In wildness is the preservation of the world

This summer, a friend remarked that I must be a butterfly magnet.  Whenever she visits my house, there’s a monarch fluttering by. I’d love to take credit for attracting butterflies, but truth is I planted a lot of milkweed last fall. Front and back you’ll find different kinds of milkweed, the only plant the monarch caterpillar feeds on. Do you know what type of plants grow in your yard? Are you ready to transform your yard into pollinator and bird-friendly habitat? The rewards are great, providing lightness of being and inspiration, while restoring an aching world back to health. 

I remember the day I committed to metamorphosis. Transforming my behaviors from a hungry caterpillar of gluttonous consumption, I now mindfully choose to belong to a restorer species. I admit I’m still work in progress. I make several mistakes in my daily life. I like to think I’m in the chrysalis stage of digesting away harmful habits and getting ready to grow wings. It’s not easy, but trusted friends and fellowship of the like-minded make it more fun.

On that note, I attended an inspirational gathering last weekend at the Planting Fields Arboretum, Oyster Bay. Celebrating expressive agriculture, Orkestai farm is a not-for-profit ecological and educational farm that encourages healthy living, social engagement, creativity, emotional wellness and welcomes people of all abilities and backgrounds - to see more information click here

Without screens or toys, my daughter learned to spin yarn and had a terrific time chasing butterflies. Guests were invited to pick a thread and weave strands into a collective tapestry. The threads were all different, tightly knit or loose, everyone added to the tapestry in their very own way (there was even one strand of plastic). This is what community, each one of us is a strand in the collective fabric of our experience. I suggest we weave a little wildness into our lives here in Port Washington. Henry Thoreau stated “in wildness is the preservation of the world.” Instead of viewing the wild as an obstacle to be overcome, realize you’re deeply embedded in, rather than on top of, the food chain. If we are to thrive as a species, we better shift gears towards realizing interdependence of all things and respectfully observe the web of life to which we belong.

In recent decades, the importance of biological diversity in the environment has come to be widely accepted. Biological diversity refers to the variety of life at all levels - from biological communities to species to the genetic differences of populations within a species. Biodiversity has been recognized as an indicator of ecosystem health, a reservoir for agricultural variety, a source of medicines, a supporter of watershed quality, a mediator against human disease and disease vectors, and an aesthetic and recreational resource.

I dare you to make an easy, positive goal this fall and plant native, perennial Wildflowers. It’s a small investment given they return each year, need little maintenance once in the ground. Spotted Joe Pye Weed, Butterfly Weed, and Wild Lupine, not just a colorful feast for the eyes, but delight for your senses too, most importantly, feeding birds and pollinators. If you plant it, they will come! Like oases, these habitats serve as connections or stepping-stones linking a diversity of wildlife over the course of their migratory cycles and ranges.

Climate change, habitat loss, spread of invasive species, pollution, and over-exploitation of natural resources are harming local and global biodiversity. Modern development (shopping malls and factories), agricultural and landscaping practices with excess pesticide and herbicide use, have led to the monarch butterflies and some bees being petitioned for inclusion on the endangered species list. Bees and butterflies are critical pollinators and global decline in their population is of great concern. If bees were to go extinct, the world would be free of bee stings, but with them we’d lose 70 of around 100 crop species that feed more than 90% of the world. Imagine a world with no cashews, watermelon, pumpkins, passion fruit, cocoa, and the list goes on. What’s worse, with the plants that bees pollinate gone, all of the animals that eat those plants would be pressured to survive. 

In response to this alarming trend, David Jakim founded two organizations on Earth Day 2017: ReWild Port Washington and the Port Washington Monarch Butterfly Alliance. ReWilding is a grassroots movement to protect, restore, and create new habitats for the purpose of promoting and enhancing our local diversity of life. Prosperous Monarch butterfly breeding grounds are maintained by Port Washington Green at the meadow habitat known as the Guggenheim estate. Audubon's Peggy Maslow established a beautiful bird-friendly habitat at the Science Museum of Long Island, Plandome, and is helping Port Washington residents transform their yards. Port Washington resident and monarch enthusiast, Tanya Clusener, was instrumental in planting a pollinator garden at the Sands Point Preserve. 

