the reality of living with other creatures

On the eve of this year’s summer solstice party (June 20) Leopard and I rescued the bank-stranded paddles of the Cheekwood floating heliotrope and reassembled them in the pond, wading out into its amniotic warmth as the sun was setting. In doing so we dismantled the shelters of unusual shaped frogs, salamanders, enormous spiders, one vole, one rat, numerous unidentifiable worms and insects, and four snakes. One of these immediately ate his neighbor the vole, by grabbing him and holding on, proving he was not venomous. (Venomous snakes bite, inject, and let the prey wander off until they fall over. They follow up and eat them at their leisure.) Two of these snakes were probably black racers. The other two either rat or corn or king snakes. (See image.) One at least swam off into the pond, and of course we wondered if they might not really be copperheads, or water moccasins, or something else equally unpleasant. Especially as we waded out into the water. Some fifteen minutes later, one such snake was to be found lying on the floating sculpture tweeting his friends. (“Hey, they’re bringing art to the people – it’s cool”). It’s impossible to avoid the odd tick. They pop when you squeeze them between your nails, and mostly you find them looking for somewhere on the skin to settle down. The dogs are prime targets, and Rex and Swash now have collars. Swash has even been shampooed. Zip (Mom) remains aloof, and untouched. I have sealed-off the ground-hog tunnel entrances under the cottage. I still have one under the house that occasionally puts in an appearance during daylight. A few days after finishing the sauna ceiling, perhaps coincidentally, the stench of death pervaded the whole area, exacerbated by the heat wave. The memory of the dead cat I once found under a bench in the garage of what we then called Dead Cat Lodge (Warwick) was some comfort. It was flat, like parchment, dessicated, and completely odorless. After three days, the sauna smell had gone. Though the mystery remains. What was it? Where was it? The outside sauna wall is studded with the holes of a colony of mud wasps, with their characteristic projecting tubes of mud. Like Charles Jencks, when he discovered moles in his Garden of Cosmic Speculation, I will leave them be. What is a sauna builder but a giant mud wasp? My organic garden is being terribly eaten. Something is mowing down giant zucchini leaves. I suspect rabbits – which we know we have. But it would have to be a pegasus rabbit to get the tops of the sunflowers. The beans have been decimated. I don’t mind sharing a little, but this is too much. What to do? I am mostly a pacifist. I deplore Carl Schmitt’s understanding of politics as beginning with the distinction between friend and enemy. But I find myself willing the Death of the Other, or at least some others. In particular ticks, and poison ivy. I believe, broadly, that everything is connected, but I cannot see what bad things would follow if ticks and poison ivy were to magically disappear. But who knows. England transported criminals and miscreants to Australia, but they then learnt how to play cricket and came back to beat us at our own game. Trapping and transporting does seem like a non-lethal alternative for rabbits and snapping turtles. But the turtles need to be taken 10 miles to sever their GPS homing capacities. And my bet is that rabbits would simply amp up the breeding rate. Come back Berzerker (my once cat) who included young bunny in her week’s hunting display. She was killed by neighbor Tom’s pitbull Pinto, traumatized by once having been scratched by a cat. This is just a taste of the play/struggle of life and death happening all around. There’s so much more – leaping squirrels, skittering lizards, nano humming birds, drumming woodpeckers, squeaking cicadas, orchestral bullfrogs, sweat bugs, iridescent damsel flies, swooping barn swallows, shadowy bats … the list goes on and on. Everything eating and being eaten. A peaceable kingdom?