One night a Praying Mantis came to me in my dream.
It was a chilled Autumn day. I was speaking on the phone with my mom, when I vaguely remembered the dream. "I wish I had a Praying Mantis" I suddenly blurted out. "Why don't you go & catch one?" my mom suggested. "That's a great idea, but I don't see many of them, it'll take forever to find one!" I replied, trying to recall the last time I had seen one.
About a week passed. I was sitting in my recliner by the window, in my studio where I work. Going about my daily business, I glanced out the window and saw two big green eyes staring at me.I let out a small gasp and looked closer. A Praying Mantis was perched on the screen outside.
After taking pictures, I smiled and went back to work, occasionally sneaking a peek back at my new friend. My studio window seemed to be a popular hangout for the miniature world. In October, lovely Orb Spiders have made my window their home, which delighted me, as I loved to watch them weave their intricate artwork.
I had thought about catching the Praying Mantis, but I decided to let her be, at least for the time being. I thought she may just be traveling through, seeking a suitable spot to lay her eggs, as I saw she had a swelling abdomen.
About 3 days went by, and everyday the Praying Mantis was still there, in the same spot. On the third day, it was quite a frigid day. I took a small ventilated enclosure that I had, mostly for housing crickets for my lizards, and went outside to take a closer look at her. She was frozen in place and not moving at all. I had thought perhaps the wind chill had frozen her and that I was too late. I carefully and delicately nudged her into the enclosure, and went to gather leaves, sticks and other household items for her new home. Once she was inside and warmed up, she began moving around, climbing up on the sticks, feeling her away around the new place. She was fascinating to watch. Right away, I knew I wanted her name to be "Zora". I wanted a female version of the name "Zorak", a favorite character of mine who also happened to be a Praying Mantis (with an awesome voice). "Zora" came to mind, and it also made me think "The Legend of Zora".
Over the next few weeks, I took care of Zora. I fed her small crickets, misted water on her leaves to drink from, and watched her. I didn't want to pick her up, I didn't want to scare her or crush her, as she seemed very delicate. Especially since she was carrying eggs (which she did lay, later on). While observing her, I noticed so many new things about Praying Mantises I've never noticed before. I was able to take really close-up observations and watch her behavior. It was very fascinating. She loved to climb upside down onto the vents in her enclosure. The way she moved was almost robotic, even alien. Her huge compound eyes seemed to hypnotize and draw me in. Her front forelegs moved and danced around. I loved the way she climbed. I also finally got to see a Praying Mantis catch and eat prey.
While I studied this fascinating creature, I noticed she began to silently teach me. I had looked up Praying Mantis as a spirit animal, which reflected calm, quiet, meditation, and many other things that this animal can represent. This is what the Praying Mantis has taught me:
The world is a fast-paced environment. Everyone is on the go, moving faster, stressing at every moment. Always having to do more, jumping in without thinking. The Praying Mantis is slow & thoughtful, thinking about every move. Sometimes, she doesn't even move, until she has carefully crafted out her plan and what she will do next. Take the time to slow down, and take in what's around you. Think out your next move carefully.
Don't take things for granted
While seeming to have very little, Zora seemed quite content and comfortable. She had a warm place, food to eat, water to drink, and fun things to climb on. For doing very little, she also seemed very active. Every time I looked over after a while, she was in a new spot, taking in everything. Be content with what you have. They're all gifts & treasures. Every day that you're alive is a new gift. Be thankful, and don't take things for granted.
Zora loved to climb. She was always walking back & forth on her twigs, reaching up as high as she could to reach the top so she could be upside-down. Sometimes it was hard for her. She kept reaching up, trying to find the right footing. While she climbed, it reminded me of rock climbing- holding on tight while trying to figure out where to put your foot next so you can climb even higher. Zora was an excellent climber. However, she had no harness, so if she lost her grip she would fall back down. But I noticed she was strong. She popped her head right back up, and started climbing again. She was tenacious, she never gave up, she kept trying.
Be aware of the world around you
To check in on Zora, I would wave my finger at her. She always noticed, as she pulled back just slightly to be cautious. Sometimes, I would get close to the enclosure to get a better look, and she would turn her head and look directly at me. Praying Mantises can turn their head a full 180 degrees, and she always used it to her advantage. She was always alert & aware. Be aware of the world around you, there's a lot to take in.
As many of you probably know, Praying Mantises catch their prey by waiting. They wait for something delicious to pass by, then they quickly snatch it up. They aren't fast with lots of weapons, they only use their forearms to grasp their prey very quickly. So they eat by being stealthy, and very very patient. I watched Zora after I put a couple of crickets in her enclosure. She should usually turn and see the cricket, then climb down to a spot where she could maneuver freely. She watched the cricket very carefully, and would slowly get herself in a pouncing position. Then she would wait. Patiently. Watching her prize, planning out the perfect attack. It took time and patience. When she seized her prey, she was almost always on target. Be patient. It pays off.
Zora The Praying Mantis certainly was a legend, in my eyes. I believe she came to visit me when I needed her. She taught me all of these values and more. She also gave me the opportunity to study her species more in depth. I am sad to say, that Zora has now passed on. After researching Praying Mantises, they lay their eggs before they die in the winter. She has already laid her eggs in the enclosure, and died a few weeks after. She's been with me for only 3 months, but she has a special place in my heart, and her Praying Mantis spirit will always be with me. If you would like to see Zora in action, has briefly starred in her own Web Series, "Zora the Praying Mantis Does Amazing Stuff". There are only 5 episodes, but they are fun to watch.
Zora, The Praying Mantis, has taught me a lot. I hope that Zora has taught you something, too. Creatures all around us can teach us so much. Learn from the Praying Mantis, and see how these teachings can apply to your life.
The Legend of Zora will live on.