I am Not a Weed: Fighting a Slow Biocide

It’s not often that I complain in writings outside of my journal; I stopped doing that a number of years ago, when I stopped writing about politics.

But I’m stuck on a farm, rather afraid to open the windows, afraid to walk outside and visit the horses — because the farmer has sprayed weed-killer on the driveway and in the fields just fifty feet from the barn conversion that my boyfriend rents from him.

Imagine you go to sleep feeling full of pep, ready to start a new exercise regime with daily hikes and bike-riding through the nearby villages… and then, out of nowhere, you wake with a stuffy head, sore throat, body- and head-aches, and — worst of all — almost no energy. Your mouth tastes metallic. You simply can’t drink enough water or eat enough food; and, for ten or fifteen minutes after you’ve eaten, you feel your vitality return… only to find it fades rapidly into lethargy and sparks yet another phase of fever.

You don’t have a cold or the flu or a sinus infection. You don’t have strep throat. You have chemical sensitivities.

You could take something to help with the symptoms, but you’ve found already that such additional chemicals only prolong both the symptoms and that state you’re in, which makes sense because they were chemicals that put you in this state, to begin with.

So, you sleep. You sleep for days: sometimes for twelve, sixteen hours on the worst days. You get up to drink water, eat a bit, relieve your body of the toxins it’s worked to wash out… and then, back to sleep.

The TV and computer monitor hurts your eyes. Your fingers ache when you try to type on your laptop. Your smartphone is painfully heavy in your hands. Most sounds hurt your ears, so you lay in silence for as long as you can; you force yourself through endless migraine headaches to watch your favorite TV shows when you can, just so you have some kind of life outside of the wild dreams when you sleep, just so you can feel something beyond pain, aches, nausea, hunger, thirst.

It lasts for four days to one week, depending on the kind and amount of exposure to the toxins that set you off.

For me, it’s household cleaners. Chlorine — like the kind in bleach, and in swimming pools. It’s pesticides and weed-killers, particularly when sprayed freshly or when they’ve built up on foods and fruit-based drinks (like wine or beer or juice).

And the worst is being ignored, as if you’re making it up; but few people actually comprehend, even when they see you struck down suddenly with flu-like symptoms, plummeting from happy-go-lucky to weak-and-drained-of-energy within only half-an-hour. Unless they happen to be struck down with you.

Never mind that you warned the farmer at your bonfire party a couple weeks ago that you have allergic reactions to such weed-killers and pesticides as he uses on his farm; he laughed it off and argued that the commercial weed-killer he uses claims it is “safe enough to drink;” so he didn’t bother to phone and warn you of when he would be spraying the fields.

(I can’t help but wonder how safe it would be for me to drink, and what my body’s reaction to it would be…. Perhaps complete shut-down? I wonder if he — and others like him — would take me seriously, seeing the kind of violent response I expect I’d have.)

It’s been a full week, and he’s sprayed three or four times. The field outside has gone from a healthy green to a gaudy, dead gold; and my head is throbbing, my sinuses are filled with mucus, my lungs wheeze when I breathe and cannot fill with air. I cough raucously like someone with bronchitis: wet, thick coughs that hurt my chest and throat and diaphragm, that send my head into dizzy spells.

In the worst of the crises, when faced with the prospect of this ongoing, uncontrollable malady, I want to give in to The Big Sleep. In the worst of my pain and desperation just to live, when I feel there is no way I can ever get out of this perpetual, chemically-laden world, I want to give up; I want to die.

He can’t possibly know it is doing this to me. He can’t possibly realize the effect it is having on another human being whose presence he actually enjoys… all of these killing chemicals, all to be rid of some undesirable plants.

In a hope to find a solution, I wonder at the number of unemployed people who might be willing to work, who could clear that small field by hand in only a few hours, who might be willing to be paid with lunch and a bit of cash in their pockets — all of which might cost a bit more than the fuel spent for the tractor and the vats of weed-killer, yet would give life to so many more in this biosphere of which we are a part.

I would even gladly assist, were I given the chance.

And what to be done with those unwanted green things growing in the field, after they’d been plucked from the ground? Why not compost them, use them to nourish the plants the farmer does want to have growing there?

Instead, we spray a toxin onto the ground that kills not only the plants but bacteria and bugs that would ordinarily help the biosphere.

And I suffer, and those like me who are so sensitive to toxins that we respond immediately, our bodies promptly aware of the dangers, desperately trying to fight off this menace and make us aware quickly so we can stay away from it rather than being passified for years, like so many others, until their bodies eventually and confusingly manifest the harm done by such toxins with cancerous growths.

So, I’m fighting, because my body is fighting, because my life is meant to be lived… because each life means something, even every one of those ‘weeds,’ even every one of those ‘pests’ and bugs and bacteria.

I’ll go home as soon as I can, and perhaps I’ll work again in restaurants where the food served is clean, prepared by chefs and sous and cooks who care about the people they serve, the farmers they support, the product they use; because they know that poisons passed on will poison palates. Soon, I’ll support my local farmers and the Slow Food movement again with my time, my mind, my writing, to help inform as many people as possible about the positive effects of growing and supporting local, organic farms.

Maybe I’ll contact the CDC, via some friends who work there, about their research into chemical insensitivities — considering that they disallow even colognes and perfumes in their facilities, due to the number of people who have such sensitivities.

Maybe, too, I’ll write a story, more stories about these biospheres in which we live.

Once upon a time, we believed we were isolated from everything else in the world, in the universe. Once upon a time, we believed killing a thing was an isolated instance, affecting very little. But, once upon a time, a long time before, we knew we were a part of everything, and every little thing was as much a part of us.