Carrying What We Need for Now

Bluebird eggs and one hatching, 2019

The bluebird boy uses his beak to carry bugs and caterpillars for his nestlings and haul away nestling excrement deposited in fecal sacs. He keeps a tidy nest. The female does all this and has a uterus to hold her eggs, laying one a day.

The Monarch butterfly carries fertilized eggs in her vagina to deposit under a milkweed leaf with her ovipositor. Once the eggs are laid, her job is over and the eggs are on their own.

The honeybee packs pollen on its hind legs to carry to the hive. Its pollen sac can be white, red, or yellow, depending on the nectar source.









The female African cichlids in my son’s fish tank carry fertilized eggs in their mouths so other fish won’t devour the next generation.

Mama swans carry their cygnets on their backs—the safest place in an unsafe world.

The white-haired woman carries a black shoulder bag resting against her hip. Years ago, her babies straddled that hip designed to carry a child. In those days, her arms carried baskets of vegetables for a family. Now she carries a few things for herself.

Her small bag has pockets with zippers—a place for a cell phone, another for a camera, another for tissues and dog cookies. In the past, she tucked glasses and hearing aid batteries in those pockets when she gave a talk or went to a party. The world of social gathering feels far away, so she uses the bag for what she needs now.

She slides a weather proof case for her hearing aid and cochlear implant in one zippered pocket. Hearing aids and cochlear implants can’t get wet, so the case protects them if it rains and holds extra batteries, too. Sometimes she carries an extra dose of medicine for vertigo in a plastic pill box. Truth is, she should always carry that pillbox, but she resists.

From July to September, she carries a garden clipper in the largest pocket of the bag. As she walks with her dogs, she pauses to search the underside of milkweed leaves and snip a leaf when she finds an egg. Some days, she clips whole plants to feed the caterpillar brood in her Monarch nursery.

Caring for flowers, birds, and butterflies is her pleasure. She tries not to fret about a stay-at-home winter. She tries not to worry about the future and if or when this pandemic might end.

Her dogs carry tennis balls, but not the future. Like plants and butterflies, they inhale the Now. In October, the milkweed will release its seeds to the wind without wondering where it will land. Monarchs will fly south toward Mexico without worry about arriving on time.

Unlike the woman, they aren’t afraid of getting lost or being left behind.


What do you carry these days, physically or psychologically? How are you managing the load? I have it easy because I can stay home, so the hardest thing is not seeing my son who lives in North Carolina. No matter how I try to keep my daily life calm, Nature offers drama. A few days ago, the bluebird mama disappeared just as her eggs were ready to hatch. Her mate kept guarding the box for a few days, checking inside periodically and checking inside another box, too. She must have been grabbed by a hawk, but who knows? She’s gone and the eggs won’t hatch.

For a post about the joy of raising Monarchs, see Monarch Medicine: A Meditation on Transformation.  For a post about how exciting it was to watch my son take care of his hives a few years ago, see Honeybees and Humans: Our Sweet Interdependence.

  1. This was beautiful Elaine. I enjoyed the education on nature and mammas. You are the mamma to your doggies. It is these times that should remind us to be grateful for the things we still have as a lot of the world before has changed and gone. The purge is painful but so necessary to observe, a time to re-evaluate and remember gratitude, and brace ourselves for the new world that will come, when we buil anew. 🙂

    • Thank you, Debby. I feel clueless about what might happen next or what this world might be. Nothing that’s happening now was in my wildest imagination–and things are getting wilder. I stay home, look for beauty every day and try to learn something about what I see and accept the death inherent in Nature. I walk a lot, make political contributions, and will begin writing postcards for a local candidate and also for a national campaign to get out the vote. Small quiet actions that don’t involve teargas or noise that will blast out my remaining hearing. I’m deeply moved by the Mothers in Portland.

  2. What a wonderful post Elaine, thank you. There’s such a sense of simplicity in the necessary, the simple, ongoing, unfolding order of Nature. Your posts on sightings and your working with Nature and the butterflies are always such a delight and bring a sense of calm to me.

