While I am fascinated with all insects, I have a special fondness for praying mantises. It started with Mother, with foggy memories of her passing bewildered mantises into my cupped hands and telling me to release them somewhere safe, somewhere beyond the reach of our hungry chickens.
It’s possible these memories aren’t real. It’s possible that I began saving praying mantises from the chickens without any prompting from Mother, though it’s the kind of lesson she would have taught.
Sadly, our yard is currently without chickens. (Sad for me, at least. The praying mantises probably don’t mind.) With no hungry chickens about, I no longer catch and move mantises when I find them. Instead I crawl after them with my camera — slow motion chases complicated by grass allergies, mosquitoes, and arachnophobia.
I’m a skeptic when it comes to animal symbolism, but many sources say praying mantises are symbols of patience and stillness, appearing when life has become too busy.
This summer has seen month after month pass with distractions ranging from minor to major. A series of household repairs. A trio of elderly cats, two in failing health. A new bout of depression and anxiety.
And now the yard is full of praying mantises. More praying mantises than ever before. In every flower bed, on every overhanging branch, even in the hanging baskets.
Perhaps I’m not such a skeptic after all.
Perhaps it’s time to slow down and try a different approach.