In an isolated tropical bush village in Papua New Guinea, one would expect to find creepy critters—and I did. Over 30 years ago, I went to PNG as a single missionary teacher. While there, I experienced millipedes, centipedes (the 4-6 inch kind with crablike legs), and spiders with bodies the size of golf balls (yes, you read that right).
But unexpected situations in North Carolina? No way! This is the USA. With temperate weather, an idyllic coastline, gorgeous sunsets, and stunning mountain vistas, who would expect creepy crawlies?? I soon found out! My first encounter was at Hickory Cove Bible Camp in Taylorsville. It was early summer, and the day was hot, so I wore my flip-flops on my .125-mile uphill trek to the camp mailbox. It was nearing dusk, so as I walked back to our cozy doublewide, I noticed something looking like a long tube stretched across two lanes on the country road. I kept walking, and then slowed. Wait. Was that a snake?? Yikes! Was it dead? Deadly? Ready to slither across the road as I passed by? Would he try to bite me? Oh, great. What a day to wear flip-flops!
I didn't ponder those questions for long. I moved steadily down the road without glancing over at the cold-blooded creature. And I survived. Later that week, I was told he was harmless and had a name: Frank or something similar. Evidently, he comes quite often to the camp, especially to the front porch of the double-wide we are staying in. What?? Snakes climb stairs??! Suddenly, I felt exposed. Unprotected. But still able to sleep at night.
Until. . .
We moved to Fort Caswell, just 50 minutes from our new home, where we are volunteering while we await our move-in date. It's a Baptist camp located at the end of a coastal peninsula, complete with lighthouse, and ships, ferries and fishing boats galore passing by throughout the day. Oh, and there are stunning sunsets, a wild breeze, and an array of seabirds along the shore, calling, catching prey, and sunning themselves on the dock.
So, imagine how stunned I was to find a small snake laying across the threshold between the kitchen and living room in (yes, IN) our beach house (Note the pic at the top). Not knowing what it was, I immediately took a pic and asked my friends on Facebook if it was friend or foe. Turns out, it was a rat snake. Totally harmless. Well, unless, of course, you're a rat.
We had a maintenance man from the camp come and find the source, after we had seen five of these snakes pop up in various rooms of the house—even on the second floor. (Yes, Mabel, it's true— they slither up stairs). He blocked up the hole with foam, and called it a day. Our relief lasted only a day or two, then three more showed up. So bizzare! To this day, we don't know how they get into our living quarters. Thankfully, they are all babies of various sizes.
An Unexpected Web of Intrigue
One day, on our way to work in the cafeteria, we found this beauty just outside the back door. She graced the web like a star. I was shocked because I hadn't seen a spider that large (actual size) since my time in New Guinea. Again, I reached out to my Facebook friends, and they didn't disappoint. I was told it was a banana or orb spider, but both were harmless.
I breathed a sigh of relief until one of the interns showed me a pic of a hummingbird caught in the web of one such creature; life sucked out of him and spun into a coffin to eat later. So sad. Next thing you know, she will be catching rats! Even so, I'm making peace with her. Each time we enter the back door to the kitchen, we say hello. I'm calling her Asmerelda, which seems to fit a brightly patterned spider.
Hide and Seek with Ghost Crabs
You'd think, with my aversion to spiders, I would be fearful of crabs. Not so. For some reason, I consider them comical and cute. Ghost crabs are also shy, and play hide and seek in the bushes. They can be found on the beach at night, popping out of their holes in the sand. But have your flashlights ready—they move fast!
And last, but not least are lizards. They do not strike fear in my heart. But I have been known to strike up a conversation with one, as I did this day. Lizzie is what I called her. And no, this is not a gecko. Their head is v-shaped and a gecko’s triangular.
A Creature of an Unexpected Kind
Although these foes are not alive, they are cause for concern. Sand Spurs are everywhere, so footwear is essential. It is not pleasant to step on one, and they are a challenge to pick out of rugs and shoes without sticking oneself. At least they are not poisonous, nor do they bite.
Although we realize it's hurricane season, we expected to be safe inside our comfy beach house, just yards away from the Intracoastal inlet. Each day, the tide flows in and out (four times a day, evidently), but only in a tropical storm or hurricane is there danger of flooding. We are thankful God has spared us from this disaster so far. But there is another source of possible flooding: water dripping from the porch roof and onto the inside window frame. Here, you can witness our attempt at preventing pools of water in our downstairs kitchen/living room during tropical storm Ophelia. Ahh, yes. The coastal life.
An Unexpected Pleasure
All in all, we are thriving and even enjoying our volunteer work here at Fort Caswell. The setting is relaxing, the staff friendly and helpful, and our kitchen duties workable for our aging bodies. Plus, we have the pleasure of experiencing the hurricane season near a body of water, witnessing the effects firsthand.
God has been good to us every step of our nomad way. But more on that next month. He is teaching us to trust Him in all situations, proving once again--He is enough.
Have you experienced a hurricane? What about a creature invasion? Let me know below!
My MG Biblical fiction "The Heart Changer" debuted in 2019 with Ambassador International.