Tanya even went a step further than planting milkweed and took it upon herself to harvest monarch eggs. She fostered and raised over 700 monarchs from egg to flight this summer. In the wild, a monarch has about 2% chances to survive from egg to flight, while when raised in foster care the survival rates are above 90%. 

This summer I found myself frantically searching for milkweed for some of her foster monarchs during vacation on the North Fork and I got a taste of what it’s like being a monarch mama looking for a place to lay my eggs. I had to drive for almost 20 minutes until I found food for 7 hungry caterpillars staring at me in despair. Milkweed is to monarch caterpillars, like milk for your newborn. 

In 2017, the Town of North Hempstead established the 220-acre Hempstead Harbor Preserve and banned all-terrain vehicle use, to protect Port Washington’s largest and most diverse natural habitat area. In 2018 the Town of North Hempstead worked with the Stratco Butterfly Initiative and the Port Washington Monarch Butterfly Alliance to take action and fulfill the Mayors’ Monarch Pledge sponsored by National Wildlife Federation. 

Autumn is here and it is timely to prepare your yard for winter. Please consider using your yard to add to a thread to the community tapestry that we want to build together. 

Five fun ways you can make a difference this fall:

  1. Qualify for bird-friendly habitat certification. In Port Washington, Peggy Maslow has been instrumental in education on how to remove invasives and use native plants and trees to attract birds to your backyard. Join the movement

  2. Create a monarch waystation. Locally, David Jakim, President of the Port Washington Monarch Alliance and his colleagues work tirelessly on restoring access to the monarch food source, milkweed. Here is how to create a monarch waystation.

  3. Join the “I love Long Island campaign and stop using pesticides and fast-dissolving, high nitrogen fertilizers.

  4. Become a ReWilding Pioneer and Re-Wild your lawn. Help your neighbors to spread the movement to grow wild-flower meadows and rain gardens instead of grass lawns and be sure to meet all 3 criteria above. Contact Raju Rajan ( and David Jakim ( for details on how to join this effort. Receive guidance from Certified Urban Permaculture Designer and Consultant Mark Scaramucci (Permascape). Visit local garden centers in the Port Washington region for newly available local seeds and plants. Visit local garden centers in Port Washington come 2019 or collect your own wild seed for plants that are sourced locally to protect our local genetic diversity of life that makes Long Island unique. 

  5. Prepare a patch of land to grow vegetables next spring. Locally, The Wood’s of Grassroots environmental education led the way with the Farm at Dodge Homestead House, followed now by a wonderful initiative Growing Love Community Gardens in Manorhaven and The Sands Point Preserve Conservancy have successfully dedicated a large patch of land to functional use. 

Five fun reasons why you should Re-Wild your lawn:

  1. It is easy. Remove existing growth, scatter seed.

  2. It is therapeutic fun. Gardening offers health benefits; stress reducer, lowers your blood pressure and strengthen your immune system. 

  3. It is good for your ecosystem. Local native species  help pollinators and serve as connections linking wildlife across borders.

  4. It is good for your water-source. Wildflower meadows help with water runoff from a roof (rain gardens) and need very little maintenance. 

  5. It is inspiring.You’ll enjoy the colorful feast for the eyes, which in turn tickles your imagination.

Now from pollinators to the polls. Make sure you vote for pollinator-friendly politicians. Please notice that too many signs are not just an eye sore, but also adding to environmental pollution. Vote for politicians, not pollut-icians.

New York State Assemblyman Anthony D’Urso, a member of the Assembly Environmental Conservation Committee, encourages responsible lawn care: “By practicing sustainable lawn care residents will use less water and less fertilizer”, said Assemblyman D’Urso. “Native plants are low maintenance and can live on rain water and do not need to be watered or fertilized as often as non-native plants. They provide nectar, pollen, and seeds that serve as food for native butterflies, insects, birds, and other local animals,” he added.

To join the Earth Matters movement, email me at to be added to our mailing list.  We aim to educate and add health to the collective tapestry in Port Washington.