Plight of the Monarch Butterfly
July 15, 2011 21 Comments
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