Catching Sight: The Four A’s of Healthy Stewardship

I went out for a peaceful walk during my lunch break the other day. The air on that late summer day was oppressively humid and still. Not really thinking about anything in particular, I was just walking to clear my head. I passed the gated front of the fenced-in fruit orchard and turned right along the fence. The grassy path along the wire fenceline led invitingly into the woods.

I had decided to head in that direction, when something in the orchard caught my eye, just on the edge of my vision. I turned to look, and saw this:



I thought it was a little creepy looking, but I mentally shrugged it off and kept walking. Several steps later, I stopped and turned back. It occurred to me that this might not be a great thing to see in a fruit orchard. It also seemed, since the trees had previously been harvested, that it might be a while before anyone else visited the orchard. I thought, “If I don’t look into this possible problem, who will?” So instead of continuing my walk, I went back around to the gated entrance and approached the web.

Up close, it was even ickier to look at than it had been from a distance. And on a leaf just below the huge web, I noticed a mass of wriggly wormy-looking caterpillars, and the first film of a new web. I was definitely uncomfortable standing that close, but I wanted to take a photo to show to our outdoor staff so they could identify whether this was a problem (beyond the obvious issue of being unsightly). As I stepped in closer to get a clear shot, a breeze suddenly blew up, wafting the branch full of insects into my hair. Ugh – I shudder just remembering that sensation! I was completely grossed out.

As it turns out, what I happened across on my walk were most likely fall webworms, which in their adult state become a species of moth. They may not be particularly harmful to trees, though they do denude the branch inside the “tent” web of leaves. An infestation may completely denude affected trees, though, which may be harmful.*

So, other than the fact that we all enjoy sharing stories about things that gross us out, why am I telling you this?

Lately, I’ve been struggling to get (and keep) my act together. I am dimly aware of issues in my life which need to be addressed, but each time I catch sight of them in my mind’s eye, I just keep walking. Like Scarlett O’Hara or Clarice the doe, I conjure up a vague “tomorrow” when I will think about it, or make it happen. What this looks like is binge-watching television series on my Amazon Prime account. It looks like having another pistachio-chocolate chip muffin at Coffeesmith’s. It looks like my body waking each day achy from lack of exercise and my mind fuzzy from too-little sleep.

After work that day, I immediately showered (a whole afternoon thinking about those creepy-crawlies in my hair demanded that), then boiled water for a cup of tea. Standing in my kitchen, looking into the tea steeping in my cup, I caught sight of one of the things I had been avoiding looking at straight-on: my upwardly mobile weight. I am thirty pounds heavier than I was this time last year. I’ve known this was happening, but I’ve refused to train a direct gaze on it. My friends have not mentioned it. No one has taken me to task for it. In that moment, the reality truly hit me: if I don’t get ahold of this, no one will. After all, it is my job to manage my life and my health – on one else’s.

I quieted my mind as I stared into my tea. A picture began to form in my mind of what my life had been like at 350+ pounds. I forced myself to imagine being there again: how would I feel physically? The first sensation I recalled was the difficulty I had breathing. Followed by the halting process of going up and down stairs, carefully, one foot then the second foot on every step rather than the graceful flow of one foot, one step. How would I feel emotionally if I kept heading in that direction? Hopefully, I’ve dealt with much of the shame from the past – would it recur? Would new shame take it’s place?

With an infestation of fall webworms, addressing the issue before it gets out of control is the best management technique. Occasionally, lawn and garden pests or weeds are ignored until the gardener’s only recourse is to till the whole mess under and begin again. But most gardeners learn to respond as soon as signs of the problem appear. Pay attention. Take action. Assess the results. Adjust the behavior. And begin the cycle again.

Attend. Act. Assess. Adjust. The four a’s of healthy stewardship, whether what you are tending is a garden, a corporation, or a life; whether the concern is weight control, or money management, or communication. In life, it is so important not to ignore the things you notice out of the corner of your eye – to not move on as if you are Sergeant Schultz fromHogan’s Heroes reruns, perennially telling yourself, “I know nothing.” Pay attention. Engage in action. Assess the outcomes. Adjust the behaviors. Begin again, spiraling ever more closely to your desired results. More closely to your desired self.


*I am not a horticulturalist, entymologist, or a gardener of any stripe. Therefore, take my description with a grain of salt, and consult an actual expert if you are concerned about webworms!


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