Aliens in the Woods

On my way down the path this morning, I thought about that conversation I had at the Mexican restaurant not long ago with friends, a neighbor family. Dave said he had decided to wage war against the invasives in our woodland neighborhood.

I’m with him. I’ve worked hard to rid my property of ailanthus and honeysuckle and autumn olive and poison ivy and grapevines gone wild. I’ve yanked, chopped, and yes, poisoned these invasives and have achieved a reasonable amount of success on my little half acre.

Japanese stiltgrass still plagues my property, though. And while I enjoy wine berries on my granola freshly picked in season, these briary bushes are, nonetheless, trying to take over my lawn and gardens. And just beyond that human demarcation of ownership, poison ivy is threatening, reminding me that this imagined truce we have—you stay in the woods and out of my yard, I’ve told these threatening leaves, and I won’t whack at you—is tenuous.

Dave has done this on his several acres at the top of the hill too, but he wants to do more. He wants to extend this war beyond his borders. He wants to eradicate these species, get rid of them from the entire neighborhood.

So here we are, this bunch of Quakers, sitting around eating burritos and quesadillas, talking about annihilating aliens. Going to war. It’s ironic.

Now sitting next to the stream, deer have appeared. They snort behind me, trying, I imagine, to rid my scent from their nostrils in this, their native habitat. These are creatures I would also like to get rid of, I suggested to Dave, railing against these Disney-cute critters for chewing away all the flowers on my azalea bushes and hating them for eating that one, most exquisite, most hopeful showy orchid I stumbled upon in these woods last week.

Dave tells me he has considered getting a bow. He says it’s not illegal to hunt on your own property. Not with a bow. And who would know?

But this song is going through my head: Gonna lay down my sword and shield…study war no more. And I wonder how far this Quaker peace testimony extends. Are we obliged to make peace with plants and animals too? Is there a way to negotiate with these species, talk to them like I did with the poison ivy? Is there some other way to come closer to balance with olive and kudzu and bittersweet and white-tailed deer, these forms of life that are changing our native landscape into a place that feels destroyed by foreigners?

Which leads, I now see, to the quagmire of immigration.

Oh, Lord! I do so love the song of the wood thrush in the woods in the morning!


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