Friday, May 14, 2004

I went on a killing rampage yesterday. I tore and swore and ripped and killed. Dozens of living creatures, made by the Creator, died at my hands. Some I crushed with my foot, some I simply squeezed the life out. I made the choices of who would live and who would die. Many of my victims tried to escape, most just took it. Some had lots of uses and skills, many could cure human ills, but they all died.

Gardening is such a speciesist activity. I moved some strawberries into beds where they could grow and prosper, but the grasses I simply tossed over my shoulder. I know about all the good grasses can do, but so much of the yard has grass that I felt we had enough. The plantains don't often wander into the garden but when they do I let them live, unless they move too close to my allies, the beans, onions and herbs. Any weeds which also have pretty flowers would be moved to a better spot, "forced relocation" is an active part of my garden. Out in front there are a number of very nice edible plants but they are growing in the beds I have reserved for the bulbs, so they had to die too. The Creator is much more reasonable and neutral in her judgment and I know that the roots I leave behind in the soil will be the weeds of next year, or next month.

Usually during the year I simply make a wasteland of the walkways, pouring woodchips and such on the ground where I want to walk. Plantains and strawberries like the woodchips, as do the violets. Plantains are good for chest congestion when brewed at a tea. The chewed leaves can be made into a poultice for insect stings. The ribwort looks a lot like plantain and has many of the same uses, but is especially good for the lungs, hence the name. Valerian started growing in next to the driveway in the ditch and I have been moving them to a better spot in the flower beds. They grow big ragged leaves and tall pint umbrells which smell so sweet... the opposite of the useful roots which smell like old sneakers. The roots are excellent for muscle spasms and pain, like what I get in my back from digging in the garden.

I say all this in part because sometimes it troubles me to kill living things simply because they are in the way, but I see that around the world we also kill other humans because they are in the way. We select certain humans for preservation, relocate others, admire some and slaughter many. Even now the Israeli government is demolishing Palestinian homes near the Egyptian border to make them feel safer. That's what they say anyway, but putting close to 30,000 people into tent cities in the middle of summer will only make things less safe. We invaded Iraq and killed thousands of people, including children with uncles and brothers around the planet vowing revenge for the loss of innocent life. Obviously we know that doing this will make our life less safe, but only for those not protected by Secret Service agents and armored vehicles around our homes. People like my family will be unsafe to fly or travel abroad.

I wonder if the stinging nettles in my empty garden plots yet to be tilled are in fact freedom fighters come to punish me for my insolent disregard for life. If life is sacred and a gift from the Creator, why then are we so eager to end it? Why are we so easily led into rape and torture? Maybe mankind is insane or maybe we have bred this disregard for life and honor into our children and their children. Maybe without the occasional hero like Gandhi or King we would totally forget that the majority of people doing the slaughter claim to worship a god whose ten little rules include the warning "Thou shall not kill." Even if we translate the words as a warning against murder it seems to me the gist of it is that driving a tank over a person is considered a bad thing by that which gave all of us life.

So I try to preserve life when possible, but sometimes when it's spring and I am in a hurry to see my beans and onions and spinach and herbs grow under the sun and within my special place I have set aside for such things....I go on a killing rampage. It does seem odd, though, to celebrate life by planting flowers and food and then telling some harmless worm or beetle that it has no right to live and crushing it's head. Somehow I feel like more than my hands are dirtied by this act. But I move on. They aren't like us, after all. They haven't the same god or lifestyle. So that makes it alright.

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