Tonight is the first night I feel optimistic about winning the war on slugs here in Puna, for the past few months I’ve been downhearted thinking I can’t do anything to get rid of the slug infestation.
Sluggo gets moldy and it always rains here in the rainforest of Hawaii… but Home Depot actually had another type of pet safe-slug killing iron supplements (Corry’s sodium ferrous EDTA, a chelated iron ion) that was even cheaper than Sluggo. I’m sure not everyone loves the use of any pesticide, but I’d rather use this pet safe iron that has been used for over 70 years than just have a ton of slugs known to have parasites roaming my home, patio and sneaking into the kitchen sometimes… yuck.
Tonight was the first application of the new stuff. It takes a few weeks to work, so hopefully, when I leave Hawaii in 18 days I will have killed most of my biggest problem already. The slugs here (especially Parmarion martensi) carry Angiostrongylus cantonensis parasites which are often fatal to children, which I have two of right now. So I’ve lived a bit in fear this year since a slug snuck in the house and greeted me while I made my morning coffee, a slug carrying a brain-eating parasite… and I was already afraid of them since a traumatic incident as a girl. My family and I banded together to remove over 300 slugs off our property at the end of June and beginning of July, ending in Slugpendence day. But when my husband visited a few months later we noticed that there were still plenty around and the Sluggo applications hadn’t reduced the population much (probably because it rains so much that it is immediately moldy and not attractive to slugs).
This month I heard “he keiki aloha nā mea kanu” (like beloved children are the plants), for the first time. I understood deeply what it meant. I lost a tomato plant I left near the weeds when my father cut the weeds back and it hurts deeply. It was my fault, I assumed responsibility for not moving it or labeling it, I didn’t blame anyone, wasn’t mad, yet it hurt so deeply to lose that plant, the child of the plant I planted last summer… there is such a deep grief to losing plants if you are a “plant person.” I didn’t think of myself as a plant person, because I haven’t had much success yet, but I am. A cat lady starts with one cat (probably); so even without having a huge, successful garden, I am still a plant person, because for some reason plants charge me, inspire me, and love me (and I them). That may sound crazy, but that’s how I feel about it. If plants can’t show love by feeding us, healing us, sheltering us, inspiring us, comforting us, guiding us, then how is love even shown and what does it consist of? Plants love in a quiet way, an unspoken way, a way that many people would not appreciate, even as they survive on the benefits… but anyways, even though I love plants I didn’t want to put the garden ahead of my kids, didn’t want to love plants easier than people anymore. So the phrase “he keiki aloha nā mea kanu” shamed me into remembering to put my two kids first. Even though I spent five minutes sprinkling slug killing iron pellets tonight when my son was crying under his aunt’s care, overall this month I have shifted to putting the kids first for the vast majority of the time.
It’s hard because the garden is a huge part of my dreams, it’s a huge part of my well being, it’s a journey of finding myself, it’s my jam, but the property is large (for me), dauntingly full of challenges, and ruggedly full of thorny weeds, towering ginger and uneven mounds of lava rocks. There must be 100 things I wanted to do in the garden this year that I didn’t get to yet, but I know that if I had done them I would have wanted to do 100 more than that also and that nothing really replaced me in the hearts of my kids, sure they enjoy time with grandpa and auntie, but they are still small enough to really hunger for all the love and attention I can possibly slow down enough to give them.
After thinking about my thinking in September I believe that things are changing for the better. It’s a struggle to change, maybe it doesn’t have to be, but the only way forward I have found right now is through the challenge with the fear. I know that I want to prioritize what I will never be able to do again (watch my last baby grow up and cherish both kids) even though I prefer gardening and I would love to have some physical success to show myself that I can trust myself again. I’m confronted with how I’ve been careless in my life, how I’ve been scatterbrained instead of finishing projects, how I’ve put the most important things behind the least important things. I’ve been confronted with a lot of unpleasant truths about myself, but I haven’t lied to myself when the pain comes, I’ve faced reality and decided what I have time and energy to improve right now, in the present moment, and just let go of the idea of failure, that I should have done more, been more, saved more than I really could have at this real moment in time and I’ve strived to become a more patient, loving mother (knowing I will still be blunt and gruff and myself) and I’ve strived to take care of the land we live in starting with the inside out, meaning our family values, the harmony between our family members, the laundry and the dishes and just beginning to grow our own produce. I don’t think I’ve been that successful this month, I haven’t had much success with the parenting class I’ve been taking, I haven’t cleaned up the huge mess in the garden and I haven’t got my head on straight about the curriculum being too much and not having enough downtime in the day to do dishes without ignoring the babies cries for a few minutes without feeling guilty, but I have done the best I can to take small actions towards what I want in every way, where ever I could find the opportunity. I’ve been trying my best without giving up to do the things that matter to me all month and when I need a break, I’ve taken a little break and when I am sad I’ve grieved, but always while finding some small step I can still take forward.