When I finally quit smoking after years of aborted attempts I had come to decide that You’re damned if you do, and you’re damned if you don’t. That was really the first step in my project of self- control. After all, if I continued to smoke, friends and relatives would continue to scold me and nag me and not care to be in my house or car or anywhere near my aromatic self. Damned. This was just the short-term disadvantage; long-term we don’t want to think about. But oh, the agony of quitting smoking lay before me, a pall, a hindrance to all the tasks I held dear through the minute by minute hour by hour, etc. etc. The mulch pile behind the garage had become my only place of refuge, because I imagined that no one thought I was smoking back there. As I turned over the compost and lit still another cigarette, I went over these arguments, finally able to come to the second step. Damned again. Except for one thing, you never have to be sorry when you do the right thing, and I did know what that was, and the proof is that I am not dead, though I came close.
A child is introduced to the necessity of choices early. The first time she runs for a cloth to wipe up the milk she has spilled praise is lavished upon her. Similar scenes are reenacted time after time,and she learns that she is never sorry when she does the right thing. Even Teddy knows that when he sits obediently on command instead of dancing like a dervish, that he will get his treat.
And yet we continue to be tested as I am being tested at this very moment by a choice that is seeming to be very very hard for me. I have been thinking seriously of using a herbcide to destroy the Bishop’s weed that simply will not back off, but has invaded the onions. I suspect it won’t do much damage this year so I”ll wait until fall, but as if that wasn’t enough something malevolent has been chomping in the radishes and basil. A very picky something since these are the only plants so far that they have disturbed. I do also wish to destroy this insect, though I don’t know what it is yet.
Now to return briefly to the past, before the mulch pile, before everything but the iris and peonies that were already there when we moved in. My thrifty neighbor next door, grew a thickly planted row of white radishes in her flower bed, but due to her thrift she couldn’t allow herself to throw the thinnings away. She gave them to me to transplant them into my flower bed, which I did. It worked. We grated them into relish. By the next year we had a new baby, more radishes and a small crop of cherry tomatoes that had actually reseeded themselves in the cracks of our little terrace. Through this experience and on for forty years, the garden developed beautifully, and there was never a bug that wasn’t minor enough for me to handle. I believe that this garden had achieved a kind of equilibrium as each plant and each insect developed according to its need.
But wait a minute; I just remembered the ants, a case in point.We arrived here from California in the year that the pesticide chlordane was added to DDT as being too poisonous for regular or ordinary use. It was at a time when every farmer sprayed his crops with deadly cocktails and every home owner in Los Gatos where I lived had a monthly visit from the exterminator. He certainly wasn’t taking anything seriously as he sprayed our walnut tree without a mask or protective clothing, looking up to watch where he sprayed allowing spray to fall back on his face. It was in this general time slot that I bought chlordane to go after the enormous black ants that swarmed every spring.
that fall we moved, and I packed the chlordane, now an illegal chemical. We passed through the winter of 60/61, spring came along with a swarm of black ants exactly like the ones that crawled around the house in Los Gatos. You know what I did. Thats right, I did. I sprinkled powdered chlordane around the dirt next to our foundation. It worked. Those ants went away, creatures of season like the Peonies which come in spring and asters in the fall. Some ants were tiny and brown or red. Others were lots of sizes of black. The ones I hated the most were the ones that colonized the aphids on the mock orange tree, the ones who brought their aphid cows to a branch where they sucked the juices out of the new leaves and made their honey dew. Full of honey dew these tiny, soft green insects then submitted to what we could call a milking (stroked by the ant they gave up the honey dew to a worker ant who packed it off to the queen, who, in her turn, ate it to strengthen her amazing child bearing capacity. The mock orange happened to be a beautiful tree, with a fragrance that could not be described. I certainly felt justified in wiping them out with chlordane.
But isn’t it interesting that they were the only bugs to be attacked, and isn’t it interesting that they seemed to get stronger with every passing year. At least until the chlordane was gone. I truly believe I had developed much stronger breeds by my actions And I feel truly sorry.
So what should I do? Well, my mind is made up. Let these new bugs eat as much as they want. Something is is out there that will eat them at last and keep them to manageable proportions, and I will not be sorry. Which leads me to further speculation that I won’t go into now. The biggest question of all asks, When will we try to save the planet? Wouldn’t you think that legislators would see that if they keep burning oil, and cutting down forests, and growing animals for food and so many other things that the planet will fail as a home for us. So that it would be better if they voted against oil and money whenever they could and regardless of personal consequences they would make the planet green? They would not be sorry.