Tuesday, April 29, 2008

i like dirt/i like dirt/i like dirt/i like dirt

That's the chorus to my favorite Red Hot Chili Peppers song.

Jam Guy and I spent most of the day Saturday and most of the day Sunday gardening. I love gardening. Every time I do it, I realize all over again how much I love it. We weeded, planted tomatoes and peppers and cucumbers and a tiny lemon tree and a tiny lime tree, carefully bore snails into safe hiding underneath the fat explosion of nasturtium vines grown from the seeds we scratched shallowly into the ground last year. Mostly I weeded while Jam Guy built the planters for the tomatoes. Later we swept and washed the front walk and the porch.

When I weed I weed with gusto. I squat like a peasant farmer and grab low to get the roots out. I grunt a little when the bigger weeds put up a fight. Hours roll by while I clear out patch after patch, systematically destroying small, delicate ecosystems one after another. I am heartless, brutal, Kali in nubby lavender gardening gloves.

As the afternoon got hotter, Jam Guy brought a nice cold bottle of homemade limoncello mixed with soda and ice and a little fresh mint, picked out of the big planter where it riots away pretty much year-round (Santa Rosa weather is good for growing mostly anything most of the time). By the time the light was fading and the front yard was cleared and cleaned, I was tired and kind of euphoric, and slightly tipsy. I leaned on my elbows over the side of the porch and watched a spider catching an insect about three times its size.

At first I was rooting for the spider. It was so much smaller and fighting so scrappily for its meal, and I was feeling more aligned with predator than prey after all that ferocious weeding. The big insect, though, was fighting back, too. He was twisted stickily in the web but kept getting this and that leg freed and using them to batter at the spider, who battered back and scrambled around circling him with more web.

After maybe 15 minutes the battle was just barely more decided, in favor of the spider, only because the insect didn't seem able to get any more free for all his fighting, and the spider seemed no more ready to let him go. Neither of them seemed tired. They both seemed desperate--the spider to eat, and the insect to live. The situation of the insect in particular seemed tragic; there was so much will to survive and so little likelihood. I started thinking about helping him out, even though my hunch was that I shouldn't interfere because it isn't for me to decide who eats, who lives, what it means for the larger good. I reflected on my own hypocrisy--I eat a heck of a lot of animals, all of whom certainly have their own instinctual will to live. I heard choruses of "Let It Be" and "Live and Let Die" in my head. I thought about what always happens in fables when the flawed human messes with the network of causality. I thought about the butterfly effect.

And then my lame, pithy, flawed human-ness asserted itself and I reached to pull a little stem off the nasturtium vine climbing prettily up the porch wall. I was planning to use it to just scoot the spider off away from the insect, just far enough that the insect could have the time to free himself and hustle on home. But when I plucked the stem, the entire vine fell right off the side of the porch and into a heap on the ground. Somehow, out of the million little stems on that giant monster net of a vine, I'd picked off the one that was holding up its whole structure.

Well. Even I am not so blind that I did not see the nudge the universe was giving me here. I let go the stem and let go my hastily assumed role as would-be arbiter, while the bugs on the wall kept struggling for life and for death.

1 comment:

SurfRunner said...

ah...nature. In this particular battle, I think I'd side with Darwin too. I don't know enough about either fighter's history to have my own opinion. For all we know, the insect could have destroyed many bug families by eating their parents. And this could've been nature's way of keeping the balance. It's hard to figure out what to do in these situations. Which is why i'm glad when the universe just tells me what to do most of the time. =)