She pauses as she explores a goldenrod for the first time and sways in the wind before lifting off to fly a short distance. Is it a test flight?
The Monarchs were more than a month late this year. After the smoky apricot skies in June caused by north winds from Canadian fires, I fretted and whined and lost faith in Nature. Where could my soul friends be? Would I see them again? Would they soon be extinct? Did the smoky air make them lose their way?
Then in late July, I don’t know how or why since they usually arrive around June 1, I find Monarch eggs in the milkweed and wildflower fields west of the barn. By late August, a few fertile females leave enough eggs under milkweed leaves to match last year’s abundant Monarch season.
How can it be when I rarely see a Monarch?
The butterfly-to-be and I spend a month together on my back porch. She and other eggs found in the field become tiny caterpillars munching tender milkweed I provide. As I wander, I find a few more eggs each day and bring them to the nursery. I’m mesmerized as they eat, grow, and become green teardrop chrysalises. After a week of quiet, I see dark wings under the green chrysalis skin. The next day the Monarch emerges as a butterfly, another of Nature’s Magic Tricks.
Their wings soon open wide like a boat with orange sails as they catch a ride on the wind.
As I praise the beauty and wonder they bring me, I think of grandmothers and children waiting for them in Mexico, creating Monarch altars with orange marigolds and sugar candy to honor Monarchs as returning souls of the dead.
Still here in my field, the long winged migrators have a perilous journey ahead. Will they make it? Will the winds help them or block them this year? Will we say hello and goodbye again? Will I learn to trust that Monarchs are survivers and will find a way, at least for now?
What has ended or begun for you this summer? I still have 20 Monarchs in the nursery and they’ll all be gone by the end of September. Maybe I’ll get my book finished then. Do you have special fall projects you want to finish?
For other posts about Monarchs, see Somersaulting into Life: A Monarch Butterfly Birth or Dancing with Monarchs, Defying Despair.