    I was walking some days ago in the think of winter and wearing a large scarf to keep out the cold. I was carrying a (plastic) bag to pick up trash and then depositing in the trash cans that are dotted around the town. So, I’d done my duty. But there were some lovely stones on my walk some of which I’d put in my pockets. But there were more that I wanted – I used my scarf as a carrier which I had to sling over my shoulder as it was too heavy to just carry. Which made me think of what loads we have to carry more so in these times.

    We too live in isolation but Mother Nature offers her gifts to us. Watching the tides change from high to low and seeing the beach being covered with water and then not, brings to mind the endless ebb and flow of life. Or checking out the moon in her transformations, or the sun rising and setting …

    Thank you, keep well and be safe. Love, Susan

    • I love that you pick up the trash on your walks, Susan. I used to do lots of that. I don’t walk on the country road now because of the dogs and only take trails back from the road. And I don’t drive much, but if someone throws trash out the window of their car, I pick it up to put in the garbage at home. Not often, I’m glad to say, and much less than 20 years ago.

      Stones are heavy. I wonder if you plan to use them in your garden. I wonder if you’ll write about them. I carried home a downy white feather yesterday and couldn’t put it in my black bag without squashing it, so I held the end as delicately as possible and got it home without smashing it. I’m grateful to live in a low population area although tourists have returned to wineries and breweries near the lake. Everyone is requiring masks and practicing social distancing with lots of outdoor dining. I’m not drawn to join them, but I’m glad it keeps the businesses going. I’d rather watch the sunset from home–and the comet. Your ocean environment sounds so peaceful. I send wishes for your safety, health and peace, Elaine

  3. Elaine, I always appreciate your photos and descriptions of your interactions with the nature around you.

    I’m more of an inside person–even in this beautiful summertime. But I take walks on trails and listen/watch from my screened-in porch. The fresh air and bird calls are soothing–a reminder that life goes on.

    Painting has been therapeutic for me during these times–color, texture, line–and always the outcome is a surprise.

    • Lynne, I’m more of an outdoor person than I imagined I would be, but my house has a terrific back porch where I keep the butterfly nursery and it’s so easy to walk out the kitchen or office door onto that porch and check in on the little ones. Does anyone need a fresh leaf? The population back there is exploding. About 40 small caterpillars now and I’m not trying to collect more–but when I find the nicest milkweed leaves to feed them on morning walks, I often find more eggs, so what can I do? I bring them home because I see a sneaky spider on the same plant looking for breakfast.

      Off the back porch and down the driveway, there are three possible trails, one uphill, one down, and one straight south to the woods. And the dogs insist even if I don’t feel like walking in the heat, so we go out before breakfast and again in the evening. I love that painting and your use of color lifts your spirits. You use intense color! I set up my inexpensive watercolors and acrylics in the winter because this time of year I’m doing too much in the gardens–and now the butterflies. Playing with color and painting dreams lifts my spirits in the winter when being outside is more of a chore and not much fun. Be well and at peace.

  4. You find new ways to deliver your pithy prose. I love how you experimented in your prose this week. And, yes, I enjoyed the alliteration and other word play.

    A group I follow is discussing forgiveness this week. I am so, so glad I am not carrying bitterness in my backpack these days. Too heavy to carry.

    Thanks for sharing joy, Elaine!

    • This was a playful experiment, Marian. I have a general feeling for what I want to write, but nothing is solid now, so I just go with what moves me at the moment. I could focus only on grief as there is so much of that now, but I needed to focus on beauty and transformation, too.

      Forgiveness is a wonderful topic and skill. I’m glad I don’t carry bitterness in my bag either. It was hard psychological work for over 40 years to come to a place of forgiveness with Vic’s mom and I know it’s one of the best achievements of my life. I had to stay until I could let it go and then I no longer needed to leave. I’ve been grateful she (and Vic) aren’t still here in these times. She would have been locked in a nursing home and Vic might have been trapped in the hospital with me on the outside in both cases. It’s horrifying for people who have to endure this, but at least in NY State, this isn’t the rule anymore.

