Tuesday, August 31, 2010

All Creatures Great and Small

Monarch caterpillars on butterfly weed bush in my parents' backyard

All things bright and beautiful,
All creatures great and small,
All things wise and wonderful,
The Lord God made them all.

Each little flower that opens,
Each little bird that sings,
He made their glowing colours,
He made their tiny wings.

The purple-headed mountain,
The river running by,
The sunset, and the morning,
That brightens up the sky;

The cold wind in the winter,
The pleasant summer sun,
The ripe fruits in the garden,
He made them every one.

The tall trees in the greenwood,
The meadows where we play,
The rushes by the water,
We gather every day;--

He gave us eyes to see them,
And lips that we might tell,
How great is God Almighty,
Who has made all things well.

Maker of Heaven and Earth (All Things Bright and Beautiful), Cecil Frances Alexander 

Ladybug, left, and ladybug larvae, right

I spent a great deal of time this past weekend staring at a bush outside my parents' house. It was a large butterfly weed, and from the first glance, it didn't appear to be in great shape. The leaves were turning a sickly yellowish color, and it was cloaked in tiny orange aphids. However, it was hosting a fascinating variety of life, all interdependent on each other and/or in the plant in various combinations.

First of all, there were the monarch caterpillars--we counted as many as 12 at once. They're a striking caterpillar to begin with, and we enjoyed seeing them in sizes ranging from two inches long (about ready to make a chrysalis) to tiny (about the size of the tip of my pinkie fingernail). They ate ravenously, especially the larger specimens. I was mesmerized just by the speed at which they devoured the leaves. (Eric Carle had to have been talking about a monarch caterpillar when he wrote "The Very Hungry Caterpillar.")

Then, I noticed the ladybugs--not the orangish imported versions that are such pests in some areas of the country, but "real" red ladybugs--the kind I remember from my youth. I also noticed another type of critter or two--a grayish larvae and a red and black larvae. This was ringing a bell from a book I'd read to my 7-year-old. I asked her if these were different stages of ladybug larva (something I'd never seen before in person). She assured me it was--and, trust me, she'd know on this type of thing.

Ladybug, top left, and ladybug larvae, bottom

But that wasn't the only life the plant was hosting. There were bees coming to the plant's orange flowers, flies and gnats buzzing about, and the occasional little spider. Every time I came out of the house, I had to check out the veritable menagerie on the butterfly weed.

It struck me how wonderfully God has created this world and the myriad life forms in it. How everything on this planet has a purpose--even aphid-infested butterfly weed plants that at first glance look like they're destined for the compost heap!

Ladybug pupa

Dear Lord: Help me to see with open eyes the beauty of the world around me. Help me to observe with the wonder of a child and praise your glory to the heavens. Teach me that if you can use something as humble as a weed to bring forth life, you can use me too, as imperfect as I am. 

O Lord, how manifold are thy works! In wisdom, hast thou made them all: the earth is full of thy riches. So is this great and wide sea, wherein are things creeping innumerable, both small and great beasts.

Psalm 104: 24-25

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