Friday, May 25, 2012

Making a Difference

Newly planted butterfly
garden.  By mid summer
it will have filled in a lot,
attracting butterflies and
The other day I met and helped an incredible lady who has a very personal and moving story about using native plants.  We planted a butterfly garden at the hospice facility of a large local medical center, and put some additional butterfly host plants at their cancer center.

I met Candy and a college student neighbor of hers early Saturday morning at the hospice.  By the time I got there at 7:30 am, they were already busy digging up weeds, and unloading a large assortment of plants from Candy's van.

Candy's husband, who is chief of staff at the hospital, showed up a while later in a dress shirt and slacks, with the standard doctor's beeper attached to his belt.  He jumped right in digging and planting.  Periodically he would leave, walking off to the main hospital building, only to come back a little later to continue working.   This soft spoken gentle physician is obviously a total believer and supporter in Candy's mission.

As we worked, I got to know Candy a little and came to understand why she is this area's go to person on butterflies.   I can't possibly tell Candy's story any better than this article that appeared in a local newspaper a little while ago.

Candy's first son, now almost
a teenager, holds a live Cecropia
Moth.  Candy and her son will wait
 until dark to release it since it is a
 nocturnal creature.  This moth
species has no mouth and will live
 for only about a week.  During that
time it will mate and lay eggs to
start the next generation.
(photo taken by Candy)

Through Candy's relentless search for help with her young child's autism, she discovered that butterflies had a huge positive impact on her son.  Through that connection, she researched, experimented, and found that many of our area's native plants not only attracted butterflies, but allowed them to lay their eggs where the young caterpillar's could eat and in turn transform into the next generation of butterflies.  Exotic or hybridized plants don't let that happen. 

Ever since she experienced that life altering success with her son, she has been a tireless and selfless advocate of bringing life back to our gardens.  She doesn't pass up any opportunity to enter a classroom of children dragging cages of live butterflies and caterpillars.  The wonder and joy she sees in these kids' eyes when they get to hold a live butterfly is part of what keeps her going. 

Through Candy's enthusiastic work, I now more fully realize that native plants are not only good and necessary for our planet's health.  They are important for our own health and well being.  We always talk about native plants bringing wildlife back to the yard.  We talk about birds, bees, and the butterflies.  However, really getting to watch butterflies at work in a garden, ahhhhh, that's uplifting.  To see a butterfly lay an egg on a plant; to see the egg hatch into a caterpillar; to see the caterpillar eat the leaves that became food through the sun's energy; to see the caterpillar molt several times before forming a chrysalis; to see the butterfly emerge from that cocoon and bask in the sun, stretching and drying it's wings; to see that butterfly fly off to drink the nectar of a nearby flower, coincidentally pollinating that flower so it too can fulfill it's mission- now that's food for our souls.

Candy introduces her youngest
child to a live Luna Moth

If the time comes when I need help conducting the basic daily requirements of living, I pray I'll get to look out over a butterfly garden that Candy inspired someone to plant.   

Related material:

Candy's pictures of various caterpillars, butterflies, and cocoons
Luna moth emerging from cocoon
Candy's northwest Ohio butterfly shows up in New Orleans
Monarch Watch
Journey North - a great educational site for children and adults alike

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