Saturday, November 13, 2010

The Garden in Autmun

Through the entire season MeanMesa's wonderful vegetable garden has offered a continuing respite from the onslaught of 2010's summer difficulties.  Not the cruddy election, the endless remnants of the W's on-going economic disaster or the Somali pirates could compete with the great feeling of the presence of life when the New Mexico sun was blasting through that sea of green.

But now, in November, this task of gardening takes a slightly different hue.  Everything from the tomato vines to the marigolds have frozen back.  Each day is now a bit brisker, and the work to be done has changed from the husbandry of warmer weather to removing the frost burnt residue, carefully cutting it into small pieces which will more easily decompose while they participate in the compost.  We'll have some fantastic mulch prepared for planting next spring!

However, none of this account of agrarian whimsy particularly "meets the bar" for being included as a Short Current Essay.  So, what's the point?  Is there some reason for such a rambling tale to be included here?

Yes, there is.

One morning this week while churning around with what was left of the garden, MeanMesa encountered an old friend.  She was no longer the robust green warrior queen we had come to know earlier in the season, but there she was, five inches long and dull grey, stumbling around amid a few now dilapidated blossoms still fragrant enough to entice visits from a few fall honey bees.

The old girl always had a secret taste for a bee here and there.  Of course, she was gobbling up sheer baskets full of other bugs, but her "bee habit" amounted to something not unlike Obama's secret cigarettes.  While she was not ridding the vegetables of some other creeping or crawling adversary, she loved to perch at the edge of a sunflower, transform her color like the chameleon arthropod she was, and snatch an unsuspecting bee for a light lunch treat.

The Garden's Warrior Queen in Better Days ( image source )
Her story may be remarkable when compared to that of her bug eating peers.  Her youth was spent in our tiny apartment's garden a mile or so distant from where we found her last week.  Carefully collected in a bottle, she was transported to a place where her special talents could be even more greatly appreciated.  Once re-established in the exploding azure paradise of the vegetable garden, she thrived.

Green Mansions?  Close.  MeanMesa's Garden ( image source - MeanMesa)

However, now that November has arrived, our lady queen is counting her last days.  The inevitable approaches.  The Sacred Rascooarno which awaits us all is now tredding with audible footsteps nearby.  True to her single minded dedication to life, she is gorged with an egg case of  fertilized babies.  Dispatching that last responsibility will be among her very last tasks during her season long visit to World 48.

Seen through our eyes, she has conducted an enviable life, indeed.  Not for so much as a single moment has she ever doubted her essential nature -- she has been 100% a praying mantis for every second.  She has not once imagined being a robin or an earthworm.  She has led a life of total satisfaction being a praying mantis.

Even now, in her last days, she does not beg the fleeting drama of a world without her presence.  She knows what comes closer with each high desert's night where the inevitable total frost will finally visit.  She has fully mastered the challenge of satisfaction.  Now, as her days wane, she is serenely calm pursuing a few last feeble feedings to boost the food flow to the tiny residents of that all important egg case.

We made a hospice and a creche for the mantis family.  A nice collection of wilting nasturtiums to draw the last of the summer's pollinators close enough to make a meal without too much effort will hide those babies until the spring once again arrives.

Once our weather warms a bit next April, after a day or so of initial cannibalism, the strongest of the next generation of mantis will emerge to once again fill next year's vegetable garden.  They will joyfully migrate from one end to the other,  staking out their respective territories and performing their saving "bug eating" tasks to guarantee yet another season of plenty. 

In epitaph is in order.

Respect the Earth
Do Not Disturb
Here Rests Our Fellow Traveler
Mrs. Mantis
May She Rest In Peace

Her Living Children Also Here Abide
They, Like Us, Great Nature's Bounty

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