A Lesson in Hope

If I had a blog, today I would write about the lesson of the monarchs.

September 26 - Visiting Royalty

September 26 – Visiting Royalty

It isn’t easy being a tree-hugging dirt worshipper these days. Every new report seems to carry another prediction of gloom and doom for the natural world. Songbirds, sea turtles, polar bears, and countless other species teeter on the brink of extinction every day. Even here, in the quiet valleys of the Ozarks, we’ve noticed disturbing changes: Each fall there are fewer spiders spinning webs on fence rows to catch the morning dew; fewer flocks of geese soar overhead on grey November afternoons, and fewer monarch butterflies visit our wildflower garden on their long journey south.

This year, the monarchs have been unusually scarce. From the earliest days of spring, sightings of these magnificent lepidoptera have been few and far between. Throughout the summer we diligently searched the leaves of the milkweed plants for caterpillars, but our search was in vain. We should have seen three generations of monarchs come and go over the course of the summer, if they followed their normal pattern, but this year, their numbers were too few to tell. This global change, it seems, is real and hits much too close to home.

This year, my joy at the arrival of autumn is tempered with melancholy. Fields of asters, goldenrod, and thistles that should be teeming with butterflies are almost vacant, their usual inhabitants gone, as if they have vanished into thin air. I want to believe that, given a chance, species at risk can adapt and overcome the ignorance of humanity, but some days I can’t access that kind of hope. Sometimes I despair that the food plots, bird houses, and wildflower gardens we tend year-round are doing any good at all, but then there are days like today.

This afternoon, walking back to the house after chores, I noticed flashes of copper dancing among the asters. As I drew closer, I saw the performers were monarchs – dozens of them! They drank from the chalice of the flowers, renewing their strength for the long flight south. I stood in the pale sunlight for a long time, letting the butterflies swirl around me. In their dance I felt courage, determination, and hope – hope for the future and hope for ourselves. After all, if the monarchs believe in the future of our planet, then I can do no less.


If I had a blog, today I would write about my reflections on the Purple Thistle.

September 23 - Reflections

September 23 – Reflections

It is fitting that my Photo-of-the-Day should be a thistle because today is my Scottish sister-in-law’s birthday. Sine (pronounced Sheena) is the quintessential Scot: Ginger-haired, strong-willed, and passionate about the creatures and humans she calls family. I was thinking about Sine on my walk this afternoon, when I noticed a Great-Spangled Fritillary dining on the sweet nectar of this Scottish emblem. As I studied the tableau, I saw something quite extraordinary: Although the spots on a fritillary are white, this lovely lady wore flashes of thistle-purple where the color of the flower reflected on her delicate wings. Given the weekend past, I desperately hoped this synchronicity might hold a message for me during a difficult time.

As I face the passing years and see the ones I love grow towards the ends of their lives, I have days when the future seems quite foreboding. This past weekend was particularly hard and on several occasions the tears came and I had no power to hold them in check. I tried to rally my fledgling faith in the goodness of The Universe, in the hope that when I need the strength to face the end of all things, I will find the resources I need to carry on, but this time it eluded me and I ached with sadness. Sine and her family were here to celebrate several of our September birthdays over the weekend, but my emotional pain became physical and I was in bed for two days with a migraine headache. Everyone in the family expressed their concern, and their love for me, but it wasn’t until today that I saw the second layer of meaning in their kindness and support.

Watching the purple glow shine through the wings of a humble butterfly, I realized that is what family can do for us: When we cannot generate the light of hope within ourselves, we can bask in the glow cast by those who are able to carry on. If we can ignore our foolish pride and reach out in times of distress, we will find what we need radiating from the spirits of those who love us best.

Happy Birthday Sine! Thank you for letting me share your light.


Waiting to Be Found

If I had a blog, today I would write about wrens and luna moths.



I am all about interpreting signs from The Universe. I am diligent in my pursuit of knowledge through dreams, signs, synchronicities and the like, but some days I take issue with the cryptic nature of these messages. For example: I have had three Carolina wrens in my house this week. They came in through the pet door, so their entry is no surprise, but trying to figure out what the Wren Sisters are telling me is driving me to distraction.

I’ve done my research on the wren as a totem and have discovered that she is telling me to have self confidence, to revel in nature for spiritual renewal, and to be “who I am.” Thanks Wrenfield, like I didn’t know that already? Could you be a tad more specific? Maybe say, “Here is the key to giving up anger: Do these three things and it will depart forever.” That would be nice! If that’s asking too much, how about a clue in the “who I am” department? Other than being a tired, slightly dotty tree-hugger, I have no idea who I am right now.

Luna Moth

Luna Moth

Then there are the Luna Moths. I have found five in as many weeks. All had passed on when I found them, so I brought them home, to be preserved in a shadowbox in our library. Once again, I jumped at the chance to see what Luna was telling me and once again, the message was unclear. Moths, like butterflies, imply transformation, which I need right now. They also represent faith because the caterpillar must die before it is reborn as a winged beauty. Resurrection fits here too. I just can’t quite tie it to the issues I’m facing in my life. I always need faith and I always need transformation, but how do I achieve these things?

For whatever reason, I am surrounded by messages that I can’t seem to read. I’m close to a breakthrough, but it is hovering just beyond my grasp. I feel like Charlie Brown when he sits down, opens his mouth wide, and screams, “Arrrrgh!”

“Arrrrgh Universe! Arrrgh!”

Waiting to Be Found

Waiting to Be Found

All I can do is follow the advice given to those who traverse the wilderness: If you get lost, stop moving. No one is going to find you if you’re trapsing around in the bush. Hunker down, build a fire, and wait for help to come. The Universe knows where I am. After all, its sending me birds and moths by the bushel. Since I cannot see a clear path, I will be patient and wait for a sign that illuminates the others. I know it will come, I just have to settle in until it does.

Late Summer on The Greenwood

Late Summer on The Greenwood

As another day draws to a close here on The Greenwood, I will follow Wren’s advice and get outside for a while – take a walk or visit with the horses at the barn. I will put my struggles on the back burner for the evening and enjoy the late-summer beauty that surrounds me. Tonight, perhaps a dream will send me the piece of the cosmic puzzle I need or perhaps the mystery will linger into the fall. It is hard not to be impatient, but as I watch the sun arc slowly across the sky and see the monarchs drift ever so gently south, it is clear that Nature has no use for hurry. That there is, in fact, “a time to every purpose under Heaven.” I will be content with that; content to wait until I am found.