There is an enormous ornamental grass growing at the back of our house. It has long and narrow woody stalks that sprout golden plumes, now holding thousands of tiny sticky seeds. When we planted the wiry young plant, we didn’t know anything about it. It came with a collection of low water plants that we ordered. Within a year, it reached six feet tall. Along with its height, it has a broad circumference, its long blades intruding on the plants around it. I keep threatening to remove this grass, thinking it is too unruly. Until this week, I’ve wondered what value it has in our yard aside from taking up space.
While passing the tall grass this week, something moved along one of the leggy stalks. Moving closer, I noticed a Praying Mantis. She was perched near the base of a seeded plume. As I approached her, she turned her triangle head and looked directly into me with her piercing translucent eyes. She lifted her spiny front legs, letting me know she meant business. I backed away and watched her from a distance. I observed her capacity for deep stillness, resting in one position for a long while. I admired the calm way she maneuvered the narrow stalk with her equally narrow legs. Her movement was patient and deliberate, unhurried. The grass barely moved under her nimble body.
This morning, I returned to see if she was still there. She was perched within the feathery frond of a stalk bowing just enough to be sheltered under the kitchen window box. I’m guessing she is scoping out a safe place to lay her egg case, knowing it must be done before the first frost. I am hopeful the grass will become a refuge for her offspring. Yes, the same grass that I was planning to remove.
I realize that I’ve never seen a Praying Mantis in our yard. Her magnificent presence feels like a gift. Watching her, I want to feel the same spaciousness and calm. I sense her invitation to return to my own inner stillness, re-devoting myself to a meditation practice. And the grass that I doubted has made himself known— Windbreaker, a seed bearer, a backyard refuge, a sacred home.