Last month, I walked up and down the aisles of Orchard Supply Warehouse looking for neem oil. It was the last resort to save my little potted garden.
Do you know what neem oil does? According to DiscoverNeem.com, it enters insects’ bodies and blocks their “real hormones from working properly. Insects ‘forget’ to eat, to mate, or they stop laying eggs. Some forget that they can fly. If eggs are produced they don’t hatch. . . .”
When I first read that months ago, I couldn’t do it. I refused. Maybe because I have close friends — family, really — who suffer from depression. I know how painful it is when people won’t eat, won’t mate, forget they can fly. I wouldn’t do it.
So I tried a home remedy: diluted laundry soap (purported to dehydrate the bugs; awful!). At least they’d die with appetites in tact. This solution seemed to — to my untrained eyes — kill the plants.
Now I had dead bugs on sticks, and wilting leaves in pots, all brown. Decaying. In May. Not a flower in sight. I’m no gardener, and I don’t have time to be googling this shit every other day, so I did what made sense to me. I cut those babies bald. It hurt to do it. The result: sticks minus decay, bugs gone.
When some green leaves began to sprout, my aphid friends returned in full health. Square one.
So I talked to our family therapist about the whole thing, as you do. I don’t remember exactly what he said, but my take away from the conversation was this: sometimes you have to choose between lives. I had to make a choice: bugs or plants. Someone had to go.
When I went to buy the neem oil, I photographed stacks of terracotta pots. It occurs to me that they’re kind of like words stacked up, these pots. People will buy them, fill them with soil and water, and seeds or already living plants. They’ll be given away with smiles, or left as offerings with tears.
These containers will be the sites of power struggles and color bursts, of deaths and rebirths, of infinite drama and intervening monotony. Some of the pots will be demolished and repurposed.
And I wonder what and where they were before they became pots? They’re the stuff of earth, right? From deep down below the surface.
I’m not a gardener, I’m a writer. I don’t have to strip living beings of their libidos in this line of work; but I could. Words are like that.
I’ll be planting 11 new blog posts over the next 11 days, and I’m taking requests.
Color burst or monotony? How deep will I dig? What shape is the mold? Which seeds will grow?
If it sounds like fun, throw a writing prompt my way. I’ve already got two really good ones (thanks, you know who you are).