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THE GUNS OF AUGUST
August 17, 2006
 
I know I exasperated my cardiologist with my whining, but I didn't know I was that good at it: he threw up his hands and discharged me from the hospital yesterday in self-defence. And so I was back in the garden a day early, in time for the evening hummingbird feed.

Q took good care of them in my absence: plenty of nice clear sugar water in five spotless feeders, deployed in all the right places. But there continues to be trouble in hummingbird paradise: they can't seem to refrain from chasing each other away from the feeders, when they should be eating. It's almost time for them to leave for Mexico. They need to focus on their carbohydrate loading in preparation for the trip. But it seems they'd rather fight than eat.

It's all about territory. In this, they resemble us -- or, I suppose, we resemble them, since they were here first. We are willing to do ourselves great harm in order to chase others away from something we think is ours. Or even something next to something we think is ours. Or even just nearby. We're willing to hurt ourselves far in excess of whatever hurt we think we're avenging. And, of course, we're willing not even to count the harm we do to our enemies. We'll let that be their concern.

Sometimes people romanticize the animal kingdom, thinking that animals never fight gratuitously, that they only attack for food or when threatened. That's not true, though, for some species --- they mount unprovoked attacks, go out of their way to harm other animals of their species, for no good reason. Or maybe some animals are like us, and just have a very broad definition of what constitutes a threat.

It's a jungle out there.

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Come, if you dare, to the Edison Arts Society's "Art in the Garden" Tour on Saturday from 10-5. The Geranium Farm is a stop on this central New Jersey garden tour. You can sit at the picnic table, drink lemonade and watch the hummingbird wars all you want. Call 732-906-4137 for information.
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