There’s a new word, “solastalgia” that describes the kind of grief people have when their natural environment is changing more rapidly than they can keep up with it.  I’ve been thinking about the word because the landscape here has changed more rapidly in the last 50 years than anywhere else on the planet at any other 50-year period in history.  Okay, I totally made that up, but it seemed plausible for a second, didn’t it?

I copied that from Ira Glass, whom I had the privilege of seeing when he was here a few weeks ago, and at one point he said, “Radio is the most visual medium.”  I’m pretty sure it wasn’t just me, everyone was nodding along.  And then he corrected it, saying, well, except for t.v. and things that require you to actually use your eyes. 

But look at these photos, and you’ll see what I mean.  I’m pretty sure the word “solastalgia” isn’t about to catch on in a big way (can you even say it?), but I think it’s happening, and I’m wondering about it a lot lately.  Because as much as I think of myself as a lover of the natural world, lately I have all of these thoughts of killing things in it.  Bet you didn’t see that coming.

I have rodents in the attic that I’ve been ignoring for a while (okay, years), and I’m sure they’re doing great damage that old pink insulation that I can see fluffing out of the sides of the house.  These are large mammals, maybe raccoons.  Most of my response so far has involved considering repainting the house so the pink insulation won’t look so obvious next to the blue house. 

Speaking of raccoons, a few weeks ago, I was driving on a 2-lane arterial when I saw a man standing in the middle of the road talking on a phone; I realized as I passed that he had hit a raccoon with his car, and was using his body to protect it from further injury. I’ve been wondering who you call when you hit a raccoon. I’m pretty sure no one cares, because I am a highly trained government worker and I’m aware of many obscure services.  But I stray from the point, which I’m about to get to. 

I also have ants that march around here all the time, and yes, I know that if you actually see the ants, it means that the problem is huge.  When I see an ant, I research it on the Internet, and then avert my eyes and carry on.

Yesterday as R. and I sat here, two large winged insects, I mean, toddler-sized, were fighting and making that bzzzt sound from under a lampshade.  Every so often, R. would comment on these creatures whom we call the children, as in, “I wish those kids would stop fighting,” but for the most part, we ignored them.

But the one thing that I’m not ignoring, and in fact, I’m completely obsessed with, is the invasion of the yellow archangel, (Lamiastrum galeobdolon).
When I moved here 20 years ago, it had been planted in the garden.  I didn’t like it, so I pulled it and tossed it in a compost pile in an area that I didn’t visit often.  Sometime later, I noticed that it had escaped from the pile, and started infesting the nearby forest.  For about 5 years now, I’ve been seriously obsessed with removal.  Like a traffic cop, I’ve got weekly quotas for removal (6 5-gallon buckets a day), and I’m out there, rain or shine, with a headlamp on if necessary.  But for reasons that don’t even make sense to me, I’m reluctant to use chemicals. 

I’ve tried to take photographs to show the extent of the problem, but my lens isn’t wide enough to do it justice.  I’ll sum it up, as R. would, in this way:  You spend all your time out there with some weird little plant that no one but you has even noticed, and it’s not even on our property, and the fact is that you should be in here making me a sandwich. 

I’ve taken many truckloads to the composting facility, and I still have a pile about the size of a schoolbus, supposedly composting under black plastic, but it’s not composting, it’s just waiting for me to slack off so it can continue marching into the woods.

I’ve secured a commitment from my children that they will throw a weeding party when I die, and they will Never Give Up.  We all know they aren’t going to do it, but they humor me. 

But I’m starting to consider buying some chemicals.  I’m afraid to do it: I don’t want to support Monsanto, and I don’t want to be caught in the store purchasing Roundup; I’ll have to drive to a distant city, and maybe wear a disguise.  This makes no rational sense, even to me.  I think that chemicals are probably the right tool for the job, and the damage the plant could do to the ecosystem is far worse than the harm from the careful application of a chemical.  And my little purchase isn’t going to make a bit of difference, one way or another, to Monsanto. 

But I also wonder if that word, solastalgia, creates some weird response in the category of, “I was gonna break up with you first.”  (Does that make any sense at all?  I guess what I mean is that if you care about something that's dying, maybe you start to think you should just kill it?  Or maybe I've been reading too much George Woodwell lately...)


  1. you know, I have yellow archangel in the woods behind my house and have been wondering where it came from - was that you Betsy?

    xo claire*

  2. Just trying to see if I can post...



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