Sometimes I have wished that certain people lived in a different social circle, that they could maybe emigrate to a distant continent or, maybe, even go to prison for a long time, but I have never actually thought I could grab a knife and dispatch them once and for all.
I used to have dreams of killing people when I was a child and would wake up feeling horribly guilty and massively relieved when I realized that it was only a dream. Would anyone really want to kill their grandmother? I wondered. Let alone bury her under the kitchen floor.
Well I am feeling guilty again this morning.
Not for any grand matricide this time but for spraying an invading hornet which then died a protracted and noisy death on my bedroom floor.
Well, it was big….really big as far as flying insects go and I decided that it was going to be him or me. Actually I can’t tell the difference between male and female hornets but whichever it was, I am afraid it is now dead.
It had its final moments wriggling by my shoes so I decided to leave it in peace – no I wasn’t frightened of getting stung honestly…well maybe a little bit. So shoeless, I have been a barefoot penitent ever since.
It made me think of Buddhism.
I am not a practitioner of any religion but every now and then, I think of Buddhism and the attractively peaceful side of its teachings.
I am not talking about reincarnation which is either total rubbish or just way beyond my understanding. I was referring to the principle of not killing any creature no matter how irritating, destructive or dangerous.
Mostly, I leave the killing of insects to my friend Stanley the spider – he takes many spider shapes but he is always on my side. Today he was a sunny little thing busy spinning the most perfectly symmetrical of webs in just the right place to pick up the morning sun. Soon it will have his little bundles of flies and aphids packed away and ready to eat later.
Houseflies and Bluebottles would have more luck with me if I hadn’t found out that they spit on your food first to dissolve it and then leave their spittle all over the bits they leave behind. I hope you have already eaten.
I have confronted my relationship with snails too. There are so many of them where I live that it really has become a question of a garden or a snail collection. I trod on one by mistake once and since then there has been no turning back.
In my defence, I can at least claim that I confront the issue foot-on-snail and try not to hide behind more invisible “snail control” methods.
It just doesn’t do to think about them too much. Snails too are delicate and intricate creatures, miniature tortoises I used to think when I was little. Now I find it difficult looking them in the eye or looking at the picture of the beautiful snail below. I have to confess that his minutes were numbered after I had immortalised him or her photographically – the sexing snails is difficult too.
I read somewhere that Buddhists wouldn’t really tell me what to do here – forgive me if I have got this wrong. I think they are saying that we should try to think about the our lives here and our place in the order of things. The sadistic killing of anything, whether a microbe or a human being must be wrong but the method that we choose to create a garden is for us to analyse for our own moral good.
Gardens should be places for meditation and if they have become killing fields then they have lost something in the process.
I have hardened my heart against snails and houseflies – well almost – but I have been looking at that dead hornet and I do feel that I have got blood on my dirty gardener’s hands. I should have just opened the window and let it out.