“the world hangs on a thin thread, and that thread is the psyche…”
|Ice Magic 1|
Psyche in the Wake of a Terrible Winter
Most of America has suffered a brutal winter with extreme cold and fierce storms. Patty Cabanas, my publisher, took photos of her frozen world in Oklahoma. In California we’ve had unseasonably warm weather and almost no rain. We are in a serious drought. We feel shaken and uneasy, like Psyche emerging from the underworld, though the fruit trees are blooming and it is warmer than spring. Our climate is changing so rapidly, so dramatically. But on my walk the other day I saw a Monarch butterfly. This raised my spirits.
|Monarch in Flight|
Monarch larvae feed on milkweed. Thanks to powerful herbicides and genetic modification they no longer have enough milkweed to feed on, according to Slate.com. And the California drought doesn’t help either.
What does that say about the thin thread we all hang on? When Jung wrote that phrase he was thinking about the danger we faced in the mid 20th century due to nuclear weapons. Now we’re facing another catastrophe—climate change and the extinction of species. It’s exhausting to look into the dread face of annihilation several times in one lifetime. And yet, as the life cycle of the butterfly demonstrates, transformation happens. I felt my capacity to hope fly free with beating wings when I saw that Monarch and when I learned about a project to help butterflies.
City of Butterflies
According to multimedia artist Ann Hadlock, Los Angeles is a City of Butterflies. She has worked hard to make this happen through her art and her devotion. Hadlock is raising consciousness about the plight of butterflies, and urging anyone with a patch of garden or an outdoor pot to plant milkweed and other native plants that attract butterflies. She has created pieces focused on California butterflies which will also take form as a documentary entitled Los Angeles: City Of Butterflies. City of Butterflies sounds like an oxymoron. But Hadlock has become an advocate who seems determined to make this happen. Look at her web site cityofbutterflies.tumblr.com and you’ll see her offer to meet you in Silver Lake and bring you a milkweed plant. She posts a list of other endangered butterflies and the covers of books about sustaining wildlife by growing native plants.
She quotes an article in Conservation Biology which argues that,
homeowners are a hugely influential group, locally and nationally, for conservation of plants and animals in this country. This should be empowering and validating for those interested in native plant gardening and wildlife gardening for conservation values…
Collectively, homes across the landscape create an ecosystem. Though it is a highly managed ecosystem, it has the tremendous potential for conservation of our regionally-unique flora and fauna.
Celebrate Spring with a Butterfly Garden
My butterfly wings are all aflutter with this revolutionary idea. It’s the kind of thinking outside our usual boxes that we all need to cultivate. I’m one of those who can get overwhelmed, paralyzed with grief and fear, about our environmental crisis. The thought that there is some small thing we can do that will make a difference to butterflies makes a difference to us humans as well. If we take a break from our distracted driving, e-mail, facebook and twitter, if we go outdoors and plant some buckwheat, or ceonothus, or milkweed, we literally touch the ground of our lives, the earth on which we depend and reconnect with the spirit of the place we inhabit. We nourish our own souls, our own psyches, as well as the larvae of butterflies. As I wrote these words a hummingbird appeared outside my window, the first I have seen this season.
Hadlock says she plans to visit Northern California in late May. If any of you are or know butterfly enthusiasts, or have photos of butterflies, she’d love to meet with you. You can contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Spring is the perfect time to plant natives that attract pollinators like bees and butterflies. Dan and I went to our local nursery. We were told that it was too early for milkweed. We should plant that later in the season. But we bought some red buckwheat and dark star ceonothus which are host plants for several kinds of butterflies. Planting them was so good for my butterfly soul.
May we all have butterflies in our gardens as well as in our psyches. As I worked on this blog posting I suddenly remembered a mysterious dream which became a mysterious poem. I think I understand a little better what Psyche was trying to tell me—butterflies are the stuff of life, as essential as words and cloth.
A woman you have never met though maybe in a dream
is weaving butterflies into sari cloth soft piles
of black and yellow monarch wings she’ll wind
around your waist drape over your left shoulder
And wasn’t there a time when words were stuff to you
the soft stuff of summer dresses
of floating curtains at an open window
the hard stuff of bone and stone tablet
of jagged line
the scat of vowels
across white space
Such pleasure in the measure of the dance
So why now this late life blast
your one small body barely holding the charge
given your bird bones
your fly–away hair
the necessity of earth holding tight to your feet
Why this long–line longing the unknown weaver’s head bent
over six yards of butterflies this demand
from the land of the ancestors earth’s magnetism
(Published in The Faust Woman Poems)