I found my three-year-old granddaughter standing by the window yesterday, sobbing her heart out. When I asked her what was wrong, she pointed a qivering finger at the pond and did that “hiccuppy” thing heartbroken children do. Eventually she sputtered out that the frogs in my pond were too cold and she wanted to bring them inside where it was warm. I managed to convince her that the frogs were just fine and that they needed to be in the pond, but the whole time there was a little voice in my head accusing me of blatantly lying to this tender-hearted child. The reality was that I had no earthly idea what frogs do during the winter – or if they were even still alive.
I was throwing together a casserole for dinner the other night and half listening to the national news when a segment caught my attention. It was towards the end of the broadcast, near the “feel-good” portion of the news – the part that is supposed to leave you feeling more optimistic about the state of the world. A regional anchor was describing a revolutionary new program designed to bolster the mental health and self-esteem of our nation’s youth. The groundbreaking new idea? Take youth outside and let them experience nature.
When I originally wrote this article, being confined to my home for months on end would have seemed like the plot line of one of the dystopian young adult novels I used to teach. Little did I dream that over 18 months of staying home 24/7 would become a reality. Had it not been for my glorious outdoor living space, I probably would have suffered from some serious bouts of cabin fever.
Although things are loosening now and the outside world is once again becoming accessible, my outside living space is still my go-to place for rest, relaxation and renewal. It's my peaceful spot for alone time and my cheerful spot for gathering with family and friends. It helps make my house a home. After what we've all been through the past few years, perhaps it's time that you pamper yourself and add your own perfect patio.
The 1 Trillion Tree Project was in the news again last week. Although I personally believe that solving climate change issues is more complex than just planting trees, reading the article made me think about the importance of replacing the trees that we have lost over the past few years. Replanting our missing trees and adding some new ones is the right thing to do -- not just for us but also for our immediate neighborhood, for our community at large and for the entire planet.
After the usual summer hosting a solitary visitor, my hummingbird feeders are suddenly overrun with feisty birds fighting for nectar. Last night there were at least ten battling for control; they spent so much time chasing each other away, I’m not sure any of them got a good meal.
As much as I loved being in the middle of the bird chaos, it also made me just a touch sad. All these birds descending on my yard at once could only mean one thing -- preparation for fall migration was starting. Much too soon, all these beautiful birds will be heading south for the winter.
My four-year-old granddaughter sat for a good half hour the other morning completely mesmerized by a caterpillar climbing up a branch. She squealed in delight each time it inched its way up the branch, forming an arch, then straightening out. She declared that green was her favorite color and asked if she could keep it “forever.”
I have to admit it -- I wasn’t quite so entranced with the giant tomato hornworm crawling up my heirloom tomato plant, but her fascination and pure joy did strike a chord with me. We all need to be a bit more appreciative of the insect populations that surround us, not just the monarch butterflies and golden honeybees, but all insects -- even the tomato hornworms in our lives. The stark reality is without insects, the planet will cease to exist as we know it.
Living in the heart of our city, I had wondered what the reaction was going to be when we killed the grass and replaced it with a prairie. Many of the homes in this older, established neighborhood (including hers) sport traditional landscapes with perfectly balanced foundation plantings, precisely edged sidewalks and lush, well-manicured lawns.
I am sure that you have heard by now -- “the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has found that adding the monarch butterfly to the list of threatened and endangered species is warranted but precluded by work on higher-priority listing actions. With this decision, the monarch becomes a candidate for listing under the Endangered Species Act…(U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Press Release, Dec. 2020)” Essentially that means that as the number 8 candidate on the list, data on the monarch butterfly will be periodically reviewed until it either reaches the top of the list, recovers or becomes extinct. With the numbers of both Eastern and Western Monarchs dramatically plummeting across the entire North American continent, many question the ruling.