Saturday, October 24, 2009

Kings of Optimism

The kids went out on a sunny day last week to release the last of the newly hatched monarch butterflies. Gathering around the aquarium, they lifted the screen top off of it, the breeze tickled the fresh wings, and for the first time they flew into the open air.

To catch a glimpse of a group of children freeing a flock of butterflies on an autumn day in Michigan - well, it doesn't get much better than that.

Hopefully, the brilliant, regal Butterflies will make it south before the north winds push down upon them from Canada.

There's a lot to be learned watching monarchs grow through all their changes - transforming into an ultimately beautiful, and both strong and delicate creature. They're vulnerable to the cold, the rain and wind. Their odds aren't necessarily the greatest. That something so delicate flies thousands of miles through adverse conditions homing in on a place its never seen before is nothing short of amazing - worthy of being called a miracle. From a 'reasonable' point of view, the hope and optimism such a journey requires is beyond the imaginings of most. Yet year after year the journey continues - and many do make it. But of course, some do not.

Such is life.

One chrysalis of this group never hatched. Perhaps a draft got to it, but then why did the others hatch? The little caterpillar died before its final transformation. Of those that did hatch out of their chrysalis' to stretch their wings, some sat on the bushes, not ready to make a move; others took to the skies immediately, quickly lifted up and flew higher and higher above the treetops.

You can imagine which ones will make it to Mexico and which ones will eventually end up covered by the falling autumn leaves.

There's a lot to be learned from these ambassadors of change - fragile, yet strong and persistent. Delicate fierceness.

what is hope?
what are wishes?
what is a prayer?
a monarch flies south against the odds
defining optimism
or delusion
or both.

My friend Marco called today from Texas. A big ol' monarch was in his flower garden gathering nectar and resting as we talked. It had been a long flight from the North. He was one of the ones that made it - that little delusionally optimistic creature. How does he even come to think such things are possible? How ARE such things possible?

I guess it's one more mystery to add to that Big Ol' Pile of Mystery a.k.a. 'The Great Mystery'.

I want to be a good student of the monarchs. A creature that has earned a royal moniker probably has something to teach us. I try to cultivate their internal compass of delusional optimism. I'm pretty new at it; kinda clumsy sometimes. Too easily, with a knee-jerk reaction I revert to old habits of doubt, worry, fear and a boatload of other useless pursuits that don't aid my journey south [or forward] one bit. It seems a worthy challenge to try to emulate their innocent trust in the instinctive process - the bold transformation whose outcome is partially beyond our control. They show us the persistence required: that with will, consistent hard work and not giving up - that maybe - just possibly, with a defiantly, delusionally optimistic and unrealistic attitude, I might one day find myself also in a southern flower garden for the winter.

Seems worth the effort, yes?

Monday, October 12, 2009

Pleasure Haiku

first taste of flower

first wind under her fresh wings
nectar on the tongue

>!< >!< >l< >l<

tender monarch feet
mariposa newborn breath
ever so lightly

>!< >!< >!< >!<

flower nectar joy
fills ecstatic wings lifting
now levitate home

>!< >!< >!< >!<

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Emergence: spreading wings

As the monarchs come close to emerging, the chrysalis darkens, turning quite black like they're sapping the last juices out of it; remember, they haven't eaten in a couple of weeks.

And then....

Suddenly they emerge in their new form. This one has just stretched his wings out for their first time. He hasn't pumped them up strong yet; the wings hang limply as he still clings to what once was his secure protection where his transformation took place.

The rain has broken here finally; sunny skies and fair winds prevail; they're eating nectar and exercising their wings getting ready for the long journey south.

Soon, open skies.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Metamorphic Magic

Harvest Moon.

Figured you're all some folks who'd appreciate this not only as the extremely cool window into nature that it is, but also that other window of metaphor of the chrysalis.

Today we went up to la po's 'home for shorties' to check in on the monarch butterflies her class has raised from tiny larvae to plump and juicy, big-time poopin'-machine caterpillars, to pupae hanging in chrysalis'. They start out feeding on exclusively milkweed leaves - and lots of them, hence, the immense quantities of poop. They fatten up big, then attach themselves hanging upside down in a 'J' shape.

Next, the really trippy stuff happens: they split their backs open. They don't manufacture their chrysalis like a cocoon, they SPLIT THEIR BACKS OPEN!!! Somehow the chrysalis emerges from out of their big ol' juicy backs and wraps around and encloses them. The bright green chrysalis' then develops gold drops decorating the edges. They are truly one of those golden-magical corners of nature:

They've been growing in there around two weeks now; you can see in the single chrysalis below, the butterfly wings faintly showing through the stretched surface.

They will emerge this coming week, pump their wings, pumping fluid [butterfly blood?] through the wing frames. The wings stiffen up and then take flight.


more info: Journey North Monarch Butterfly Migration