Monday, September 14, 2009


A few weeks ago, having just risen from our bed to get dressed and start the day, I looked down at my feet, and was shocked to be a few inches away from a scorpion, whose body was over an inch long, and whose tail added another inch to the overall length. Being barefooted, I couldn’t just step on it, so I grabbed a stick that was nearby the bed, and tried to squash it. I missed; and it scurried under the bed. We spent quite a bit of time moving the bed and other furniture, but never saw the scorpion after it disappeared under the bed. The next few days were a bit anxious at times, and everyone was wearing shoes in the house – just in case. About three days later, as I was fixing breakfast, I turned to the sink, and found a scorpion – perhaps even the same one – perched on the lid from a container we use to make iced tea. I was able to pick up the lid on the side opposite the scorpion, maneuver it over the sink, and, with the garbage disposal unit switched on, used the faucet to knock the critter off the lid and into the disposal. We haven’t seen a scorpion in the house since that morning.

I’ve spent a lot of time pondering the scorpion. I’m pretty sure that one of the reasons we had at least one scorpion in the house was because of a billing dispute with the pest control company that had resulted in an eight-month suspension of spraying – and a greatly increased number of crickets both inside and outside the house as a result. Crickets are more than just a meal, apparently, to scorpions – crickets are fine dining, the "filet mignon" of the scorpion’s menu. Fortunately, we had resolved the dispute, and were scheduled for a visit from the pest control company the very same morning that we saw, and lost, the scorpion in our bedroom. The hope is that, with the crickets gone, the scorpions have moved to a new territory where the hunting will be easier. I’ve also wondered whether the feeling I had in one big toe that morning – a feeling that I can only describe as being like the “buzz” you get when you touch your tongue across the terminals of a nine-volt battery – might have been the result of having been stung, although there was no redness, or any other sign of having been stung. I don’t recall, however, having every felt anything like that in my toe before; nor since, once it had faded away about a day later.

At the doctor’s office, I asked about first aid for a scorpion sting, only to learn that there really isn’t anything you can do. On the other hand, when I asked about how many people die here in Arizona from a scorpion sting, I was told that one person is known to have died as a result of being stung by a scorpion in Arizona since 1965. In other words, unless you’re allergic to the venom, or are stung in a particularly vulnerable spot, such as at the base of the neck, where the spinal cord meets the medulla oblongata, a scorpion’s sting isn’t going to be anything really serious, but rather just an annoyance. There are, of course, different scorpion species, at least one of which has a venom that is far more potent, and so far more dangerous; but these aren’t found in Arizona.

In the beginning of the tenth chapter of the Gospel according to St. Luke, our Lord is sending the seventy, two by two, on a missionary journey to every city and village to which He will be visiting. They are to proclaim the coming of the kingdom of heaven, and are given authority to heal the sick and cast out demons to support their proclamation. We read of their journey,
10:17 The seventy returned with joy, saying, “Lord, even the demons are subject to us in your name!” 10:18 He said to them, “I saw Satan having fallen like lightning from heaven. 10:19 Behold, I give you authority to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy. Nothing will in any way hurt you. 10:20 Nevertheless, don’t rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.”

Other passages of Scripture make reference to scorpions, but as a way of speaking descriptively, rather than literally, being illustrations of how wicked mankind can be, and of the suffering that can be inflicted by one person upon another. But the passage from St. Luke’s Gospel, very similar to the passage at the end of the Gospel according to St. Mark, which refers to the handling of snakes and the drinking of poisons as actions that will not harm the believers, certainly appears to be stated very literally; and it is certainly possible, here in the desert, to come across a snake or a scorpion while walking – even in your own bedroom!

I haven’t decided yet whether the possibility of having been stung by that scorpion, evidenced by the “buzzing” sensation in my toe, means that I do not possess the faith that our Lord spoke of with the seventy at the conclusion of their journey…