The Circle Of Life
There is a large locust tree next to my house that produces succulent pods of bean-like fruit, which hang in graceful, green, spiral clumps from every branch. When those pods fall, as they do at this time of year, they just may turn brown and crunch under your feet in a satisfying way, and then release their seeds into the world to grow and live and prosper. Or eventually die under mounds of snow, trampled into oblivion by sturdy boots from September to March. From a botanological point of view, watching the pods sprout, grow, shed weaker specimens, and ripen over the summer is an interesting diversion, especially when one is too hungover to concentrate on anything else. And the tree is a gorgeous sight, towering over my neighborhood, spreading shade and dappled light over an urban area that would otherwise bake and only reflect harsh summer glare against concrete and asphalt in this citified desert.
If squirrels weren't eating the beans to store in their godforsaken cheeks and rancid hideaways for the coming winter, and shitting and pissing all over my yard in the process, I would really love that locust tree.
Right now, however, I am cursing that tree, and the squirrels, and their droppings, and thinking about buying a gun. No matter that using a gun in my cramped urban neighborhood might just raise a few eyebrows and summon the police. I am definitely thinking about it. I hate squirrels. I think about buying a gun, but won't necessarily do it, because I don't really want to kill anything. And I am forced to clean up -- endless raking and sweeping -- after not only the tree, but the shitting and pissing squirrels, not to mention the flies and stinking nastiness they bring.
I am unhappy.
The squirrels laugh at me. And then they shrug and proceed to eat and eat and shit and eat.
Which got me thinking today about the circle of life. I told my mother about my problem -- the gorgeous tree and the gangrenous squirrels. She listened attentively, and then chided me for hating small furry rodents. My mom's a Buddhist. She thinks that it is fortuitous that my backyard has been graced by animals who come to feed and breed and live. A wonderful sign of the circle of life. "In the spring," she says, "they will have many babies. How cute!" "It's not cute, mom," I say, "if there are more of them." She ignored me.
Other people in my neighborhood also think squirrels and their offspring are cute, and they feed the dastardly critters, so that they will keep coming back, begging for more. I think my neighbors feel they need to be needed by these rabid vermin. I don't really understand that.
Doesn't part of the circle of life involve getting killed by predators? Developing cancer? Dying just because you were meant to die eventually? In an urban environment, shouldn't pollution, cars, psycho dogs pent up in apartments all day long, and night-roaming cats help to lessen the impact of rodents considered cute only because of their long bushy tails and stupid buck-toothed grins? What human gets that kind of consideration? And what if those factors don't do what they should? Shouldn't I help the circle of life continue -- since the Humane Society won't help -- by adopting a mountain lion, or fox, or sabre-toothed tiger to keep those rodents in check? And why would people think I was the asshole for keeping a mountain lion in my yard to kill squirrels? Why should squirrels be allowed to circumvent the circle of life, because people think they're cute, feed them, and ignore people like me who have to actually deal with having one poop in my coffee cup when I go to survey their damage in the morning?
Why is the circle of life only philosophized about when we worry about keeping life alive? Why shouldn't death be considered a necessary part of that?
And most importantly: Why can't I have a mountain lion?