Anyone who has lived with animals can tell you there is nothing, short of gazing into the eyes of a fellow of your own species, that gives the feeling of soft heartedness and repose that looking into the eyes of a cat or dog or horse friend does; that this is good for your heart, a kind of blood pressure lowering meditation, is confirmed by bio-medical research.
Caring for plants is a similar, if quieter experience--trying to get rock rose or lavender to chase after a ball and bring it back is a futile task, after all--but, especially in the mornings and evenings when the light is soft, and at watering time, checking my plants I sometimes feel like one of those chimps grooming his mate, or like Gigi the striped part-Bengal cleaning Hydar the grey cat's tufted ears.
Last year my friend Ken gifted me an array of bushes and trees and herbs and vines, including a tiny creeper that ended up, without expectations, in the worst part of the yard, behind the garbage cans, a hot spot with bad soil.
Come the winter, when said vine begins to flourish, just, suddenly the leaves turn holy. "Darned grasshoppers," someone was overheard saying. But closer examination determined not green pests, but hordes of orange and black caterpillars munching away like workers in a miniature silk factory.
I knew, from their color, they could not be moths, so it seemed like a fair compromise when a few days later out the window during morning tea, a dozen orange and black fritillary butterflies were seen soaring about the garden in the morning sun.
Six months later, this vine, which, it turns out is an "ornamental passion flower" has yielded but one enormous passion flower, but an endless supply of leaves and these little winged beauties. It is such a lift to stand outside in the morning calm when the sun first warms the yard, gazing at these happy little creatures chasing each other from jasmine to bamboo to morning glory to grape. A very butterfly-good way to begin the day.
copyright August 2011 eyton j. shalom, san diego, ca all rights reserved, use with permission
Ayurveda, Acupuncture, and Chinese Medicine in San Diego