Thursday, January 14, 2010

The story of Twiggy

We have recently become the adoptive family of a stick insect, which I have named Twiggy. Every night after sunset, Twiggy makes her appearance. She climbs through an open bathroom window and makes her way to the frond of ivy we have placed in a jug of water, which she then proceeds to noisily munch. When we wake up the next morning, Twiggy has already departed, leaving only stick insect poop and several eggs on the bedside table.

We know that Twiggy is female because of the eggs (obviously) but also because we did a bit of research. Apparently male stick insects are exceedingly rare and, for several species, have never been found at all. The females reproduce via parthenogenesis, which means that they simply produce fertile eggs, which hatch into baby stick insects without the assistance of any male input whatsoever. It seems as if stick insect sex is an exceedingly rare event! Gynandromorph stick insects (having both male and female parts) have been found; a sort of Caster Semenya of the insect world, I guess!

Twiggy is an Indian or laboratory stick insect, which means that she lives on ivy leaves, hence the snack we leave for her every night on the bedstand. Stick insects are part of a large group of insects called Phasmids (or Phasmatodea), from the Latin word for ghost. And Twiggy actually is a bit like a ghost, appearing and disappearing at will.

We wonder why Twiggy continues to visit us night-after-night. One cannot help but feel privileged that she has chosen us as her family. In the beginning she became very nervous if we tried to pick her up but now she is tame and is fine with us picking her up and handling her. Actually, I suspect that she has tamed us! After all, she gets us to provide her with a safe haven and fresh ivy leaves, which we carefully mist with water in a spray bottle, and we clean up her poop and harvest her eggs for safekeeping! Quite a smart little insect, I think.

We are choosing to see Twiggy as Mother Nature’s response to our intent to live a harmonious, conscious life. Perhaps she is simply a little sign that we are on the right path. Certainly Twiggy is generating for us a new awareness of the need to consciously take life-affirming decisions at every turn, as demonstrated by the following story:

We are trying the sell our house and, as such, we have to ensure that the garden remains as green and attractive as possible. Of course, city gardens are so out of balance with Nature that we have to keep making interventions to ensure that they stay alive and healthy. We have a lot of canary creeper growing on our walls, which provides a beautiful lush green backdrop to our garden. However, recently we have noticed that caterpillars are systematically destroying the canary creeper, so yesterday we sprayed insecticide on the creeper in an attempt to protect it against the hungry invaders. Shortly after spraying we heard a rustling in the leaves and, as we watched, several stick insects emerged from the canary creeper in an attempt to escape the poison that was infecting their source of food. The realization dawned upon us that we were stick insect murderers! Both of us felt like crying and we experienced immense remorse. We could inadvertently have been responsible for the death of our precious Twiggy!

Last night we were SO relieved when Twiggy made her normal appearance! Thank God we had not killed her after all. But what we realize is that nothing we do occurs in a vacuum. We need to be conscious of what we do and also to realize that everything is ultimately connected. We create ourselves and our experience of life through all of our thoughts, actions and intent. So, whereas it may be perfectly ok for others to use insecticides in their gardens, it is definitely not ok for us to do so. Therefore, we have discarded all of our broad-spectrum, synthetic insecticides and we will only use specific, targeted herbal insecticides in future. This is also yet another reminder that the city life is no longer appropriate for us and that we should move as soon as possible to a place where we can be in better harmony with the natural environment.

As we progress along our journey of self-discovery, we are sent some wonderful teachers to guide us, if we just pay attention. And some of these teachers can be extremely small indeed…

Thank you, Twiggy.

Next: The Ties That Bind

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