I had of been driving? I can not cause an accident because of a spider, so I am just going to have to learn.

I have been making baby steps. I went through the spider building at the wildlife park. I never would have done that five years ago. Yes, I have had my house sprayed several times and it’s due for another spray as spiders are showing up in the yard. I try not to let it affect me, but I notice myself choosing to sit inside more often rather than out in our beautiful yard. I will get the yard sprayed again, but I also will continue to work on controlling the strongest emotion of mankind…fear.

It’s okay to be scared as long as one has the courage to not let the fear run their life. For this reason and this reason alone, I am not and will not get on a plane, leave the man I love, the life I have built here, to go home to where spiders are way smaller and much less formidable of an opponent! That would be giving in and that’s just not the way my drum beats…no, it beats my way!

Sex Shops, Snakes and Waterless Lakes!

The waterless lake!

The waterless lake!

I am sitting in a restaurant in Australia’s 8th largest city, Canberra, Australia’s national capital.  It is a crisp, clear July day.  It can get quite cold here in Canberra, with average winter temperatures dropping to -2 degrees.

Canberra is a lovely “planned” city built in a circular fashion with lots of green space. There are plenty of museums to visit as well as some funky suburbs such as Fyshwick where you will find plenty of adult toy stores more commonly known as sex shops. I am not in Fyshwich though (surprise), I am in a coffee shop in Kingston. Kingston is a small shopping district near the centre of Canberra. Every time I am here I find something cute to buy. The shops are funky and at this time of the year the sales are great. I found a little book store with all books on sale. $12 for a hardcover, $8 for softcover. Gotta love a good sale.

It is about a 4 hour drive to Canberra from Ettalong Beach. It is a pleasant drive. We pass wineries (okay, we rarely pass them without stopping in, check out www.leridaestate.com, yummy) and the infamous Lake George (one of the oldest lakes in the world), which never ceases to amaze me.

One drives by the signs saying Lake George, but all you can see is land, pastures (called paddocks here in Oz) and cows grazing. How can cows graze in a lake?  Why call it a lake if there is no water to be seen? That’s the crazy thing, Lake George does fill with water every 50 years or so. In fact in 1956 five people drowned in the lake. Apparently it can get quite windy and choppy and is known (at times)to be dangerous  waters. Even weirder, they still don’t know exactly how and why Lake George fills with water or empties out. The last time the lake dried out was in 2002 and remains dry to this day. They do know that the lake will fill again and when it does it will be  about 25 km long and 10 km wide with an average depth of 1.5-4.5 meters. It will be salty, almost as salty as the ocean. The lake also has the tendency for strong winds (hence the danger) causing the water to blow back on itself. This has resulted in filling and drying episodes that can last hours or years!

The drive has long distances in between  pit (washroom) stops. Therefore Australia (like Canada) has rest areas with washroom facilities. The difference between Australia and Canada can be seen in the pictures below.

Beware of snakes

Beware of snakes

The path to the dunny!

The path to the dunny

You are warned to watch for snakes. The warning signs must be for tourists because every Australian knows to watch for snakes everywhere they go.  Australians also know to lift the toilet seat when in an outhouse to make sure there isn’t a redback spider under it. Rest assured I have never used one of these pit stops! I am more than happy to stop at McDonald’s to use the toilet. If you are a tourist, here’s a tip for you don’t ask where the washroom or restroom is. The only answer you will get to that is a blank stare. You have to ask where the toilets are (or a dunny). I am still learning this lesson. On the upside, McDonalds here in Oz has McCafes. These Cafes are very much like a Starbucks, but with good coffee. I am amazed that McDonalds hasn’t caught on to the popularity of these cafes and introduced them in Canada!

This trip is coming to an end. We leave Canberra at about 5:30 for the long trip home. I will use the toilet before I leave and silently curse the late departure. Dam it the wineries are going to be closed!

I’m Outta Here!

I was ready to pack up and go home! It was the worst day of my life and it got me thinking “maybe living in Australia is not for me!” What happened? Pretty much the worst that can happen to me occured, there was a really big (Al’s words, not mine) huntsman spider on my deck. My words to describe the spider would have been more like horrible, humungous, terrifying, not big! The worst thing is I have sat out on the deck to eat. I have sat out on that deck to drink. I have sat out on that deck in the sun with my eyes closed. I have sat out on that deck without looking under the table or chairs first. That trust is now gone. In the past, I viewed it as a “safe zone”, but from now on I will be on guard on my own deck.

I was told that the spider would have been looking to get out of the rain. If that is what it was looking for, it didn’t do very well because it ended up being flushed down the toilet! I had thought I was safe living on the 3rd floor. We haven’t had anything more than a few little house spiders show up in the past.

