One morning a couple of weeks ago, while Nino waited patiently, I spent about 10 predawn minutes herding and urging a salamander along a sidewalk crack to a pile of leaves on the other side. This afternoon I tried – and failed – to relocate a downed dragonfly that clung desperately to the footfall middle of another sidewalk. A few days ago I brought a chilly praying mantis into the relative warmth of the plantry, and I started to feed the birds again. I can’t stop wondering if my interference is a help or a hindrance.

As a gardener I’m a meddler by nature – meddling with nature. Can’t be helped. But the more I ponder the why of gardening, the more I hope my help is a help. When I first started to garden – more than 20 years ago now, I honestly don’t remember considering the wildlife – or nature for that matter. (Nature was what I hiked through with boots on and a backpack full of m&ms.) In the garden I was heebied by bugs and slugs, terrified of spiders and wasps, and only vaguely amused by birds and critters. I wanted plants galore and a yard that looked and smelled good – to me. Lately I’ve started to interfere more on nature’s behalf – in fact, I want wildlife almost more than plants. (Lucky for me, plants are the key.) I’m hesitant to call my interference “stewardship” and in any case I’m not a very good caretaker of the earth because goodness knows I’ve done my share to wreck it. But I hope to be less of a hindrance at the very least.

The last warm day, I left the plantry door open for her and haven’t seen Ms. Mantis since.