Toil Becalmed in the Infinite Leisure and Repose of Nature

I’d like to say it was the Gandhi in me that opted a do-nothing approach to the Western Grapeleaf Skeletonizer infestation, but I was just too busy to deal with it. It took only a few days for the caterpillars to reduce the grapevine to this:



Gandhi was not one to advocate inaction anyhow. Didn’t he say: “Whatever you do will be insignificant, but it is very important that you do it.” So the question I now face is what to do? The post-modern philosophers are too busy debating Delmore Schwartz’s thesis that “no one else can take a bath for you,” so perhaps the new age self help crowd can guide me in the aftermath of this feast (link to post on the PMP’s earlier advice on caterpillar infestation). Do I continue to let nature take its course? Deepak Chopra has noted that “nature reflects the moods of the wizard,” so there’s that. Other than make me feel warm inside, because I have a fondness for wizards, what tangible help is Chopra’s astute observation?

Here’s something else to ponder…The bugs this spring are super abundant, in part because we had a mild winter. We had a mild winter, perhaps due to climate change or urban heat island…or both. Either way, cars were involved, or cow farts, deforestation, dark surfaces, maybe the tangle of plastic trash twice the size of Texas that swirls about in the ocean and no doubt shifts marine currents (which are the true drivers of climate). The question, then, isn’t should I let nature continue to take its course, but has nature been steering the course in the first place? To deal with the caterpillars, should I direct my attention to these gigantic global ecological dilemmas, figure out how to turn the world thermostat down, and then just wait for the caterpillars to respond? Tony Robbins, famed motivational speaker and lover of the word GIANT, says “the path to success is to take massive, determined action.”

If Shakespeare weren’t dead, he might say to Robbins: “You speak an infinite deal of nothing.” And I would agree, in this case, since I believe in the butterfly effect, the idea that one small human can make one small gesture and set off a chain reaction that can impact huge problems. Well…one small human and a pair of pruners. While consulting my information guru, the Google, I came across this quote (without even having to read Eat, Pray, Love or see the movie!): “I am a better person when I have less on my plate.” I’m hoping Elizabeth Gilbert’s wise observation applies for caterpillars too.

The grapevine as a clean plate for better caterpillars. See how like infinity it looks. That’s the wizard of nature at work. 🙂

p.s. thank you, Henry David Thoreau, for the title of this post…and for inventing a better pencil that helped free American pencilers from dependence on pricey British graphite, so they could afford to saunter about pondering our connection to nature.



Imagine if gardens were tended only by post-modern philosophers

Some days the garden offers more than pretty flowers. Some days it evokes ethical discourse…in my head this morning, since no one’s around when I go out to water and find the grape vine infested with yellow and black caterpillars. Here’s the dilemma: do I go all Spartacus on them and KILL THEM ALL! Or seek out my inner Gandhi and let the famished beasts continue to feast on the fleshy leaf parts until all that remains is lacy skeletons?

Western Grapeleaf Skeletonizer Caterpillars snacking in my garden

Western Grapeleaf Skeletonizer Caterpillars snacking in my garden

Maybe Derrida has some helpful advice…”The circle of the return to birth can only remain open, but this is a chance, a sign of life, and a wound.”

Kind of on the fence there. Perhaps his pal Nietzsche will be more helpful: “Whoever fights monsters should see to it that in the process he does not become a monster.”

So I must decide if these caterpillars are monsters. Lyotard would probably suggest that to do this, I need to investigate their narrative, not the Grand-Narrative (which in this case is no doubt mine), but the meta-narrative of each tiny caterpillar.So, here goes.

Meta-narrative of the Western Grapeleaf Skeletonizer: “My hunger knows no bounds. I must eat and eat and eat. And poop. These poisonous thorns on my body that welt your skin don’t make me a monster! They merely shield my soft body from harm while I eat and eat until I’m consumed with the desire to crawl under a scrap of bark to weave myself into a cocoon. And then emerge a moth that flies in the daylight. The daylight! Not under the moon with my moth brethren, but like some freak butterfly. My life’s a sham.”

Well, that’s no help. I empathize, yet want to put it out of its misery. Maybe Baudrillard can lend me a hand in deciding whether to kill the caterpillars or not: “You need an infinite stretch of time ahead of you to start to think, infinite energy to make the smallest decision. The world is getting denser. The immense number of useless projects is bewildering. Too many things have to be put in to balance up an uncertain scale. You can’t disappear anymore. You die in a state of total indecision.”

It may be time for wise old Hippocrates to chime in: “To do nothing is also a good remedy.”