I planted 64 Lavender Grosso plants this spring. The classic Provençal image of row upon purply row of lavender disappearing in parallel precision to a single point, danced in my futuristic dream of splendid bliss. Evenings spent on the patio, wine in hand, bees buzzing drunkenly amongst wafting stalks of blue buds, were to be manifest by the end of autumn.
Reality. The grasshopper blight has dashed our small, purple farm into oblivion. Where did I read lavender plants are deer, rabbit AND grasshopper resistant? No doubt from a dubious “information site” on the Internet. These grasshoppers must be a sub-species of the rugged “Whitewater Strain” with titanium-jaws and asbestos-lined-stomachs. I’m making light of this, but as they attach their bloated bodies to my shirt, hair, and jeans with saw-like legs, I have meltdowns, tantrums and tears.
There are too many birds, lizards, snakes and small mammals sharing our land to use chemical pesticides. We upset the eco-balance blading the topsoil to build our house, and an aftermath wave of hoppers and noxious weeds fills the void.
Grasshoppers thrive in hot, dry weather. People who survived the 1930s Dust Bowl on the American plains tell stories of swarms of hoppers eradicating fields, trees, and farm implements. Crops were destroyed in mere hours amidst a terrifying black cloud of munching jaws that ate and ate and ate…
Reality. A seven-year drought coupled with disturbing the land were ripe conditions for hoppers to procreate en masse. I can see in my mind’s eye a mother hopper putting her youngster to bed with a sweet bedtime story, “The Roaring 2019 Hopper-Boom” of yesteryear. A cheerful hopper gala with attendees in formal dress, drinking champagne, eating mini-toasts spread with lavender paste and other assorted green pestos, illustrates the book.
Meanwhile, out in the field, Chief, our toughest, roughest badass mule is covered with infected pustules from other flying insects. I cover him with a greasy, oil-based ointment so the little buggers will drown before they can get to his tender skin. Initially, he wouldn’t let me near him with the goo, but he now sighs contentedly as I slather him up. Strangely, his horse friends are not as ruthlessly targeted by the marauding pests.
It’s the same scenario with the lavender. Half the plants are bedraggled and barely alive; the other half have been decimated into tiny stumps. It’s heartbreaking, and we are only halfway through the summer. But why the seemingly “random selection” of destruction?
Nature is not random. She executes everything with a beautiful precision. I’ve gone into reveries, to connect with The Grand Hopper Archetype, in a futile attempt at mediation. Dowager Grasshopper Goddess (D.G.G.) clanked her articulated limbs and rasped through formidable mandibles, “we symbolize a great leap forward”. There was no explanation for the merciless extermination of lavender plants (include – bushes, trees, vegetables) to this distraught, hand-wringing human. As D.G.G. alluded, many human cultures consider hoppers to be harbingers of good fortune. They can hop only forward, not backward…the symbology of this is self-apparent. I’m not convinced, but am forcing myself to remain open to the concept.
So, striding forward, not backward, I go out armed with Nolo bait (an ecologically sensitive grasshopper control) to fling the spore-spiked flakes across the land, while simultaneously viewing the invading insect army with a loathing awe.
Geronimo says his human Navajo brethren ate hoppers. I’m trying to become vegetarian, so it doesn’t work for me, but I think it an excellent idea. Traveler chooses to ignore the hoppers. I suspect their consumptive, invasive, manic qualities remind him of another species he is closely attuned to….but he is far too diplomatic to make this observation in front of me. Homo Sapiens don’t like to be lumped with plundering insects, but too many of anything becomes an unbalanced catastrophe. This is across the board, no exceptions.
A few days ago, Chief told me he saw D.G.G. bend her battle-pitted carapace in a conciliatory bow to the expansive Traveler. I am impressed, and will be in allegiance with her should she choose to do it again. Surprising alliances forged with honorable intentions can bring about astute change. May it come to pass. Traveler could care less about all the drama, his eye is on the Zen ball.