Some things are so small, we will never lay eyes on them, and they can change our lives in an instant (bacteria, atoms, for instance). Other things are so large that they are invisible, and they change our lives every day whether we think of them or not (the galaxy, and love). Often, these two kinds of things are hard to tell apart. Sometimes, they’re even the same.
This week, the small things have had my attention.
This furry jumping spider, for instance, posed for a picture on an okra seedling, showing off a brightly colored fresh catch of the day. I’ve seen this little one a couple times since taking this shot. It occupies an important place in the greenhouse, where pest bugs can quickly become an issue, and spider pest control is most welcome.
Bugs are (usually) small things. But many of them sure can pack a wallop if they decide to put a stinger in you, or eat a piece of your garden. Flea beetles are a great example. It’s hard to see them, but they can do amazing damage in almost no time at all. Tender spring arugula gets hit by them, but usually pulls through with just cosmetic damage. We cover our eggplants with hoops and row cover the first day we transplant them to avoid flea beetle damage. Small can be large.
But small can just be small too. Up picking peas and pulling weeds, I saw these little Billy Flies (I don’t know what they’re proper name might be, but my Grandpa always called them Billies). They’ve never stung me, and I’ve never seen them do damage to the garden. They may be beneficial for all I know. They probably pollinate something. I’ve also never seen them mate in midair, until now. It was hard to catch a picture, but you might be able to get it. Pretty impressive little lives, I think.
It is in part because our gardens are so small that we are able to live with this awesome diversity of creatures and bugs around us. If we were more driven by economic pressures, we might not notice, honor, and enjoy these multitudes of critters that share our gardens, our world.
Billy Flies were a nice thing to contemplate in the face of the task at hand in the gardens right now. More small things to work on there. Weeds.
Each one may be small, for now, but taken in total, they are a green carpet that appears to grow exponentially each day, rain or shine. As Cher noted on Wednesday, this is not complaining about rain, or work, just commenting that with each rain comes the need to cultivate any un-mulched ground (believe me, we’ll be mulching some more soon) and knock back the sprouting weeds before those small things grow so much bigger.
The really good thing about frequent cultivation is that it keeps the gardeners eyes on the garden, on the small things. We notice early infestations before they grow larger. We notice that the texture or moisture of the soil on one end of a bed is different from that on the other end. Our regular attention makes the garden more successful. Attention is one of those invisible things with a large effect.
If we’re fortunate, we’ll notice some things in our garden that bring us joy. For me, it’s the chamomile. After several botched attempts, we’ve finally got a nice patch of chamomile in the garden. It’s such a lovely plant. The flowers and leaves are both delicate, but the effect on tummy aches and tension isn’t small at all. Just smelling it puts me at ease. Interesting, too, that Nature (the science journal) just published a piece about Neanderthals eating chamomile 50,000 years ago. My appreciation for that pretty little plant are a drop in the bucket of the continuum of hominid history.
The five new turkey chicks are bigger than chamomile flowers, but still count as small things – they’re sure smaller than they will be! Two grey, two black, and one white (a piece of surprise genetics, must be a white grandparent back there somewhere) hatched this week from our most experienced hen. The cute and curious little furry peepers draw our attention to their coop several times a day.
So I notice about small things, especially those imbued with LIFE, that the presence they contain is not reflective of their physical size. Anyone who has been near a newborn baby can relate to this. Newborns are so small, but it’s hard to take your eyes off them. They are the center of attention and their energetic presence (even as they sleep) is just as large, if not larger, than the bigger folks around.
When I spend time with my children, and really give my attention to them, I can sometimes glimpse a memory of that newness in myself. We were small things once. The world was that new to each and every one of us.
Truth be told, we’re still pretty small. Under the large dark summer sky, it does me good to remember how little I am, and how tiny the whole human family is in the face of the universe. In the light of day, the whole universe expresses itself some more, made of many small things.