Friday, August 18, 2023

Of Enemies and Gardens

When the sun peeks over the low rise to the east on a late summer morning, my garden comes alive.  

As the first light streams through the trees and strikes my flowers, the first shift of pollinators and seed-snackers arrives.  On the compound surface of the sunflowers, fat bumblebees trundle about, their furry pettable backs sprinkled liberally with pollen.  Honeybees from one of the neighborhood apiaries flit from squashblossom to squashblossom, as other tinier indigenous bees visit the delicate flowers of tomatoes and beans.

On my sunflowers, the early birds arrive, rich red cardinals and bright goldfinches sating themselves on the fat and oil of the seeds, momentarily annoying the bumblebees before darting away.  The birds are messy eaters, disturbing and dropping as many seeds as they consume, seedfall which will produce a healthy portion of next year's glorious sunflower display.

It's a great rush and bustle of living things, and as I go about my own sunrise weeding, sorting and puttering, I will often pause to admire the simple purposeful industry of it.  Each of these little creatures, going about their business, doing what they were made to do.  Without them, my own labors would be quite literally fruitless.

In that morning traffic, there are also workers one  might not expect.  

Like, say, flies.  No-one's favorite creature, flies, but there they are among the mint blossoms, pollinating as they move herky jerky across the soft white fuzz of the mint.  Their metallic green backs shine lovely dark emerald in the light of the new day, yet another helper bringing life to the garden.  Awfully pretty for a [poop] eater, I thought to myself.

As I watched the green flies work, I caught a soft shadow drifting in the herbs, from basil flower to basil flower, as near invisible as a mote of ash, more a hint of movement than a solidity.  I focused, and the delicate creature came more clearly into view.  

It was an Aedes albopictus, rear legs striped black and white, curled like whiskers.  An Asian Tiger.  The mosquito that invaded the East Coast late in my adolescence, brought over in shipping containers.  A literally mortal enemy, a tribe of voracious day-biters and despised disease vectors.   

Also, of itself, harmless.  It was a male, which is why it was so slightly built with feathery antennae, a fraction of the size of the females, even more delicate than the bloodthirsty skeeter-ladies that I kill on sight.  The males do not bite, do not need my life-fluid to gestate, do not spread itches and tropical ailments.  All they do is flit softly from flower to flower, drinking nectar and spreading pollen, and creating horrible offspring with their loathsome women.

I felt a strong, primal urge to bring my gargantuan hands together in a single killing thunderclap.

But in that moment, in the quiet of the morning and the good business of my garden, I did not.  Could not, soft-hearted fool that I am.  They will not hurt or destroy on all my holy mountain, sang the old prophet's voice in my ear, and I relented.

"Maybe I'll kill you tomorrow, little enemy," I muttered.  "But not today.  There's enough death in the world today."