i used to be a farmhand. i thought it would be a peaceful profession. i was wrong. plants have many enemies and, as a farmer, it was my job to defend against them. i fought against thistle, ivy, aphids, and potato bugs.

japanese beetles were my arch-nemesis. they lived orgiastically in the blueberry trees. you could actually find them eating and making love on the blueberries. so, every few days, i would fill a bucket with soapy water. i would wander through the branches, flick a little water onto the beetles (to prevent them from flying), then brush them into my bucket. it was a careful process. if a farmhand wasn't sneaky and fast, the beetles would fall off their lovers and zoom away. i was good at it though. i could kill 200 or 300 beetles in just a few hours. the soapy water hid the corpses but i was aware of them. the bodies were gold and silver with a oily rainbow sheen. i wondered all the time how life could squeeze into something so small. i felt like a murderer the first time i cleaned out the buckets.

but it occurred to me after a while that life, by its very nature, is a war. even sprouts jostle and strangle each other for water and light. i doubt that there is very much malice in nature. i took some comfort in the fact that, when i was in another field, a japanese beetle would sometimes land on me. now and then, two or three of them would cling to my shirt. if they were so inclined, i would let them spend the entire day on me. at sunset, i plucked them off the fabric, gathered them into one hand, and threw them as high as i could. at the peak of my throw, they would zoom off in all directions.

this painting was commissioned for Converse.com by the Zaaz design firm. the instructions were enormously simple: Illustrate peace. war was the first thing that came to mind. the next thing i thought is that we are all enlisted.

© 2004 converse