Last year at this time in April I took a typical walk across my backyard to the compost bin, carrying my camera, of course. The forget-me-nots were a happening place afternoon, in their fullest bloom, flower stems waving with the weight of various bees and other insects. And butterflies were out in force.
The forget-me-nots begin their first tentative blooms at the beginning of April, and continue through most of May. I permit—no, I encourage—the forget-me-nots, a native wildlflower, to naturalize all over my backyard, across the grass and into the flower beds, and each spring eagerly await their abundance. Every year I look for the first few rosettes of soft green leaves and check daily for the first flowers, then watch the green of my grass turn to a field of blue stars and carefully walk among them, watch the sun play across them as if on a cloud and reflect from the dewdrops in the morning or spring raindrops in the afternoon, humming with hungry insects, renewal, from one packet of seeds I tossed out there in the autumn of 1990, right after I moved in. Below is what just a portion of my back yard looks like at the height of their display.
I pull a few from my vegetable garden and put them in pots to bloom in windowboxes and planters all around my house so that I can enjoy them everywhere I look. At left is a familiar photo of Sophie from 2005 with the forget-me-nots in the windowbox beneath my dining room window.
I don’t cut my grass until they are done blooming but let them finish their cycle, welcoming the bees to come and pollinate the flowers, offering migrating butterflies a meal of nectar, and the returning and nesting birds a hunting ground to feed themselves and their young. My back yard feels like a woodland meadow to look at from all angles and enjoy, a quiet and contemplative place to sit within, to listen to the insects and feel the life surging forth at the beginning of spring. It’s a place of renewal for me.
Generations of cats have accompanied me through the forget-me-nots. Cookie, especially, loved to wander aimlessly among them.
Finding the Red Admiral among the forget-me-nots last April on a typical walk to the compost bin was significant to me. Considering the scope of the flowers’ display, finding one rather small butterfly among them would truly be a task if I chose to go looking intentionally. But a a black and orange and cream butterfly be fluttering among the forget-me-nots, skipping just a few flowers ahead of me, happily flitting from one place to another? Cookie loved the forget-me-nots. It’s where I remember her best in all the years in this house, and just what she would have been doing in her own way if we’d been out there together. And when I decided to stop and take several photos of the butterfly it obligingly stopped and posed conveniently on one flower, holding still even while I walked around it to capture as many images as I could.
Butterflies also indicate a visit from the spirit world. A butterfly in Cookie’s colors fluttering about in the forget-me-nots, when I just happened to be about a typical everyday task is not a coincidence. I was glad to welcome her back to our refuge.
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As a matter of healing
Life gives us, literally and figuratively, both light and darkness each day, each season, each era of our lives, from our own losses and joy to those of our family, friends, community and the world around us. Having this refuge for myself has been integral for me to weather these storms, of course a place to grieve the losses of my feline family and losses of friends and family, a place to wave my arms and spread my joy at good news or just a happy moment, as well as a place to let my sadness drop away to the soil, there to be worked into the fabric of life as only nature can do, to slowly break it down, use the best of what it has to offer, then discard the rest.
This has been a difficult week in particular, in what seems to be an increasing number of difficult years. It’s hard not to fall into despair at seeing innocent people killed and mutilated by an act of intentional violence and even grievous accidents, and harder, as we feel helpless at not being able to act, not to follow every fact and every image of the events, trying to resolve our own feelings, help resolve the sorrow and pain of the immediate victims, and still feel safe in our own homes and our own hearts. We are changed by each event in the world as the ripples of impact reach us from near or far, just as we are changed by personal events, but this is when I look at the broader example of nature and the earth itself, existent much longer than we individuals or even the human race, for the slow and careful process of healing. Even though the light may be dimmed, signs of life always appear even in the places of greatest devastation, and the earth folds herself around what is left and makes something fruitful and productive.
I don’t follow any individual religious belief but find wisdom in all I’ve read and learned. As a young girl in Catholic school trying to make my way through the King James version of the Holy Bible, one verse was remarkably clear to me then as it is today: One generation passeth away, and another generation cometh: but the earth abideth for ever. (Ecclesiastes 1:4)
I have taken hundreds of photos of my forget-me-nots through the years to find one that is, for me, the essence of that space that heals me. The photo of the forget-me-nots below is the closest I have managed to come to that feeling of life and peace I feel at being within them. I allowed the play of light and shadow intentionally, and if you look closely you’ll even see a small sulphur butterfly on the left and a honeybee on the right, but you’ll have to supply the humming and buzzing, the chickadees and goldfinches, blue jays and cardinals and sparrows who are singing, the smell of the earth and the soft spring breeze—and please, spend some time in your imaginings. You can download this image and use it as a wallpaper on your electronic device or keep it to look at whenever you need to. Click on the image to bring up the full 2000px version, then right-click and download as you please.
Browse some rescued cats and kittens!
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