Gernumbli gardensi Infestation

She lingered in that charming little garden to say hello to the gnomes, such a glorious infestation!  How few wizards realize just how much we can learn from the wise little gnomes-or, to give them their correct names, the Gernumbli gardensi.
‘Ours do know a lot of excellent swear words,’ said Ron…
J.K. Rowling in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

It is hard to say exactly when the first one moved in.  This farm was distinctly gnome-less when we bought it, largely due to twenty-seven hungry barn cats residing here at the time,  in various stages of pregnancy, growth, development and aging.  It took awhile for the feline numbers to whittle down to an equilibrium that matched the rodent population.  In the mean time,  our horse numbers increased from three to seven to over fifteen with a resultant exponential increase in barn chores.   One spring over a decade ago,  I was surprised to walk in the barn one morning to find numerous complex knots tied in the Haflingers’ manes.  Puzzling as I took precious time to undo them, literally adding hours to my chores, I knew I needed to find the cause or culprit.

It took some research to determine the probable origin of these tight tangles.  Based on everything I read, they appeared to be the work of Gernumbli faenilesi, a usually transient species of gnome preferring to live in barns and haylofts in close proximity to heavy maned ponies.  In this case, as the tangles persisted for months, they clearly had moved in, lock, stock and barrel.   The complicated knots were their signature pride and joy, their artistic way of showing their devotion to a happy farm.

All well and good,  but the extra work was killing my fingers and thinning my horses’ hair.  I plotted ways to get them to cease and desist.

I set live traps of cheese and peanut butter cracker sandwiches, hoping to lure them into cages for a “catch and release”. Hoping to drive them away, I played polka music on the radio in the barn at night.  Hoping to be preemptive, I braided the manes up to be less tempting but even those got twisted and jumbled.  Just as I was becoming ever more desperate and about to round up more feral cats, the tangling stopped.

It appeared the gnomes had moved on to a more hospitable habitat.   I had succeeded in my gnome eradication plan.  Or so I thought.

Not long after, I had the distinct feeling of being watched as I walked past some rose bushes in the yard.  I stopped to take a look, expecting to spy the shining eyes of one of the pesky raccoons that frequents our yard to steal from the cats’ food dish.  Instead, beneath the thorny foliage, I saw two round blue eyes peering at me serenely.   This little gal was not at all intimidated by me, and made no move to escape.   She was an ideal example of Gernumbli gardensi, a garden gnome known for their ability to keep varmints and vermin away from plants and flowers.  They also happen to actively feud with Gernumbli Faenilesi so that explained the sudden disappearance of my little knot-tying pests in the barn.

It wasn’t long before more Gardensi moved in, a gnomey infestation.  They tended to arrive in pairs and bunches, liked to play music, smoked pipes, played on a teeter totter, worked with garden tools, took naps on sun-warmed rocks and one even preferred a swing.  They are a bit of a rowdy bunch but I enjoy their happy presence and jovial demeanor.   I haven’t yet heard any bad language as we have a “keep it clean” policy about bad words around here.  They seem quite hardy, stoically withstand extremes in weather, and only seem fearful when hornets build a nest right in their lap.

As long as they continue to coexist peaceably with us and each other, keep the varmints and their knot tying cousins away,  and avoid bad habits and swear words, I’m quite happy they are here.   Actually, I’ve given them the run of the place.  I’ve been told to be cautious as there are now news reports of an even more invasive species of gnome,  Gernumbli kitschsi, that could move in and take over if I’m not careful.

I shudder to think.  One has to consider the neighborhood.

Rescue Mission

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Ever have one of those days when it doesn’t really matter what you do, what you don’t do, what you say, what you don’t say—you find yourself sitting on top of a hornet’s nest, and at the slightest provocation, you’ll get nailed, but good.

The hardest reality of all is that you may have actually invited and fostered the hornets that are now ready to attack you.  You offered them shelter, a safe haven, a place to come home to and what happens in return?  You’re stung because you happen to be there, perched in a precarious position. What difficult lessons life tosses at us sometimes.  And this little drama is happening in my own backyard.

As I headed to the barn for chores and walked past our happy little gnome, I gave him my usual smile, wave and morning greeting, but something was different and I looked a little closer.  He looked suddenly anatomically correct.  And the look on his face had taken on a distinctly worried cast.  How had he gotten himself into this predicament of harboring a hornet’s nest in his lap?

He reminded me we should be worried too.  When we’re feeling very hospitable, welcoming and willing to share what we have with others, it can be the best feeling in the world.  There is a sense of graciousness and gratitude in being able to give something of one’s self, and a distinct “need to be needed” that is rewarded.  Yet it is often no selfless sacrifice, this “offering our lap”. We give because it feels good to give; share because we feel rewarded by gratitude, or because it is the “right thing to do”.  Perhaps we even expect something in return for our kindness. Indeed, that is the problem—often there is no acknowledgment or gratitude and that can hurt a lot.  I too occasionally share space with “hornets”, sometimes unwittingly, until I get stung and am sorely reminded of just what I’ve sat down in.  I’m rewarded, all right, and I get exactly what I deserve.

Yet what should worry us even more is that sometimes we’re the ones building a nest in an opportunistic place where we have been invited to take refuge.  In our most selfish moments, we’re looking for that lap to settle in where we can have the most control either by threat or worse.   We’re ready to sting at the slightest provocation, or perhaps for no reason at all.   How do we get ourselves into such a predicament that we sometimes hurt those that harbor us and who have been generous to us?

My little backyard friend is in a dilemma, pleading with his eyes to be saved from his agony.  I’m planning a stealth rescue mission.  Without warning, in the dark of night, I’ll turn a hose on that nest, sweep it to the ground and crush it, hornets and all.  A “take no prisoners” approach to a gnome held hornet-hostage.

We’ve at least been warned about our life’s precarious perch and to not sting the lap that holds us.  When we offer up ourselves, it must be without expectation, simply pure gift.  And every time I look at my gnome’s gracious cheerful face I will smile too, knowing that our rescue is at hand.

Postscript:

I didn’t execute the “save our gnome”  rescue mission soon enough.  While I was foolish enough to mow the grass under our swing set today, the offending hornet nailed me in the neck.  I walked right into it, forgetting there was a hornet hazard over my head.  One ice bag and benedryl later, I dispatched hornet and nest to the great beyond.  There are times when we need to be an active participant in our own rescue…