Can I Return and Bring You Hope?

First, thank you Rich Czyz for the prod. Yesterday, Rich wrote about the joy of writing and how he makes time everyday to engage in this process. He ended that blog this way: The act of writing should be a beautiful endeavor. I asked if writing emails counted. Sure! he answered.

This morning, he blogged about finding time. And I have to say, while I have found the time to answer many emails, I have not made time to attend to my site. But I am back, and I bring you a simple story to begin my return; because, what I am about to relate helped me realize that even in one’s darkest moments, there is joy if one is patient and looks for it.

Like many people this summer, I tended to my gardens. Enter Dr. Randi Eckel, owner of Toadshade Wildflower Farm in Frenchtown, NJ. Randi has given a number of virtual workshops recently where she talked about creating gardens which provide banquets for all the insects who do good in the world, the pollinators. Thus, I went to work putting in some pretty interesting plants, including rattlesnake master; Bur sedge, Spotted Joe Pye weed, and Swamp milkweed.

Ordinarily, I would not cut stems from new plants to bring inside. But this summer, there is a young deer living on the empty lot behind me. This yearling has been having quite a time eating my sweet potato vine, my cherry tomatoes and anything else s/he can get lips around. Swamp milkweed is deer resistant, meaning the deer won’t eat it. Swamp milkweed isn’t resistant to a deer hoof, and that’s how one milkweed stem was crushed; and thus, came inside.

I was hoping to root the stem, so I stuck it in a glass of water. Randi told me the stem would root faster if I cut off the blossom. I knew that, but I was enjoying the bloom; I left the stem alone.

And this morning? I found this.

Two monarch caterpillars on a stem of milkweed.

These are monarch caterpillars. My high school classmate Dr. Don Moore wrote: If you want more monarchs later, put them back outside on the milkweed!

As I write this, it’s pouring rain. My milkweed are young and almost lying on the ground. I fear the caterpillars might become dinner for a hungry bird. So instead, I put another stem of milkweed next to the current one. I will likely go buy a milkweed plant today; pot it and put these stems next to that plant, and put them all in a sheltered place.

Two monarch caterpillars on milkweed.

This adventure reminded me of my family’s time in New Zealand. My daughters attended Wā Ora Montessori school. In my younger daughter’s 3-6 class, they hatched monarchs just this way. The caterpillars started life on a potted milkweed plant. A second plant was placed next to the first, so once the first plant was consumed, the caterpillars migrated to the next one. The children watched as the monarch chrysalises became jewel-like. When the butterflies burst forth, the teachers merely opened the classroom door and the children directed the monarchs to the outdoor garden. In a way, the moment was an epitome of the innocence of childhood.

Because monarchs play such an important role in nature and their numbers are declining, I will lovingly try to help these caterpillars through their reincarnation so they will be ready to migrate south come fall. The revelation of their existence today was truly a gift for me.

The moral of the story? In the midst of 2020, the year of relentless sorrow, pain, bang, crash, lightning flash, my morning discovery teaches us that there is always a new. That everything has a season–a beginning and an end. We need only have the patience, awareness and hope in order to find that new.

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