Yesterday evening, when I got home from work, camera and I decided to do a tour of the neighborhood gardens. Evening sun will still shining brightly on the east side of W. 14th Street and the temperature was in the upper seventies.
A gorgeous evening. And just the time to revel in summer’s fullness.
Never mind my little garden. My soil is poor and much gets eaten, as my property abuts an overgrown strip of land that is my only protection from the freeway.
On the strip of land, live possum, raccoons, feral cats, and…well, a family of groundhogs. But you already know about them.
Now these other gardens – they are gardens.
So down the street we walked, camera and I, trying to be leisurely yet not wanting to lose the evening light.
We headed to our old favorite, the wonderfully overgrown garden where we (actually camera’s predecessors and I) started the wondrous adventure of receiving images.
It was impossible to encompass it all in a single frame but the garden was truly bursting with life. And yes, that large green plant on the left is common milkweed, of which they had a good crop.
Although a row of houses on the east side of the street sported lovely blooms around their doors and walkways, they were now deep in shadow. Some morning, we told ourselves, we must return.
Continuing back down the couple of blocks we had wandered, we made a new discovery. How had we not seen it before? What an exceptional patch of common milkweed by that house! Obviously intentionally grown. Obviously, a household not blessed with a groundhog family all its own. 🙂
We continued our walk. Too many images to receive as the sun was sliding down the sky behind the treeline. Surely we must receive at least a few!
And blessed we were with images of God’s handiwork…
We crossed back to our side of the street, easily jaywalking the otherwise busy street on this lazy evening. Pausing before a large shrub in full bloom, we were blessed yet again.
Lastly, stopping by the community garden – which seems to have lost much of its community – camera and I smiled at the site of more common milkweed (not shown). And daisies. And purple cone flowers.
After making one last pass through the backyard to bid the plants and creatures good night, camera and I came home to rest inside my little dwelling.
But instead of the usual exhilaration we feel after such jaunts, a pall of sadness – or was it fright? – hung over us.
We knew what we had seen. Or more accurately, what we had not seen.
The gardens had been empty. Totally empty.
Only at the community garden had we seen two or three bumblebees. And one of those was picking feebly at the yellow picket fence surrounding garden.
(I asked the little bumble if it was all right, as it didn’t appear well. Receiving no response, I asked again and gently stroked its side. Weakly, it took to flight, heading nowhere in particular.)
No other bees. Not a single butterfly. Not one.
I am frightened – this wasn’t just an anomaly this particular evening. I have been watching other gardens this summer, fully abloom, and I see nothing. Maybe one butterfly, if I wait and watch carefully.
Something is wrong. Terribly wrong.
I don’t know how to live in a world without butterflies.
And I’m not sure any of us can live in a world without bees. Shall we rely tiny artificial drones to pollinate our crops? (This is not something I made up. I wish I had. Read here.)
I don’t know what to do.
“If you plant it, they will come,” my mind had thought, revising the field of dreams refrain. But they don’t – they don’t come.
And so I pray. I plant and I pray some more.
Bless the earth, O Creator God, and change our hearts. Teach us how to stop the path of destruction we are on. Renew and regenerate what You have created. Bless the butterflies and the bees…may they surround us once again on sunny summer days, reminding us of the perfection of Your Word through Whom You fashion all things. Remain with us and cultivate in us Your Spirit of humility that we might learn to honor all of creation.