Saturday, July 30, 2011

Caterpillar Summer - the Sequel

We all wondered just what would happen, every last one of us. Standing there on the forest trail, the ten kiddos, some with their moms, watched intently as I gently removed him from the jar and placed him on a nearby leaf. Would he remain there, unsure of what to do now that he was free? Perhaps he was exhausted from the week in captivity and was unable to fly. Or maybe he was just taking his time and getting his bearings. It must have been the latter, as he only rested a brief moment before he lifted off and quietly fluttered up, up, and off between the trees toward the lake. "Bye, Bye, moth; we wish you well - go find a lady friend!"

So approached the end of the saga of the Single-eyed Sphinx moths, which began at this very camp and around this very time one year ago. Encouraged to find and catch all kinds of creepy-crawlies to observe and learn about, one girl gleaned the beautiful large female of this species, which promptly laid eggs and died. Although it certainly was not planned, I ended up raising the tiny caterpillars that hatched from those eggs a week later, after I'd returned home. It was not a difficult task, but did involve picking a great many willow leaves, cleaning up the aftermath of all that eating, and carrying those quickly-growing horn worms into Sunday School a few times to share with the children. Some of them had been at camp and were curious to see what was happening with the offspring of that huge moth. We really had no idea where it would all lead...

(To read the process of raising these moths,

By October, eight caterpillars had survived long enough to crawl under the forest duff in their terrarium and pupate. Winter came on with its dark, chilly, wet days and I stashed the terrarium, pupae and all, high up in the unheated loft above my husband's workshop. Out of sight, out of mind.

Only they really weren't - out of mind, that is. For it had always been my intention to share the results, whatever they were, with those kids at camp the next year. During the long winter and equally cold, wet spring, every once in a while my mind would wander up into the loft where I wondered what could be transpiring. Had they eaten enough to mature to the point they needed to as caterpillars? We had, after all, left town for two weeks in September, trusting that the willow twigs we'd left them with would be enough to tide them over until we returned. Was there enough soil to protect them from freezing? When should I bring them down and begin to watch for their hoped-for emergence?

Spring this year was cold and wet - unusually so, I think. Finally, near the beginning of June, I fetched the terrarium and set it on the side porch where I could keep an eye on it. I had no idea when they might emerge, if at all... research on the web only offered rough estimations, depending on where one lived. Near the end of June, I removed the lid - we were due to leave for a vacation and I did not want the moths to emerge only to beat themselves to death trying to escape.

Returning home after a few weeks, there was no sign that anything had changed. We replaced the lid and hoped for the best, knowing full well that any moths that may have developed were long gone. Family Camp was only two weeks away!

One morning the next week, we discovered two newly-emerged moths clinging to the screen lid. Smaller than their mother, their up-turned tails showed that they were males and the beautiful blue eye spots left no doubt as to their species. Digging through the soil I discovered four empty shells, proving that two others must have come out and flown off while the lid was off. I could only find three more - one was dead and two seemed to still be alive.

The moths went to camp. Exhilarated with the release of the first one, I repeated the procedure with the second one with a larger group of older kids. We all oohed and aahed as he fluttered off into the woods and I turned to lead the troops down to the lake, so I did not witness the final ending to this story. As the moth fluttered away, a Robin swooped down and snapped him up in mid-air! Tasty morsel that it was, I'm sure that Robin had no idea of the treasure she stole... but then again, she also needs to survive.

I only play in this game called Life - I don't make the rules.

Who provides for the raven its prey,
      when its young ones cry to God,
      and wander about for lack of food?
Is it by your wisdom that the hawk soars,
      and spreads its wings toward the south?
Is it at your command that the eagle mounts up
      and makes its nest on high? 
                        Job 38:41 & 39:26-27

Look at the birds of the air,
they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns,
and yet your heavenly Father feeds them.
Are you not of more value than they? 
                Matthew 6: 26

As of this writing, one more male moth has emerged and has been released at night to give him some chance of survival. Guess the saga hasn't ended yet... stay tuned.

Saturday, July 16, 2011


Through many dangers, toils and snares
I have already come;
'Tis Grace that brought me safe thus far
and Grace will lead me home.
John Newton 1725-1807

Walking through tall grass, I felt drawn to them - compelled to get closer, study their intricate detail, admire their beauty and fragrance. They came in all colors, shapes, and sizes; I raised my eyes to take in the larger scene and they stretched as far as I could see.

Purple vetch - obviously an escapee from cultivation - painted many of the hillsides a pale blue.

Lupine, lavender asters, bright yellow blanket flowers, others I couldn't name filled in spaces between.

The beautifully translucent, porcelain-like prickly pear blooms reminded me of our time in Texas and my experience of making prickly pear jelly from scratch. So many memories associated with wildflowers raced through my mind.

I was overcome by the beauty of the setting - of huge sky, rugged hills striated and carved through eons of erosion.

