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What the ... : So much to see in flies and weeds

I’ve gotten to the point where I’m reluctant to swat a fly.

It isn’t fear of guilt that stays my hand, nor fear of failure. I know how to do it, I’m pretty good at it, and I’ve slaughtered flies in my past with a sense of accomplishment and satisfaction.

My success was palpable. Countable. And, yes, justifiable.

Synecdochically speaking, flies are airborne bits of excrement and the dead. They pick it up in the great outdoors and bring it to me on their feet, their snouts, their hairy little bellies, their ankles and elbows.

To call these creeps houseflies is like calling Visigoths tourists. I don’t think they come in to get out of the heat. They come for the canapés. They head for the kitchen, a veritable smorgasbord after what they were eating in the green, green grass of the back yard.

I’ve never mourned the passing of a musca domestica, not even one of my own. They come to the kitchen asking for trouble. If they’ve got any fly-sense at all, they know they are taking a big risk to visit the land of milk and honey, pesto, extra virgin olive oil, Fruit Loops and strawberries flown in from — I swear I’m not making this up — Chile.

If they’re any kind of fly at all, they know they’re in the realm of Raid and swatters.

Not that I would spray chemicals anywhere around my Fruit Loops. I’d sooner have a flock of flies with dirty feet and fecal grins. But I have a swatter and I’m not afraid to use it.

It’s nothing special, just a cheapy with a coat-hanger handle and deadly woven mesh made in, bless it, Honduras.

I was in Honduras once, and believe me, they know about flies. They had — and this is going back a few decades — a lot of swatting to do.

I’m sure somebody regrets sending my swatter to the Gales Ferry Ocean State Job Lot. Some wife on the outskirts of Tegucigalpa is probably swatting her husband with a dish towel and screaming, “You sent it WHERE?”

But I digress. I was going to confess my feelings of guilt over even the slightest injury against nature, even anything as seemingly insignificant as wasting a fly.

Insignificant? It’s hard to say. Here’s what poet Ogden Nash had to say about it:

“God in His Wisdom made the fly

And then forgot to tell us why.”

Actually flies work a key niche in nature, but it’s too disgusting to describe here, so I’ll just segue to another pest I’m learning to leave alone, namely, weeds — the photosynthetic equivalent of a fly.

I’ve been reading about the impending doom of civilized life, if not human life, as the atmosphere heats up and most people’s reaction is limited to cranking up the AC and flopping down on the couch to deny reality over a cold beer and a bucket of extra strength Doritos.

In each fly I see a reminder of the ephemerality of life. In weeds I see a sprout of hope. Much though I love the royal redwoods and the open-armed majesty of our local sycamores, I suspect our salvation may be in the dandelions, the goldenrod, even the bittersweet and poison ivy.

They are the survivors that defy all attempts to swat them from our lawns and gardens. They just might be our saviors, our last hope as the seas rise, the forests burn, and the breadbasket turns to dust and blows away.

Weeds might even be our last meal and the source of our last breaths of oxygen. They might even be our survivors, and I wouldn’t blame them if they look as smug as a fly in butter when we’re gone.

Glenn Alan Cheney is a writer, translator, and managing editor of New London Librarium. He can be reached at glenn@NLLibrarium.com.

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