”Just Flowers”

There are times where a few words can change my world perception and last week this happened. I was working in DC and got stuck, en route home, in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. I booked a hotel to sleep, but it was definitely not the Haven it called itself. After a few hours of shut eye, I escaped to watch the sunrise over coffee en route to the airport. This is when the delays began. First an hour than a few hours, then most of the day. Rather than fret, I took a look at the map and saw a place called “Butterfly World” and found a ride there.

A lover of butterflies since childhood, my youth pen name was Electronic Butterfly, I couldn’t imagine a better way to spend time then in a butterfly & bird sanctuary. It was about an hour trek to get there, but upon arrival, I new I had made the right decision. After checking my suitcase and bag I headed into the cocoon room and then wondered, alongside a group of school children, into the butterfly woods.

Though I’m not a lover of zoos and caging animals and insects, I have to say the experience of being surrounded by fluttering insects was magical and surreal. I wondered, sat, meditated and followed butterflies and birds, for several hours, seeking quiet and solace between the tours and visitors. The care and love of the creatures around could be seen in the space. Beyond well cared for flowers and habitat, there were bananas carefully prepared in nectar spaces, areas to protect cocoons from predators and habitat spaces far away from the length of children’s arms where insects & birds could rest peacefully.

There is something magical about spending time with winged creatures; I found myself lost in the magic of birdwatching, with special love of watching the hummingbirds, tiny insects and butterflies. As I was there I felt great love for everyone that created the experience and was feeling blissful until, while moving through a walkway, I saw a group, 2 women and a man, picking at the plants with disregard. “What’s this?” One woman said, hoping she had found an exotic bird. “It’s just a flower,” said the other woman. The women continued to chat and it was clear that they were there for the birds and butterflies, but could care less about the rest of the habitat that surrounded them.

For over a week now, I have held this story in my heart, because it reflects an American cultural challenge, I know well, of consumption and disregard; Consumption of beauty and resources, with a disregard for process of life. How would a bird or butterfly exist without the nectar that is their food, substance and life force? As a metaphor, this story reflects a part of our culture that needs repair. If we cannot love the flower that feeds the bird and butterfly, then we do not truly love the flower or the bird. Can this be changed?

When we focus only on one piece of the system, we often forget the layers that exist, within ourselves, our community and the nature that surrounds us. On the same day that I was in the bird and butterfly sanctuary, an article went to press in The Guardian. The article’s title “Insects Giant Ecosystem Collapsing Human Activity Catastrophe” and professed that insect livelihood is being threatened and that and example of this is the fact that “the biomass of flying insects in Germany has dropped by three quarters since 1989, threatening an ‘ecological Armageddon’.”

I am often perplexed by the common lack of understanding of nature and nature principles in our food system. In America, our focus has been on technology as a saving grace of re-constructing our food system and extractive platforms designed to pull money between transactions throughout the food supply chain. In all of this, it is not often asked, what do the insects need? Perhaps this is a flaw in the “human-centered design”, commonly used in food companies building brands that relate to people. Perhaps it’s time for a change of perspective.

In a talk by Jon Young, on his project 8 Shields, focused on nature connection, he spoke about the future of nature and our need for culture repair. In one of his stories, he spoke about a child exploring nature and a child who loves horses. He spoke of how the child who loves horses, in a classroom can make everything relate to the horses that she loves (often to the dismay of the teacher asking questions). He then went on to say that in nature connection, children can be led to take this love deeper and to love the entire environment that cares for and provides for the animal they love. When can this lesson, become part of our school curriculum? We need more bug and nature lovers in future generations, if we’re going to continue forward as a species.