Plight of the Monarch Butterfly

Monarch Butterfly

Sometimes all I want to do is point to the sky, lean toward you and whisper, “It’s blue.  Isn’t it wonderful?  For God’s sake, it’s blue.”  I want to tell you about one day in October when I was idling in traffic, stuck in a line of cars at a red light, and I saw a Monarch butterfly flit across the road, all six lanes of it.  In all of its black and yellow and orange, its general ignorance of where it was or how ridiculous its task, how pathetic its odds of crossing the thoroughfare intact, it zigzagged through the air.  It collided with a fender and only just caught itself before falling to the asphalt.  A light breeze whisked it over the roof of a red Camry, then yanked it back five feet so that again it almost fell to the pavement.  It picked itself up in mid-flight, bounced off of my windshield, and stumbled gracefully through the air until it arrived at the median.  It achieved grace in clumsiness.  I don’t know if it actually made it to the other side of the road.  All I know is that it survived three lanes of stationary cars and that the traffic lights turned green the moment it reached the median.

When I was a boy I used to chase Monarchs through fields of flowers in Texas.  I used to think that a single butterfly made the Spring migration from Mexico, up through Texas, and into various parts of the Eastern United States and Canada; and that the same butterfly made the return migration back to Mexico beginning in October.  In fact, the whole South-North/North-South migration requires four generations of butterflies, the longest-lived of which is the generation that winters in Mexico and swarms in Oyamel forests to the delight of tourists.

The butterfly I saw in October was a member of this hardy generation, charged with reaching Mexico and surviving for the next six months so that come Spring, it could join its peers in journeying northward to ensure the survival of the entire species.  It represented one leg of a long-distance, multi-generational relay.  A six-lane road must have been among the least of its obstacles.  A gleeful little boy may have been its worst enemy.

Image Credit: Lone Star Junction

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About atomsofthought
Teacher. Traveler. Writer. Reader.

21 Responses to Plight of the Monarch Butterfly

  1. skippingstones says:

    My email had more – it made it feel very personal, like you were talking to me. Maybe the leaning, like you were actually standing next to me. I didn’t think it was incongruous or superfluous.

    I was scared for a moment that you made me root for this butterfly and then it got run over. I’m glad it made it to the median at least. I had no idea they lived that long, much less migrated! I should put as much effort into my journey a that butterfly. I think “general ignorance” of the challenges before you may not be such a bad thing. I find that much of what holds me back is fear…of defeat, or pain, or rejection, or heartache…

    • Thank you for saying that. If you hadn’t, I probably would have left it out.

      Those are the things that hold me back too. Sometimes it is better to be ignorant of the odds… or if possible, to at least cast them out of your mind.

  2. Joss says:

    the monarch reminds us that, we too, are part of a whole. A good thought on a day when |I’m feeling particularly lost and alone. Walk in beauty.

  3. you sound like a butterfly monitor in the making! Years ago I was doing some volunteer work in a prairie when a fritillary sailed past, big as a plate it seemed. Soon began a decades-long quest to count the butterflies on a number of sites- what a blissful pursuit that was. Land-owers, we were assured, use our data to help them make management plans for the land. I don’t think any of us care- we just loved chasing and counting the butterflies! Not entirely true, but on a beautiful summer day there is nothing like it. May all your butterflies make it to the other side…

    • That sounds like a fascinating thing to do! What perspective you must have gained from counting all of those butterflies over a long period of time. I hope the populations were healthy.

  4. Anonymous says:

    Beautiful writing. I love seeing something that could so easily be missed, if you aren’t paying attention. I also like the first sentence, inviting the reader to this amazing moment.

  5. satsumaart says:

    Gorgeous, and I love your first line. I’m always wanting to do that too, just point to the sky and the ocean and the flowers and bees and moan with delight.

  6. Michelle says:

    Am I crazy?

    • Nono! I left for Texas yesterday morning and was in a hurry, so I fixed what you commented on really quick before I left. Not crazy!!! I really appreciated the feedback. I was worried that the first sentence was “incongruous.” I’m sorry, Michelle!

  7. pattisj says:

    I love a good butterfly story. Amazing creatures, aren’t they? I got to observe one that formed its chrysalis on my potting bench last fall. I watched the colors change inside, then one day, there was the most beautiful, brand-new butterfly I’d ever seen sitting on the bench. What a treat!

    • They are amazing. My mom used to take my sister and me to a nearby park where we searched for butterflies, moths, and other flying creatures… I was usually most mobssessed with saving tadpoles from a drying up puddle 🙂

  8. I was feeling rather morose the other day, when a butterfly came in my window while I was stopped at a red light. Landing on the steering wheel for a moment, the butterfly resume his flight out of my window just before the light turned green. God came in my car.

  9. Michelle says:

    I figured you were traveling yesterday, but I couldn’t figure out if you put it back or if I’m just blind. I miss things all the time!

  10. Talk about an inspirational insect- migrating all of that way on such thin wings. Amazing when you think of it.

    • Yes! It’s incredible, all of the species that migrate from one end of the globe to the other and points in between, year in and year out. It’s mind boggling 🙂

  11. DanEastSide says:

    I haven’t seen as many Monarchs as when I was younger. Has there been a decline in the population?

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