I am standing at the kitchen counter making breakfast for my lizards when I have the impulse to turn around and there in the doorway, inches from the door saddle, is a praying mantis, watching me. I put down the knife I am using to to cut greens and go to the mantis and kneel to say hello, but gently, in case my voice or moving mouth frightens him. I put out my hand and he climbs into my palm. (Mantes sometimes move away from me when I’m in a hurry or haven’t calmed myself enough.)
Tiny black dots in his compound eyes —pseudopupils— follow my pupils. We are looking at each other and feeling curiosity, I think, and hopefully the connectedness is mutual. As always happens when I open to another creature –bug, bird, toad, lizard, turtle, snake…– my eyes fill and my throat tightens with such built-up love it nearly hurts. (It can happen with people, too, but I’m always ashamed of feeling way too emotional. Tears only make others uncomfortable, and make me feel like a child who can’t control herself.)
The mantis doesn’t mind my weepy eyes. I feel accepted by non-human creatures.
I carry the mantis to the small garden out in front of the barn, a mix of herbs, weeds, and collard plants for the lizards. I encourage him to climb onto the broad, horizontal leaf of a volunteer squash plant, next to one of its open yellow blossoms attracting bugs. Perhaps he will catch a meal.
After settling the mantis on the leaf I start picking cabbage moth caterpillars off the collard plants. I still feel the mantis’ companionship in the garden and also that of a male spider, pedipalps swollen, who is clinging to the leg of a stool nearby. Even though we use tons of organic compost to nourish the collards about 30% of them have been eaten by the fat little green cabbage moth caterpillars. I pick them gently, placing each one in a collard leaf cupped in my left hand, and when I’ve gone over all the plants I take the caterpillars into the barn to Luna, who eats them up, plus the collard leaf.