There’s somebody out there wielding more power than they probably know they have. Their power is not evident at the time of delivery; in fact, it will be evident days to weeks later. The delivery, I’m sure, is taken lightly and seems relatively benign, and they may or may not see the consequences of their actions. That being said, their mission is noble and just—to rid our city or township of the noxious Spiny Plumeless Thistle.
I don’t have anything against the intrinsic value of any plant in this creation of ours, but I have a strong dislike for Buckthorn and Thistles, two of the most tenacious invasive species of our area. Come June, I am scanning the ditch along our road for the opening of a pretty-if-it-was-on-another-plant purple flower. At that time, I get out Chris’ sharp digging spade and spend an hour or two doing my civic duty by walking up and down our road chopping every purple-flowered, prickly plant I see.
Seed dispersal by wind takes the opportunistic seeds to anywhere there is some degree of disturbance—an overgrazed pasture, vacant lots, field edges, or roadsides. Luckily, the plant is biennial, and with persistence, it can be eradicated over a number of years, especially if all neighbors are on the same page. As the summer wears on, my digging slips, and I notice a few spindly plants flowering across the road from our garden. Here is where the wielder of power comes into the picture—with a wand and a tank of herbicide. August is not a good time to spray weeds in a good management program. I’m not an expert on herbicides, but I live with a man who has used them every year of his horticultural career, and I know about drift and volatility. I first noticed a change in the color of a number of sumacs–they all turned orange while the others were green. And then I noticed my tomatoes—the growing tips were burned back, the leaves got spotty, and the tomatoes I was so looking forward to started turning off colors. Dang it! The city public works director denied that they were the ones responsible, but I was a little worried when he said my garden was too far from the road to be affected (not true) and didn’t know what dicamba was.
The wielder of the wand did more damage in the neighborhood. While spraying in a gravel parking lot down the road at a small park, the drift killed all but one branch on a 15-20 year old Accolade Elm, a hybrid tolerant of Dutch Elm disease. Its survival seems unlikely.
And the hill at the end of the road that used to be all grass a number of years ago will probably be filled with thistles again next year, as the herbicide concoction killed the grass along with the thistles.
So disappointing that my tomatoes were wrecked. Disgusting that a tree that took so many years to grow was wiped out. Frustrating that the people responsible don’t have a better management plan than ‘go spray thistles’ in the humid hot middle of summer. For some reason it all reminded me of the hate, injustice, and ignorance in the world that seems to be tenaciously invading all our lives. The prickly spines of hate are often hidden under the beauty and righteousness of a pretty idea. Seeds of discontent and harm are dispersed via the internet by opportunistic self-serving strangers looking for the grounds of unrest. And what are the wielders of power doing to manage it all?
It’s overwhelming at times. I find myself wondering in that ancient, yet 90’s sort of way—What Would Jesus Do? It helps me stay strong. I know that I will keep picking up my shovel to chop out hate and ignorance, and for all I am worth, I will wield the power of Love.