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A presidential kind of day

by Ina Warren.


February 12. It's been a wonder-full day.  I had looked forward all the live-long day to the Xerces Society's webinar by Eric Lee-Mader's on “Milkweed Habitat Restoration Fundamentals

How terrific that over 1000 people in US and Canada were pre-registered. That in itself made it a banner day.  

Milkweeds - long may they wave.


Since it was also Abraham Lincoln's birthday, I switched up my Facebook cover photos to a light-hearted meme using the 1863 daguerreotype of Lincoln. It's my sense that if folks crack a grin or a chuckle from my memes the monarch messages will be more memorable. So I had paraphrased those thundering words that Steven Spielberg gave Daniel Day-Lewis' character from the film, LINCOLN.  


"I am the President of the United States of America,

clothed in immense power.

I am asking you to plant milkweed and nectar flowers:

now, Now, NOW."  


So the presidency was on my mind all day.

Reading Bill column mid-day entitled, "New Report on Lynching Reveals America’s Sinister Legacy of ‘Racial Terrorism’ gave me an uneasy pause. How is it that remnants of an ugly past did not die in the days of Lincoln but have haunted us another hundred years?


Another very unusual connection to a "president" was from Eric Mader. In his milkweed webinar he mentioned President of the Entomological Society of America (1916), a Dr. Edith Patch, (an entomology professor from the University of Maine) who predicted in 1938 "that by the year 2000… 'the President of the United States would issue a proclamation claiming that land areas at regular intervals throughout the US would be maintained as "Insect Gardens," under the direction of government entomologists.  These would be planted with milkweed, hawthorn, and other plants that could sustain populations of butterflies and bees.  She predicted that some time in the future, "Entomologists will be as much or more concerned with the conservation and preservation of beneficial insect life as they are now with the destruction of injurious insects."


Well, in the sense of historical time, Dr Patch wasn't off by much -- 2000 is mighty close to 2014 when President Barack Obama indeed issued an Executive Order (June 20) directing his Cabinet and federal agencies to do pretty much what was foretold: develop a strategy to assure the health of our pollinators and restore the habitat we compromised or destroyed. 


That in itself would have been a fine day's worth of coincidences…. but at sunset, south of Asheville, NC, at our beautiful Brevard College Porter Center for the Performing Arts, the winter wind ensemble concert featured a lovely collection of pieces entitled "Visionaries". If you have already guessed that they performed Copland's "Lincoln Portrait", you would be correct.  My son Jamie Warren is the director of the BC Jazz Band and a wicked good trombonist so he performed with the musicians. One of his teachers, Charlie Vernon, bass trombonist for the Chicago Symphony Orchestra (since 1986) was this week’s Artist-in-Residence at Brevard College.  


The connections continued when I learned that on 9/11/05, then US Senator Obama from Illinois read a portion of the Copland piece and was accompanied by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra at Millennial Park. And like Lincoln, Obama’s job today is "piled high with difficulty."  A hundred fifty or so years before that Lincoln served as a Congressman from Illinois. Due to habitat destruction, the milkweeds have also moved on from the midwestern grain fields that used to host the monarchs' life cycle by the millions.


It's tempting to think that a tender wind is at work in life stirring things all about. I am grateful for today's connections. 


I intend to make a prayer flag to commemorate these individual fragments that adorn my life like a patchwork quilt. I will display the little flag in my milkweed garden in late spring when the milkweed ramets break dormancy from the grip of winter cold.


The milkweed plants will be good hosts to whatever monarchs survive the gauntlet journey from Mexico to the Carolina mountains. The prayer flags will serve as a reminder of the blessings from this freezing cold February day when these points not only gave light, but also warmth. 

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