Who Is The Intruder In This Garden?
This is a damp place in my garden, a place where grass won't grow. There is some moss. And under this weeping beech tree is a place I love, one of my favorite spots in the garden. The mosquitoes love it too, and they land with a heavy weight on my arms and neck and face and drink their fill. I can almost hear them smacking their lips, if they had mosquito lips. Why are they whining as they are wheeling around me drunk on my blood? They should be happy, so well fed. Welts on my arms rise before my eyes. The bees also, are rising in swarms up from the ground where they have once laid their eggs right in this place I have picked to sit. This is their home. Just my luck! I have a bee allergy and have experienced anaphylactic shock when stung. I almost died from a bee sting. I know it is their garden too, yet it is hard not to feel territorial, especially when I am so uncomfortable. Buried below the surface ground of my discomfort, is my terrible fear of being stung. How much power over them will I invoke? The temptation to strike back is very strong, not so much from revenge as from a longing to purify my own space, to ensure my physical safety. I dream about some limited pesticides that can seep into the ground where they are hatching. Shadows of the Holocaust drift through my brain. Zyklon B, poured in from a chimney to create an itchless shockless universe where I might be free, free from bites and stings. Then at least some of the intruders would be banished from my garden. I paid money for it. Does that make it mine? Would I prefer to be its guardian or its killer? Can I be both?
Once a long time ago, I visited a cousin in Patmos, Greece. He was a religious hermit and poet. He lived in a tiny white stucco house with 2 rooms and a tiny kitchen. He had 2 chairs, 1 bed, 1 table, 2 pots, a small amount of silverware and 1 typewriter. An army of ants traipsed across his kitchen counter. I raised my arm holding a sponge as I enthusiastically prepared to clean the surface for food preparation.
"Stop!" he shouted, while my arm was still raised above my head, ready with murderous intent to descend upon the ants. I was 19 years old and looked at him quizzically.
"I was just going to clean the counter," I explained.
"Not if you want to be my friend," he said. I lowered my arm.
"But this is your house," I said, still hoping to defend some territorial right.
"They've been here a lot longer than I have," he said. "This is their place. I am just a visitor." It was food for thought. He encouraged me to watch them parade across the counter, so many with a prize crumb or a sip of honey sticking to their mouth parts. My cousin and I remained friends before and after that day.
I am not a purist. I have killed many things. I am not a Jain. I walk across the grass with impunity. I am not even a vegetarian. I eat some meat, although I try to pay some attention to its history when it walked the earth. Sometimes perhaps to shift my karma, or perhaps in reverence, I carry living things out of my house in jars, cups, or in my hands.
But my garden. This is my garden. Don't I have the right to say who comes in and who can stay? Do I want to exercise the right of exclusivity in Nature where I say I celebrate diversity? How hypocritical am I really? At least in some of my desires, I am totally inconsistent. Can I live with this degree of inconsistency and not call it hypocrisy? Can I live with my own hypocrisy?