In turbulent times, I may turn to the garden for solace and calm, as on a recent afternoon.
Fondly I gazed on the gigantic rose bush. (An old Cecile Brunner, with small fragrant flowers: it needs no fertilizer, no insecticides, no watering; it simply goes about growing, blooming, and taking over the block. Occasionally enraged neighbors lop thorny branches that Cece has thrust through or over fences, and toss them back into our yard. Cece shrugs them off and continues struggling for conquest.)
More glumly, I noted infestation. Here and there were clusters of green aphids at the tips of young branches or on buds. Although the bush thrives, I disapprove of these sapsuckers. I surveyed nearby branches to see how many clusters were there.
I saw a ladybug and brightened. Ornamental! Widely mentioned in children's verse and literature! Sign of a healthy food web! I dollied in for a better look.
Shockingly, the ladybug had an aphid in its jaws. Long ago I was instructed that ladybugs eat aphids and that ecologically-minded gardeners encourage—even buy and release—ladybugs to control them, but never had I actually witnessed the predatory act.
The aphid waved its legs and feelers wildly. The ladybug had it firmly by the abdomen, and the aphid's head and front legs were free. I was glad I could not hear it shriek for help.
(A larger aphid at the tip of the bud turned. It headed toward where the lesser aphid was being eaten alive. It could not possibly be going to the rescue, though that's what it looked like. Suddenly it halted. Whether there were significant antenna gestures or expressions I'm not nearsighted enough to say, but the large aphid turned on its heels and marched back to the tip of the bud.)
To see something like this, a thing I have known about for so long, have told others about, have never questioned, but never seen—is startling. There's a little jolt at the moment when life as experienced matches up with as-told-to life. A pleasing jolt.
It's as if I was walking down Market and the guy at the table pushing Free Personality Tests was Tom Cruise. Superimposed, the image from movies and the face before my eyes would click together. The often-read information that Cruise is a Scientologist would slot into my personally-gleaned knowledge that such personality quizzes are Scientology recruitment bait. That would be cool.
But since I consider such recruitment a lower activity than sapsucking, or slowly consuming a suffering sapsucker, it's fortunate that I looked in the garden and not downtown for solace and calm.
A killer advances...