Art on the Wing

Monarchs are old friends of mine. Our area being one of the main migration paths, I saw them arrive and leave every year as far back as I can remember. It really saddens me to hear of their plight.

As a little girl, wandering around the garden, pastures, and ditches of our property, I would come across them on the many milk weeds scattered around.  There was no missing them, with their bright colors; Deep oranges, dramatically-outlined by black, wings catching your eye in bright morning sun.

When you're very young, everything is fascinating to you.  It's all so new!  For instance, one day I noticed the dryer vent on the outside of the house.  Mom was doing the laundry that day, and the weather was still too cold for her liking to hang out the clothes.  Warm air was rushing out of the vent forming little clouds near the ground.  I had to investigate, of course.  As I drew near, I could feel its moist warmth - it was delightful!  My little hands were cold, despite the wool mittens my grandmother had knitted me.  I thought, why not take them off and warm them up under the vent?  So I did.  I came back often as I played in the yard, to warm up there.

One day later in the spring, in that in-between time when the snow had gone, but the full bloom of summer is yet to be, I came to warm up at my friendly vent, when I saw something different there.  It was small, short, round...and a shimmering green in the early morning light.  I had never seen anything like it before.  It intrigued me, and I wanted to know more.  I ran in the house and told Mom about it.  She told me that it sounded like a Monarch butterfly chrysalis.  I didn't fully understand, and my confusion must have shown on my face.  She smiled and said, like a cocoon that brown and orange caterpillars I already knew so well, turned into before becoming moths.   Oh, I said.  She further explained that if I watched it everyday, soon it would turn into an amazing butterfly, one of the most beautiful ones there are.  That's all it took, I was hooked.  I think this was my very first scientific adventure; I was taking the step beyond just exploring, into focused and purposeful observation.  I was excited!

It didn't take long.  I went out one morning to check, saw it was open.  Upon closer inspection, I saw that the former occupant was long gone.  I was very disappointed to have completely missed the magic of seeing the chrysalis finally open, and the butterfly emerge.  But I did what I could, examining the opened "shell".  With a gust of wind, it detached and blew away before I could catch it.  Gone, just like the butterfly.