I’m taking a day off today. We were planning to camp, but camping when both of us work full-time is a giant pain. It’s more stressful than it is fun, what with all the prep work and cleanup on each end of the trip, and having to leave immediately from work to drive and set up camp, and go straight back to work as soon as we return, while also needing to clean and air all the gear, deal with mountains of laundry, and somehow figure out when to shop for groceries. Plus the weather was supposed to be crummy, and it’s the last weekend before school starts.
So we decided to have a relaxing weekend at home instead, buying school supplies, puttering in the garden, and taking our new sailboat out. I slept until 7am this morning (an extra hour and a half!), unloaded and reloaded the dishwasher, blended a smoothie, slipped my bare feet into green rubber boots, and was in the garden by 7:20.
A cottontail bunny fled as my boots swish-swished through the dewy grass. Out back, our wildflower garden doesn’t look wild in an attractive way, in the stuffed full meadow way, where every patch of available earth bursts with shoots that clamber for the sky, competing for sunlight, waving grasses, flowers, and seed heads in an ocean of golden green.
Our wildflower garden is more of a tangled mess. Calendula, which appears to be the dominant competitor in the wildflower seed mix we sowed mid-April, grows tall and then flops over under its own weight, smothering other plants in a snarl of green snaky stems and yellow flowers. Dense clumps of Calendula, Salvia, and dill clamber for air right next to bare swaths of mulch. Next year, we will plant in rows, with intention, and I’ll use different seeds. The zinnias out front are everyone’s favorite this year, with their happy colors and ruffled petals. I’m sitting under the dogwood tree right now watching butterflies and bumblebees guzzle zinnia nectar, and hummingbirds like to drain them, too.
On my way to the chair I’m writing from, with my pen and pad and tea, thinking about the million at-home things I need to do today, I saw a monarch butterfly flutter up and down, round and round, around the milkweed. It fluttered, landed, fluttered, landed, then finally rested its spindle legs on the top of a milkweed leaf, pinned its wings back, and arched its abdomen to touch the tip of its hind body to the bottom of the leaf. Then, it wobbled away. When I inspected the bottom of the leaf, there it was: a monarch egg.
The milkweed staked its claim to the best real estate in the garden: in the foreground of the stairs that lead up to the front door. This was probably a mistake, to plant it in the most prominent place in the garden, the focal point of the face of our home. It’s not an attractive plant. It gets devoured by aphids (our milkweeds currently drip with their flea-sized orange bodies), it only flowers for a week or two each year, and it starts yellowing and getting leggy by mid August.
But, the butterflies! Butterflies adore the milkweed. The monarch is back as I write, gently opening and closing its clementine colored wings as it drinks deeply from one of the few remaining flowers. The little butter yellow butterflies frequent those flowers, too, as do swallowtails: black, yellow, tiger. And of course, the caterpillars. The kids and I inspect the plants for caterpillars every time we walk up or down the driveway, any time we walk up or down the front steps.
And I watch the milkweed from the lounge chair in the front window, where I write in the morning, work on my laptop in the afternoon, and drink cocktails and listen to records in the evening.
The milkweed itself is not pretty, but it attracts pretty creatures. So for now, it stays.