My furnace is in the attic of my house, a place that is always warm in the coldest weather. During the later winter and early spring, I plant seeds under grow lights there: geraniums, petunias, castor beans, calla lilies, bananas, dahlias. The warmth of the lights and the air helps them to sprout, and the spring green of their leaves always makes me feel good.
Last year when I did my attic gardening, I found a stink bug crawling around on the table where I do my planting. I had heard very bad things about stink bugs. No one seemed to like them. They were supposed to smell bad. They were said to be invasive. Some sources said that stink bugs produced thousands of eggs and took over houses and gardens, causing squeamishness and even damage.
But I watched my stink bug and saw that he appeared harmless and very vulnerable. Once he fell off a leaf and lay on his back kicking until I picked him up and set him on his feet. I smelled my fingers then. No odor, really.
This year, another stink bug or maybe even the same stink bug watched me plant seeds. I wondered if he had lived there by himself for the past twelve months. I looked around to see if there were more stink bugs. I found one more, but no more than that.
They must be wise, I thought. I named one Solomon (after the famously wise king) and the other Sheba after Queen of Sheba (who was quite interested in that king.) But I was not really interested in learning the gender of either bug. Who would care about the sex of something like that in their attic.
While some people have told me they are overrun by stink bugs, I feel that my stink bugs are good company. My attic is low and cramped. No one has ever joined me planting seeds. I reflect that insects are under seige throughout the world these days, thanks to pesticides and global warming. I wonder if perhaps these two stink bugs are hiding with me from dystopia and Armageddon. They have apparently not mated or had offspring. Perhaps they don’t want to bring new creatures into such a hostile world.
But anyway, what other pet would be so unobtrusive, keep me company without destroying my solitude, require no maintenance, no food, no anything. Stink bugs are supposed to be pests, but mine are friends. They should be taking over my house, but they share without the least demand, allow me more than enough room.
Best of all, Solomon and Sheba do not fit the mold. They do not act like the fabled stink bugs of Orkin or Terminex. They do not follow the entomological script. They follow their own counsel. They could be overrunning my house, lascivious and prolific, but they are content to bask in the nurturing warmth of grow lights and contemplate the luminescent May green of the sprouts. Solomon and Sheba have, it seems, found the Path. They might even be trying to show me their secret. I will see.
This is Bill Felker with Poor Will’s Almanack. I’ll be back again next week with notes for the third week of Late Spring. In the meantime, find a stinkbug and see if he or she will share the secret Path of happiness.