There are rats (a rat?) gnawing at the ripe apples, nibbles here and there. It’s annoying, even disturbing, even though the affected apples are a small percentage of the whole crop. I tell my sister I am trying to figure out how to accommodate to this reality, what response to take. Live and let live is the default. “But rats carry disease,” she says. So what am I going to do? I’m not going to put out poison. I suppose I could trap them, and then what? I wouldn’t mind if one of the fat neighborhood cats that sometimes pay a visit got ideas. Probably they’ve lost the killer instinct lying naked on the carpet getting stroked. I would too. It’s not crucial to make a decision this minute. Last year I saw a rat in the Pippin tree and I still got more apples than I knew what to do with. Everyone who ate the apple pies lived, and as far as I know, so did I.
I have spent large chunks of my life blithely immersed in the illusion that Nature and I have a thing going on, the kind of relationship that works because you meet halfway. I do the wooing, she does the putting out. So it always comes as a shock when the veil of denial lifts and I get a glimpse of how indifferent she is, truly could hardly care less about my wishes and needs no matter how sincere and heartfelt. Rats on the apples, ticks on the calves, bamboo wrecking the sewer line. Quickly I turn, love changing to hate. How bitter the knowledge that we’re in a battle to the death. But let’s not talk about that now.
Earlier this afternoon I was trying to tame a clump of pampas grass the size of a small elephant. I could have included pampas grass with the rats and ticks in the pestilence category. You see it everywhere along the coast in the most inhospitable places, tiny fissures of rocky bluff facing the sea where nothing else will grow. It knows one commandment: Be fruitful and multiply, hell or high water. The blades are exactly that, blades, with a fine yet fierce serration that if you move the wrong way against give you a cut similar to a paper cut but deeper, and which takes as long to heal. I wasn’t wearing gloves, not really intending to get involved in that particular task but it’s not just hands at risk, also neck and face and arms; any exposed flesh. Inevitably you find yourself deeper within the grassy talons than you expected to be, with no exit that doesn’t put you at risk for getting sliced. The blades grab your sweatshirt, the hair on your wrists, flick against your cheek. Hasty flight would be a big mistake. Instead you must respond calmly and slowly, like the Buddha: detachment, detachment, detachment.
Is that a viable strategy regarding the apples and rats?