      Thank you for reading and commenting. Thank you for being my friend for so many years. Be safe since FL is still on the upswing in covid-19 cases. I hope you are still sheltering at home. I’ve been getting groceries with the help of my son, one friend, and now Instacart. I also have a farm share of organic vegetables delivered once a week and this week blueberries plus my own small salad garden! I’m sad about my company, but I’m a fortunate one.

      • We are doing okay. If I have to go out, everyone is wearing a mask. While I know there is danger, I am not fearful because I’m taking precautions. Thanks for the good wishes. 🙂

  5. This fabulous post reminds me that whatever lies before us, all we have is NOW and this very moment. If we don’t allow it unfold before us, we’ll be lost in the chaos of our littered world.

    • Thank you, Joan. That’s the lesson for me, too. I’m writing postcards for a local candidate and also for a national push to encourage people to vote and making donations, but otherwise there isn’t much I can do about what’s happening in cities like Portland or Chicago except write letters. I’m grateful to stay present with Nature and my Monarch project keeps my 4th grade hands busy with a scissors and clippers. The caterpillar population grows as eggs hatch, so out I go to harvest the healthiest milkweed plants. The dogs like this project and so does my body. Oh boy! Another walk. I hope you have something you love doing, too.

    • Oh Joan, I can’t imagine how hard this is. I went through it with my mother and grandmother, but not my husband. I send you blessings and hopes that you can find a semi-comfortable balance between taking care of your husband and taking care of yourself. It is good fortune to have a dedicated caregiver who loves us, but the slowness of dementia can be excruciating. Sending love.

  6. Elaine,
    This morning my Facebook feed reminded me of a post I put up a few years ago. It stated “Befriend someone who doesn’t look like you, befriend someone who is not your age. This is how we truly grow”.
    I am very grateful to have “met” you over FB and feel that we are complete kindred spirits. I of course also raise monarchs, work in grief, love dogs and spending time outside.
    Thank you for sharing your thoughts. I find it important to feel like my words are resonating with people and perhaps giving them something to think about. Your post most definitely did that this morning for me.

    • Hi Amy. Thanks for commenting. I’m glad we connected on FB, too, although our main difference may be my age (75 in September). My hospice work isn’t happening now and I miss it, but I can return there soon. I was at hospice when a state of emergency was declared in March. We all hugged each other, not knowing that wouldn’t happen again soon, and ran to the grocery store where the toilet paper aisle was already bare.
      I love receiving comments on my writing. I have your post up to read. I’ve been having intermittent internet problems and they replaced the magic black blinking light box this morning, so I hope that’s done.
      I have many Monarchs in chrysalis or J hooks, and lots of caterpillars of various sizes, but it will be a week before I release more. Releasing the first 16 was thrilling and a fluke I spotted 2 Monarchs passing through and cruising over a milkweed patch early in the season. I was lucky to find those 16 eggs. The caterpillars are the first thing I check each morning after taking a short hike with the dogs–and sometimes collecting a few eggs along the way.
      May you be safe and well.

  7. Hello Elaine, It was delightful that you found a way to weave such playfulness into this entry. And I love the way you moved from writing about what the bluebirds, Monarchs, honeybees, cichlids, and swans carry, to what “the woman” is carrying in her pack these days. These days, my pack feels heavy with anxiety much of the time, and I am deeply grateful for the gifts that Nature provides each day. I have also been focusing on stories that lighten the load, including the “Wall of Moms” in Portland, a group called “Rednecks for Black Lives” that I just heard about on NPR, the moving words spoken at the memorial for John Lewis, and AOC’s recent speech on the House floor. Along with my gratitude to you, I am sending wishes for peace and ease of well-being your way.

    • Dear Anne, as you know, I’m waltzing with anxiety, too. Nature saves me. I love all the people and groups you name and add the Wall of Dads with leaf blowers, and best of all, the Wall of Vets. They may have turned the tide, because #45 needs the military vote. It all showed what can happen if many people show up who believe in the power of nonviolence even when they’re facing aggression. The Dalai Lama says he learned so much from Martin Luther King, Jr. And they all learned from Gandhi. I put purple and blue ribbon on my front door because Rep. Lewis’s family asked for that way to share grief. A friend mailed me ribbon when I didn’t have any. These things make me hopeful. I send peace and safety back to you.

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