A different kind of right

Saturday July 2, 2005

This afternoon I was obliged to take the lethal ant-killer dust to a nest that’s sprung up under the french doors, having vacuumed a swarm that’d invaded the inside sill. I hate doing this. More and more, as I grow older, I hate doing this. I try not to think about it while I’m dealing wholesale death to these inoffensive little creatures but I know I have no right to kill them beyond being the one with the power to do so. And I feel bad about it. No, I feel lousy about it.

Trouble is, they fan out over the door and window, and on into the house in search of food if they’re not stopped. British ants do no harm to structures, but even if I could bear to keep them as company, it’d turn a potential house buyer off faster than you can say “I couldn’t live there, George.”

It’s only the mass invasions of ants, wasps and bees, oh, and little black harvest flies or storm bugs that brings out the cold, callous killer in me. And rodents, of course. Individual insects and spiders get caught in the small glass I keep in a kitchen cupboard for the purpose, held in place with a small piece of card, and transported outside with my blessings. When I encounter a swarming mass of invaders, though, the need to maintain a clean, hygienic home over-rides my better intentions.

Why can’t the pesky things stay outside where I can observe them with interest and co-exist happily with them?

I’ve often promised myself, only half-joking, that if I survive to the age of eighty, I shall become a vegan, having had enough of the killing, wishing to live in harmony with the planet, and seeking to reduce my bulk so that a small-to-average size coffin will be sufficient to contain it when my day comes. Today, though I still intend to follow that path if I live long enough, I can’t help but ask a trivial question. How do vegans, by whatever persuasion they may be vegans, handle the problem of an invasive swarm of insects? I find it easier to come to a working understanding of Zen than to puzzle that one out.

Hopefully, the problem will not arise. Graham will handle such unpleasant things for me, as he handles jobs that are too much for me now. Like the light bulb that’s gone but is out of reach for me. He’ll fix that when he gets home on Tuesday, along with the grass on the lawns and several other maintenance tasks I can’t manage.

So the machinery of the problem may not arise, but the feeling will still be there. I have no right to kill a nest of ants, and find it increasingly difficult to bring myself to do it. I suppose that if Graham weren’t around to do it for me, I’d have to engage the services of a professional exterminator and take myself out into the garden to contemplate the flowers while the job was done.

Call me silly if you will. Say that my day must have been an empty one if the most significant thing in it was the extermination of an ant swarm. You’d be right on both counts. I’m right, too, but it’s a different kind of right.



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