Today, We Paint

By | June 22, 2013

Aviary Photo_130161440380232377There is a yellow butterfly that visits our front yard every day; at noon or so.

It’s been more than a week since it started visiting. It’s big enough to make itself noticeable as I sit at the dining table and write. A yellow butterfly*, a rare sight these days.

On Saturday the boys saw it too. It seemed to favor the yellow heads of the Tragopogons among others, hence we postponed mowing the lawn. By now our front yard has a mix of veggies in a small bed, and a whole bunch of wildflowers growing every which way, making friends with the wind, ladybugs and the yellow butterfly.

Whether it is the same butterfly or a different one every day makes no difference. I’d prefer the quirkiness of our garden being visited by the same yellow butterfly every day, but I’d be pleased to know there’s a small army of them stumbling upon our wildflowers collection, because they are a worryingly rare sight these days.

It is one of the well-suited fellowships in nature, bugs and flowers. They need each other and we need them both. With the awareness that, by playing God with many plants and with the chemicals we use to grow some and get rid of others, we’re starting to tilt the balance towards eradication of necessary insects that have for ages worked to ensure our well-being and that continuous sense of wonder we cannot afford to lose.

Today after school we leaf through a book with art by various artists in the Pacific Northwest. It was put together a while ago with the purpose of showing the amazing our province barely or untouched beauty we could lose, should the Enbridge Northern Gateway Pipeline project go through.

The project has since been rejected by the government of BC, let’s hope not just postponed, so our perusal is done with a light heart and allowing to simply enjoy the art and the source of inspiration behind it.

It is only logical that our perusal urges us to bring the painting supplies out. We paint and talk. Colors abound on paper and in our discussions. I choose to pant butterflies. Yellow.

Why so happy to see that butterfly the boys ask smiling. Because there’s fewer and fewer left. Genetically-modified crops that contain toxins that are supposed to kill pests also kill butterflies, directly by having them eat the toxin and indirectly by killing milkweed, one of their preferred plants. Perhaps we should plant some of their favorite treats from now on. They are a treat to us, no? Visual, of course.

Bees, ladybugs and some other helpful insects are also dwindling in numbers due to pesticide use and toxin-containing genetically modified crops. It’s a sad state of affairs for both humans and the environment. Science is a delightful place to be, but it has to be bridged to the understanding that when we decipher its secrets we owe it to ourselves and those around us to make it purposeful.

We talk about this often. The goodness we can bring to the world with the knowledge we have, but how conflicting interests and upside value systems make that harder to achieve.

A few weeks ago I attended a remarkable woman by an equally remarkable speaker: Diana Beresford-Kroeger. She is a botanist and a medical biochemist.

The talk was inspiring. She talked about disappearing trees and how plants hold the power to heal us. She talked about having dialogues with people of influence who can provide financial support for dreams that have to become reality in order to save our planet.

But most of all, she made the air in the room – and it was a big room – buzz with the urgency of one particular goal: To stay connected.

Connected to the world that we have and have to hold onto, connected to our roots, wherever they may be – because they are somewhere, forgotten or ignored as they may be, connected to trees that make our next breath possible and pleasurable; connecting to ourselves and to what is to become of us. Connected to the insects that keep plants alive, and us fed by pollinating them.

We have become, too often and too many of us, separated from the essence of what it means to be alive. Trying to find an answer that almost annoying age-old question “Why are we here?” and redefining the purpose becomes almost tangible when we allow ourselves to be swept into the wonder world our children see and try to make us see.

We painted till late that day, had a late dinner dominated by a bowl-full of greens from the garden and lots of fresh carrots the boys cannot have enough of. Our paintings have lakes and butterflies and wild berries in them. Trees and bushes too, and memories of that day. No particular day really, but as utterly precious as the next one.

Whether we think of it this way or not, our actions today paint our children’s world. It’s only fair that tomorrow should have as many butterflies and trees and beauty as today does, wouldn’t you say? As many colors as possible just about does it…

*It was pointed out to me that the yellow visitor is not a Monarch butterfly but a yellow swallowtail (Papilio glaucus). Equally fascinating…

(Originally published as a column in the Kamloops Daily News on Saturday, June 22, 2013 under the same title.)

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