This week I have been feeding our chickens while my husband is out of town on his annual camping and biking trip. We had recently experienced an infestation of lice in the laying bin. Sieg thought that he had eradicated the problem by cleaning everything out and applying diatomaceous earth, which is harmless to fowl and humans but fatal to lice. (These are not the kind of lice that make life miserable for elementary school populations, but a species that only survives on poultry.) However, the first evening when I reached in the bin to retrieve the eggs, I found myself with a creepy crawly feeling on my hands and arms. I soon realized that these miniscule creatures were dancing their way up my forearm… why did they choose this week to resurface?
I knew that ongoing efforts would be necessary to keep the lice at bay, but I thought that might wait until Sieg returned. I discovered that wearing an old sweatshirt provided adequate armor. It was easier to brush the lice of the sleeves of the fabric then to have the memory of their tiny bodies crawling on my skin. I planned my nightly visits to the coop so that I could come into the house immediately and take a shower. It’s interesting that these tiny organisms can distress my body and psyche in such a big way. After my shower, I still feel like something is crawling up my back. I know it is a loose strand of hair as these lice could not survive the deluge, but it still sends shivers up and down my entire body.
Even now, quite a while later, I recall that unsettling feeling when an earring brushes against my neck, or the folds of my blouse hit my arm in a certain way, or I’m sitting in the place where I first found them on my hands days ago. It’s a marvel that my mind can hold on to that unpleasant sensation long after the cause has been removed. Why should something so small and innocuous continue to cause me discomfort? The lice are not actually here in physical form in this moment. It’s the thought of them that I’ve allowed to affect me… a false reality conjured up by my imaginative human mind… one that can just as easily be released by that same creative mind. I appreciate the lice for their valuable lesson… and am equally grateful to my husband for returning to his role of caretaker for our chickens (and their lice).