Breaking Open?

The other day, my granddaughter excitedly pointed out a flitting butterfly. In her fourth year, she has many, many years ahead of her and hopefully many, many butterflies. I look forward to showing her the butterflies that flock to the fragrant blossoms of the native Mock Orange (Philadelphus lewisii) by the nursery. I want hers to be a butterfly-rich world.

Butterflies demonstrate transformed Life. As a result of the waiting process and the breaking open of the chrysalis, something new and beautiful emerges. The butterfly is a symbol of Easter. Easter, coming up on Sunday, commemorates the breaking of Christ’s body and then the breaking open of the tomb—the triumph of Life over Death.

Mock Orange (Philadelphus lewisii)

Mock Orange (Philadelphus lewisii) with Swallowtail

It’s easy to look around in our world and see Brokenness everywhere. Earlier this week, I heard two authors speak. Climate change activist Bill McKibben spoke about his book, Falter. Like an Old Testament prophet, he seeks to jolt us into action on climate change despite mourning our losses. David Brooks, the New York Times columnist, has also written a new book, The Second Mountain. In it he says, when hard times come, you are either broken, or you are broken open. Either you become embittered or you become a better person, focused less on yourself and more on serving others.

Can the Brokenness in our world break us open so that we value butterflies and small children enough to creatively and lovingly protect each other and our precious planet? A butterfly is a symbol of hope, New Life. What effects can gentle wing beats have on the universe?

I don’t know what far-reaching effect a small act like planting a native shrub for the sake of the butterflies (and my grandchildren) will have, but it makes me a better human.

And now the shameless commercial for a natural product I believe in: Support our butterflies (and maybe support a local nursery) by providing food in the form of their favorite native plants. Fragrant native Mock Orange flowers provide nectar; they grow on a large deciduous shrub—10-12 feet tall–and nearly that wide! They bloom in early to mid-summer. Drought-tolerant Mock Orange loves the sun and thrives in the most exposed locations, with very well-drained sandy soils. Our summers are very dry (and getting drier!), despite western Washington’s reputation for rain. Most of our natives, unless they are strictly wetland plants, are drought-tolerant to a certain extent, but Mock Orange is a standout in the drought-tolerant category. But it will also do fine with some moisture in the soil or in partial shade. Its fantastic-smelling white flowers are enjoyed by Swallowtails and other butterflies. Birds eat the seeds.  It grows quickly; its vigorous root system will help stabilize soil on a slope.

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