Ronald Steed

hard hearts softened



hard hearts softened
by zinnas and monarchs -
butterfly garden


This haiku moment at Harkness State Park in Waterford, CT, Sunday afternoon, September 28, 2021:

This is one of the first days of fall along the Connecticut shoreline. The blue sky is perfectly clear of clouds, and the full sun is warm and comfortable. We have set up in one corner of a butterfly garden on the hill not far from the main house.

This colorful garden is absolutely stunning and full of life. Zinnias and dalias of every variety are the main attractions. Their reds, yellows, oranges and pinks seduce the eye. Tall sunflowers are barely visible from my perch along the far edge of the enclosure, and here and there, amarantuus caudatus (Love-lies bleeding) arch over themselves in purples, sands, and mauves.

In the distance, far beyond the garden, lies the focal point; a narrow triangle of Fishers Island Sound, alive and teeming, as everything seems to be on this beautiful and blustery day, with sail boats. The dark cool waters of the sound contrast strongly with the fall sky in the distance, and also with the warm colors of this restorative garden in the foreground. Honestly, I don't quite know how Roxanne will tackle this one. Hard to focus on the focal point when there are so many other things that draw the eye all around! We may end up with differing focal points on this visit!

Everything is attracted to this riot of color. Dozens and dozens of butterflies, especially monarchs, fit and float over the flowers. Opening the aperture of the eye a bit to focus on the whole garden's movement rather then the flowers, it is breathtaking how much motion there is. Here where the cultivated beds end and nature picks up the theme, the goldrenrods are covered in a haze of small insects. Squadrons of dragons flies zoom back and fourth a little higher up, and from time to time, a songbird dashes into the middle of things.

My friend Ellen is a big proponent of Pollinator Pathways, a project that aims to create a solid path of pollinating flowers in southeast Connecticut for just such visitors are these. The benefit of that work is so obvious here.

Of course, bees and butterflies are not the only ones who find themselves magnetically drawn to the blossoms. People are all over the garden, strolling slowly . . . pointing out favorites . . . taking pictures. The resident insects seem happy to pose and smile for the cameras and the excited children. The garden has a festive atmosphere of chatter, laughter, and "ahhhhhs".

I'm reminded of The Secret Garden, were the protagonist , hard-hearted Mary Lennox, restores a hidden garden with her friend Dicken. As the spring softens the soil, Mary's heart softens as well. Soon, she finds herself restored as the garden itself comes to new life, and she is not alone in this . . . the entire community is restored with her and by her to health and vitality and thriving.

Unlike Spiring, we might not think of fall as a restorative time of year, but sitting in this place has softened my own heart about that. Healing comes in so many surprising forms, and in so many unexpected places. This day, healing and restoration are here to be seen, felt, and heard. Laughter and surprised faces . . . buzzing insects hard at pollination, oblivious to the joy they are spreading . . . flowers smiling into the sun and tickled by bees. I imagine, far out in the distant focal point, some sailor's eye catches the colorful garden high on a hill ashore. "Ahhhhhh butterflies" she says and feels her heart soften.

Painting by Roxanne Steed
Haiku and meditation by Ronald Steed
Copyright 2021 ©

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