Huntsman Spider

Huntsman Spider

I thought I had been doing well to eat outside with big (my words now) cockroaches running up and down the side of the house while we ate. In fact it is the standing joke now because I shoo them away like they are cats or dogs. I clap my hands and chase them away. They react quite well to this and I hardly ever have to get my spider catcher (it’s a joke for catching spiders, the handle is about 10 feet to short) and scoop the ‘cocky’ up to throw over the balcony! Funny thing is they usually don’t fly when you do this, they land on the roof below with a thud. Maybe underneath all this niceness (my words again), I am truly a sick twisted person because it doesn’t bother me at all when I throw an insect over the ledge. Bombs away!

Australian Cockroach

Australian Cockroach

Apparently having a humungous $%#% (my words) huntsman spider on my deck is not enough to warrant leaving the man I love behind to move back to a country with normal (still very scary though) sized spiders. Fine! I will stay, but I think I should get to know the exterminator better, much better!

Rule #1: If it is Australian, it bites!

 

Life is full of rules.  Some rules are made to be broken, some rules are not.  Most rules in Australia are rules that can one day save your life.  One of the best places to hear these rules is the zoo.  On Sunday Al and I went to the zoo to have fun and teach me some Ozzie rules.   When I say Ozzie rules, I don’t mean footie, I mean rules of engagement with poisonous reptiles.

The reptile park isn’t just any zoo, this is a reptile park with a difference.  This park is the only place in Australia that has a “venom milking” program of snakes and spiders.  Put another way, this zoo saves lives every year.  Not just animal and reptile lives, but human lives.  Okay, for those of you who know me, I can hear you saying “there is no way Judy is going to look at spiders”.  But I did.  I will be honest here, that part of the “zoo trip” was not my favourite, but it might save my life one day.

Living in Australia, a person needs to know what a  poisonous spider or snake looks like.  This information can save lives.  I don’t really think it was all that important for me to look at the spiders because if I see a spider the first thing I am going to do is put as much distance between me and the spider as possible.  That said, if for some reason a spider gets close enough to me to bite, I want to know what just bit me!  So, I did it.  I walked through the spider area.  I watched (while standing behind Al) a funnel web spider being milked.  The spider is big, aggressive and I think if I ever see one, I will just die of a heart attack, but oh well, it’s done!  I know my last words would be something like “that was a f###ing funnel web!”

On the other hand, the snakes are a really good thing for me to see because when I see a snake I am curious.  First rule of thumb when one sees a snake in Oz is don’t be curious.  Get away from it!  The best place to see these beautiful snakes is at the reptile park.  In the wild, leave them alone!  Okay, I am listening, I now know this is a rule that can save my life.  I AM listening!

Others things to see at the reptile park, frogs, lots and lots of lizards, tons of colourful and interesting birds and of course, the ones that make you go awwww.  Like the koala mommy with her baby hanging off of her or the kangaroo with a BIG joey in her pouch.  All you can see is the legs and tail sticking out.  There has to be a rule about being “too cute”.

One of my favourites is the wombat.  They are just “too cute”.  I wanted to pick them up and cuddle them.  Not allowed!  More rules!  The danger with wombats?  Stay away from them when they are crossing the road.  Hitting a wombat while driving down the highway is like hitting a brick wall.  We have already had one close call in a car, I hope we never have one on the bike.

A nice surprise was how adorable the Tasmanian Devils are.  There are 3 of them on display in the enclosure and they use all of it.  Every time we saw them they are up on logs, under logs, running in circles, running the inside perimeter of the enclosure or taking a dip in the small Tassie pool!  We missed feeding time by a few minutes.  By the time we got there, one Devil was chewing on a kangaroo leg.  I didn’t ask where the kangaroo leg came from, I am hoping it was “road kill”.   We decided to watch for a few minutes when low and behold, a fight broke out.  It was short and exciting!  After the “scuffle”, the winner slid his bum along the ground to spread his scent ( I assume) and then went back to gnawing on the bone.  The loser joined the 3rd devil with “chucking laps” once again.  The sad thing about these devils is they are facing extinction within 10 years.  Tasmanian Devils have been afflicted with a face cancer that is killing them off.  In fact the reptile park is currently involved with starting a captive breeding facility here in New South Wales where they hope to house 1000 Devils, which has been targeted as the amount that will save the wild population from extinction. (Must be a rule).  In true Oz fashion, they are planning on calling this ranch the “Devil Ranch”.  At this time they are looking for major sponsors.  Maybe they should look at some of the ranches in Vegas to sponsor them!  Check out tassiedevilappeal.org for more information.

The Australian Reptile Park is the perfect place to spend a relaxing Sunday.  You will find stressed out Moms, Dads that look like they would rather be at the dentist, happy, excited, inquisitive, and maybe some tired and cranky kids.

Because there are no rules that say you have to be a kid to enjoy the zoo, you will also find Al and I, we are the couple who appreciate all that wildlife and nature has to offer. We both love reptiles and cute, cuddly animals.  As for the spiders, I think there is a rule that you can only see them once.  If there isn’t a rule, there should be!