At the onset of my novel-worthy summer by the lake, no one could have predicted that the long-awaited moments of rejuvenation and blissful solitude would have included entertaining Mussolini.
No, not the actual dictator. Not even his ghost. My Mussolini is almost as dark as old Benito though. But without the whimsy. My beach-house fascist is a pillaging black squirrel who I felt compelled to name immediately when I stepped out onto the porch one day.
This bold forager devoured most of my beautiful porch plants without so much as a friendly introduction or welcome to the neighbourhood. What was to be my rich, green summer sanctuary now was a mess of empty planters and sad, wilted leaves left to die on the ground beside their former beds. It was a botanical massacre.
I can certainly see why he was drawn to the tender trails of sweet watercress that were flourishing in my herb garden. But I was not prepared to see my vibrant, two-year old passion vine reduced to a few leaves lifelessly dangling on the two single vines left. Only two days before, two of the unique purple passion flowers had bloomed confidently and a third one was pregnant with blossoming potential.
My first slump-shouldered reaction was a resigned disappointment but that, more quickly than I’d like to admit, turned into me looking around for something akin to a BB gun. This was followed by many words definitely not suitable for the Family Channel as I cleaned up the mess.
To protect the remaining few plants, I’d heard that coffee grounds on the soil around plants will keep squirrels from digging so I tried that first. And, as option two, I filled a squirt bottle with water and set the nozzle to the stream position. After a few wet encounters with my furry Mussolini that involved me sitting on my porch with a coffee in one hand and the squirt bottle in the other, his visits have magically stopped.
To be fair, the squirrel could have no way of knowing that I had nurtured that passion vine through a long winter of less-than-optimal sun conditions and it had just begun to recover nicely. And that I intentionally brought the plant with me to my summer getaway so I could enjoy it in its period of abundant growth and fullness. He could have no idea that the plant reminded me daily of the beauty and natural power of patient resilience.
I guess I’d become attached. Just counting the number of times I used “my” in the re-telling of this story tells me that my sub-conscious attachments are flung far and wide. My summer by the lake. My porch. My passion vine. Even my Mussolini. How much rest could I really get this summer if I’m holding on so tightly to everything around me?
After finding more remnants of my former plants protruding from under a wooden box at the side of the porch, it turns out that the pillaging had purpose. And that Benito is likely a Benita.
With both of us nesting, each in our own way, perhaps we can learn to accept each other for who we are and where we’re coming from. Both doing what we’re wired to do.
Live and let live. With a squirt bottle still firmly in hand!