2015-10-29 / Sandy Days, Salty Nights

The benefits of a well-watered life

artis HENDERSON

Earlier this year, I asked a friend to water the fruit trees in my yard while I was out of town. This was during the dry season, when rain felt like a distant memory. I came home four weeks later to find that everything had thrived in my absence except my avocado tree. Many of its leaves were brown, and the ones that hadn’t dried up were decimated by insects.

Through research, I discovered that avocado trees — especially young trees — have a slow water uptake system. They need frequent and long waterings early in life. This answered the first question as to why the leaves had gone brown, but it didn’t explain the bugs. The plant looked as if it were under attack. Its leaves were chewed and bedraggled. What was eating it? And how could I stop it?

While I puzzled this out, I watered the little avocado every day. Soon, it started to perk up. The dead leaves fell away and healthy new leaves sprouted. I also noticed something I thought was strange: The insects also disappeared. Whatever had been eating the leaves decided to move on.

What happened to the bugs that had been chewing my avocado tree? I found out recently during a class at a local nursery. The master gardener spoke about insecticides and said that most yards don’t need them.

“Sure, the bugs will take a few bites,” he said, “but they mostly don’t bother the healthy plants. Have you ever noticed that when a plant is already weak, that’s when it attracts the insects?”

I thought back to my avocado tree. He was right; the only time the bugs chewed on it was when it was already in a bad state.

Which got me thinking about relationships. I have noticed in my own life that when I am feeling weak or vulnerable, I let in all kinds of pests. Married men who say, “I love you. I’m just not ready to leave my wife.” Male friends who wait until their girlfriends are out of town and then call me up in the middle of the night. Potential boyfriends who schedule me last on the priority list.

When I don’t have myself together, these people seem just fine. It never occurs to me that they might not have the best intentions.

But when I am feeling strong — when my professional life is in order, when I see my good friends regularly, when everything is copacetic in my family — then the people with less-thannoble motivations suddenly lose their hold on me.

I see with perfect clarity what they’re really up to.

For a long time, I made the mistake of thinking I needed to fight against this kind of person, that the only way to keep my life free of emotional pests was to actively struggle against them.

But now I see that’s not it at all.

I’d be wasting my energy if I tried to root them out of my life.

As with all infestations, there are always more.

No, the trick is to make sure I’m wellwatered.

If I do what nourishes me, I’m finding, then the people who don’t have my interests at heart naturally fall away.

No insecticide needed. ¦

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