The mighty Snake River lay far below, winding and rushing through it all. In between exposed rock, unseasonably heavy precipitation had turned much of this harsh landscape green. Wildly euphoric and totally at ease, I felt comfortable right where I was.

I wondered why I did. Seventy miles upriver from where we boarded the boat and miles from any road, we were pretty far removed from civilization. No Television, cell phone signal, or hot water. Still, I loved the place; even more, I loved that we traveled to get there. So many of us travel these days and seem to enjoy it, it set me to thinking - WHY?

Part of the answer, I believe, is that human beings have always traveled. Since the dawn of creation, some have needed to - for hunting and gathering food; finding materials for clothing, tools, housing, and utensils; escaping disaster or other dangers; finding mates outside of their immediate clan.

Although early travelers needed to be acutely aware of their surroundings and probably appreciated the positives and negatives of those, some undoubtedly simply reveled in the experience. Of those, we know for certain through history, some chose to continue their travels simply to find what was 'out there" beyond the realm of what they were familiar with.

For some of us, that continues today. Still, in the distant past and now, most of us are glad to have a place to call "home".

But I also think that not everyone in the past needed to travel. Those fortunate enough to find themselves in a location with a moderate climate, abundant food and materials, and other groups of people living not too far away obviously had no need to travel. Many of those people were content to remain where they were, sometimes for centuries, unless (or until)  war, the climate, natural disasters, or their numbers changed drastically forcing them to move in order to survive.

Content though they might have been with where they'd always lived, travel they would if need be. My family, and very probably yours, ended up where they now are because someone in the past was willing to pack up and GO - probably more than once.

I could not stay among the wildflowers in Hell's Canyon, beautiful as it was. We packed up and headed back down the Snake, over several mountain passes, through sun, dust, rain, hills, plains, and mountains, 39 to 98 degree days, four states, and nearly 2,500 miles. We packed well, carried our lunch, and tried to be prepared. The scenery was terrific, the company good, and we had a great time. 

Still, it's good to be home!

the LORD will watch over your coming and going
both now and forevermore.
Psalm 121: 8

For more information on Hell's Canyon:

**THANKS Captain Dan, Bill, Mary & Jimbo
for making this an
UNFORGETABLE experience!!**

Monday, July 4, 2011


Beyond a wholesome discipline,
be gentle with yourself.
You are a child of the universe,
no less than the trees and the stars;
you have a right to be here.
And whether or not it is clear to you,
no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.
from Desiderata by Max Ehrmann, 1927

I feel a peace in the woods that I can feel nowhere else. Here, surrounded by green in all its glorious shades and hues, I truly feel God's presence. I am a part of this earth, as He intended me to be; my senses are sharpened and alive, freed from the various distractions that life is full of. My eyes feast on this beauty and never tire of it.

I am surrounded by trees, their trunks in various sizes and shapes climbing every skyward in search of precious light. Their foliage forms a canopy above me, filters and scatters the light to the growth below.

Thickly covered with mosses and looking like wizened old sages, the Big Leaf maples stand at intervals. The huge trees divide and branch early in their lives and continue to do so, as many sturdy straight branches grow upward.

Their leaves have a distinct lacy appearance and stand out bright green against the darker, muted shades of the cedars.

I am awed by the size of some of them, but they feel like comfortable old friends. I wonder at the variety of creatures which surely find homes among the nooks and crannies of their gnarled, rough bark.

The cedars are different, with a single straight, linear-barked trunk - their branches growing straight out around the trunk or curving gracefully down.

Distinct among the evergreens, their needles appear fern-like, lush, and compact. The huge ones dwarf everything around them, standing aloof and regal.

Smaller around, but standing out in their own way, are the gray, smooth-barked, straight trunks of the Red Alders.  

In my mind's eye, I trace their trunks with a brush and oil paints, gently forming them with slightly rounded back and forth strokes - streaks of Burnt Umber contrasting with the lightened Payne's Grey.
High above, their smaller leaves form a wonderful, spattered pattern against the sky and other foliage.

At ground level the sword ferns - growing in neat clumps as if lovingly placed by a gardener - grow in upright, orderly fashion.

Their meticulously precise fronds are large, easily waist to shoulder high to me.

Below them the matted, tangled growth of the forest floor grows lush - richly nourished with centuries of decay from the leaves and branches of all that have gone before.

And I, feeling very small and insignificant, stand among this grandeur. I, too, am nourished by all those who have gone before; by their struggles, efforts, and faith. I stand tall - for I am a child of the universe, meticulously formed. I breathe deeply, marvel at this burgeoning life, and know that none of it is random. 

But ask the animals, and they will teach you;
     the birds of the air, and they will tell you;
ask the plants of the earth, and they will teach you;
     and the fish of the sea will declare to you.
Who among all these does not know
     that the hand of the LORD has done this?
In his hand is the life of every living thing
     and the breath of every human being.
                           Job 12: 7-10