Today’s teacher: the ‘scale’ parasite

Posted by on 04.15.07 | 5 Comments
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I live in a small, lovely cottage, and in the winter, living here in central Oregon, all the houseplants come inside. I really love plants and have a LOT of them, so they begin to take over a bit, competitive for window space and to be near–but not too near–my ancient gas fireplace that belts out the heat, without any finesse.

This coziness is great–except last spring I realized that my huge ficus tree has ‘scale’. This little parasite spreads all over the branches and leaves and literally saps the life out of the plant. Very hard to get rid of and highly contagious. So I cut the ficus way back last spring, treated it with a special liquid soap, and kept an eye on it. Thought it was all under control. Well, this winter, with the plants all in close proximity, back comes the scale with a vengeance. I treated it all winter as I found infestations, but the past 2 weeks, as the plants dream spring into arriving, the scale bugs are waking up too; everything is growinging crazy!

Today I pushed and pulled the 75 lb ficus plant outside to the front porch, covered it with the soapy concoction and watched the scale soften its hold. In the process, I took some of the little scale bugs (they don’t move, but they are insects) and held them gently between my index finger and thumb. I could feel their life force pulsing as if it were my own. It was an odd sensation. It got me to thinking about ‘the law of unintended consequences’.

So, I take the plants outside and treat them. What happens if in my zeal to treat my houseplants, my outside plants are infected? What if the branches I cut off and put in the trash somehow send some of the insects home with one of the garbagemen to infect their houseplants? What if…the insect infestation–designed to cull out the weak plants so that the evolutionary process is in place–just got circumvented!

Ok, ok, so I’m thinking too much, admitted. But in my life, ‘unintended consequences’ have played a starring role. This ‘law’ is why I’m doing the work I’m doing; why I spent 20 years doing hospice work (after my mother’s death), etc. It’s not an inactive force in my life. For life wisdom, I need to pay attention to it.

Back to my scale ‘problem’. So I’m making peace with the idea that I may have to lose my ficus to get rid of the bugs. I cut my lovely palm tree back to a nub this morning because it was covered with scale. How many other plants will have to go? And the wisdom for me is: do what I can, and accept the fact that what is just IS.

Recently when I lose earrings, or a piece of paper, I just sigh, look for them, but know that if I’m supposed to find them, they will show up in their own good time, making me smile and reminding me that I’m not in control. It’s a spiritual practice for me not to get stressed about that kind of stuff anymore. When difficult things happen, I’m trying to remember to lean into them, knowing that there’s a lot of wisdom in paying attention to the process, and not losing my groundedness by being upset.

So I lose my lovely friends–the houseplants. Something new will replace them. Or not. Maybe my small home is too cluttered. Maybe I need more spaciousness to remind me of other kinds of spaciousness needed..who knows? Maybe my supposed ‘problem’ is just a call to attention!

So I’m learning to ‘scale back’ (aargh, sorry!) on reactivity. And opening to the fact that the worst thing–for me, for right now in my spiritual development– is to react to whatever my mind can conjure up as ‘the worst thing’…

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