Our St. Francis Day bloomed as a sunny day, one of those days at the beginning of fall when the sky is impossibly blue and the trees are giving us one last pulse of green before they begin to change. We pitched a shelter on the lawn and wondered who would show up, with what types of animals. Some friends came by and we sang a verse or two of that great hymn, “For the Beauty of the Earth,” that includes this stanza
For the joy of giving love,
brother, sister, parent, child,
friends on earth, and friends above,
for all gentle thoughts and mild,
Lord of all, to you we raise
this, our hymn of grateful praise
Certainly the joy of giving and receiving love comes from our animal friends, too. The animal friends showed up as small dogs and large dogs, including one dear boisterous friend, Moxie who was so bouncy she mostly had to watch from the sidelines, but she clearly relished being part of the day.
As the afternoon went on the breeze picked up into a wind that sometimes threatened to lift our shelter and blow it away. One of our stalwart members spent a good part of the afternoon holding onto one leg of the shelter just to make sure we stayed grounded. Well, our church sign had recently said the Holy Spirit is on the loose, and today it seemed so.
Then we saw two neighbors from up the street, Kathy and Mike, walking our way with two dogs and what looked like a tiny mesh playpen. What was in that, we wondered. Hamsters? Hens? Iguana? Turns out the residents of that small enclosure were five Monarch butterflies who had just recently emerged from their cocoons. Kathy explained that she has been part of an effort to help preserve Monarch habitats that have been eroded due to development reducing the milkweed that sustains them. She shared information with us about how folks in the path of monarch migration are helping these majestic creatures by planting milkweed and keeping the cocoons safe. We said a prayer, blessing the butterflies on their long journey to Mexico, and hoping future generations will grace us with their presence. Then Kathy took the carrier into the middle of our labyrinth, a path that suggests a spiritual journey, and released the butterflies, and we saw them rise and fly away.
At the end of the day we totaled our attendance: 15 dogs, 12 humans, and five Monarch butterflies. Next year, we began to dream of, we can plant some milkweed. And maybe someone will ride over on a horse. Or bring us a sheep or a goat to bless. The Bible does have some special things to say about that peaceable kingdom, where lions and lambs will lie down together. We caught a glimpse of that kingdom in the blue autumn sky as puppies and butterflies and people basked in the glory of being alive.