I had a break down at work yesturday. There I was, after three glorious garden classes teaching kids about safe and propper tool usage, retrieving the wheelbarrows for bed in the shed after a long day's work. I bent down to nibble a nugget of mint, and spotted the spikey stinging nettle caterpillar smack dab in the middle of the mint. I looked closer and saw its younger, rice-kernal sized cousin, just a few leaves away. I searched for more but came up empty so I picked the intruder's mint branch. My heart felt like it suddenly weighed so much the whole thing sank to my stomach. I didn't even try to stop the flood of tears from erupting.
For the last four years, (heck, since I've given birth 10 years ago), I've done everything I could to protect children and give them a safe place to be outside. To teach them to grow their own food, to think before they throw away rubbish, to protect all the inhabitants of a garden.
I can't protect them from this damn caterpillar. It's here now. This paradise now has a caterpillar whose sting is sharp for a week where there was wide open, wild spaces with out them. Unlike jungles of Thailand or the Amazon, where thousands of snakes and insects can seriously sting, even kill humans, the Big Island was free of injurous leaf-eaters. Not anymore.
I join the unknown numbers of earth workers who have undoubtedly witnessed capitalism and globalization and colonialism spread deadly virus, invasive insects, maurading plants and wipe-out pure ecosystems. Another imported caterpillar that can hurt people delivered to a foreign land and blending in until it just is. On my watch.
I spent the last hour trying to call Dept of Ag folks and actually got "this number is no longer in service" after dailing our "Plant Industry Hotline" correctly. You would think a garden teacher would get a return call.
But I don't get a friendly call instructing me step by step on how to make the caterpillar go away or how to get the red fire ant off the island or the fire weed that is killing grassfed cows and horses to go back or the coqui frogs thats causing a rukus to be quiet. Because there is no way. We import insect and plant terrorists with every passing boat and airplane.
I am so sad that our garden is now a battlefield. I don't want to know this enemy. I didn't have to think of any caterpillar as enemy until now. Competition maybe, but never enemy.
A sweet second grader saw my tears last evening as I walked through campus with the stinging nettle caterpillar in a bottle and my baseball hat pulled down as low as possible. She said, "I think you should treat it like any other caterpillar and take it over to the field over there and let it go." Then she skipped away.
I didn't know what to say.
Krista Joan says:
My mission is to teach, train, and testify in resistance to the white supremacy of my ancestors. My personal choices are political, powerful, and practical. Let's trash waste.