The Monarch butterfly caterpillar population is something to behold this year, at least in places where a healthy population of milkweed is found. In our yard this summer the various milkweed species have supported literally dozens of caterpillars and this morning as I looked over a couple swamp milkweed plants by our driveway I counted 15 caterpillars without really searching. The story is the same in friends' yards, in meadows and along roadsides where the road crews have spared the common milkweed plants. In fact, I am noticing common milkweed growing in places I have not seen it before and I am wondering whether its presence is due to people becoming more aware of its value. I hope so. It would bode well for the struggling Monarch population whose familiar breeding habitats are relentlessly being razed and paved.
In writing to a friend I was recently reminded of my favorite line from J. R.R Tolkien's Return of the King. It was said of Aragorn, "The hands of the king are the hands of a healer." The words inspire the same longing, the same sence of calling as they have for many years. I am not a healer of bodies as Aragorn was. I seem to be called to the healing of the earth. Whereas Aragorn conveyed healing directly from his own being, my hands can only provide ingredients and give opportunity for the land to carry out its own restoration. That the land is able to heal, in spite of all of the harm we sometimes cause it, is testimony to God's directive that the earth sustain the life of those who live upon it. That we can participate in its healing is testimony to God's intent that the land and the people He placed here would live cooperatively, in mutual interdependence. We are continually invited into that participation.
A particularly gratifying result of growing ornamental milkweed species or letting the common milkweed grow wild is how quickly it makes a positive difference in the life of those who depend upon it, how quickly it provides healing for a population in decline. We humans can be an impatient lot. Seeing measurable success encourages us to keep caring and to keep behaving as though we do. Caring inspires us to act boldly and to go out of our way to provide for the needs of those besides ourselves. Caring is a prerequisite for becoming a healer.