The chill in the air these past few days was a welcome relief to the heat of the summer. However, for me, a newly emerged monarch butterfly, the cooler air is not so welcome.
Some kids were out riding bikes and found me listless on the driveway. Usually when we monarchs emerge from our chrysalis, the warmth of the sun helps to “dry out” our wings so that we can take flight searching in great anticipation of nectar. Today, I had a hard time finding such warmth. I simply couldn’t bring myself to move. And the edges of my wings were still curled.
I was just not able to fly yet. Willingly, I let the kids bring me inside in a tall white cage where it was warm and I was safe. Never in my life did I think I would have ever eaten dinner, and in a few more hours breakfast too, with humans, in a house, but here I was. It was certainly a much better predicament than that driveway.
I spent most of the night hanging upside down from my feet in the cage. In my state of quiescence, even the gentle breeze of a human blowing breath on me was not enough to wake me from my slumber. I heard the words spoken “She’s dead.” I stayed still. I didn’t move.
No stranger to the cycle of life, I continued to hang upside down. There was a small human that sat with me for half and hour, just watching me in my lifelessness. She moved a few times, turning her head to see if she could get her eyes to meet mine. The chilly night was just too much for me. My wings were curled and uncomfortable. I continued to hang, motionless. Eventually though, I knew my purpose must continue and I mustered the effort to move my wings. Then, I heard a young voice shout “SHE MOVED!!” Sure enough, my wings were opening and closing in a cautious yet melodic state of hope.
Normally, we flit about with great anticipation of the life outside filled with nectar and warm winds. By late next morning, I felt I needed my solar medicine. The rays of sun were much needed as was some nectar. I was starving!
By the sun’s high point in the sky, I was taken outside to a rain garden and all the delicious plants out there. I was able to come out, and at will I did fly toward the plants, but something told me I was still not 100%.
Before long, I was back in the safety of a cage and bumping along inside this noisy and bouncy and loud place.
Author’s note: Never in my life did I think that I would drive my car with a butterfly in the car. But…there she was. Once inside the Institute we asked if it would be okay to release a monarch inside the butterfly house because we knew all she needed was safety from predators (like a praying mantis) and a warm place to regroup. The staff at the institute said “By all means, go ahead and release her!”
When I finally left the little human’s finger I found myself drawn to a bright pink summer phlox. And I drank the nectar. And then I drank some more. And some more. It was quite a delight. I was famished!
Feeling a slight bit of relief, I noticed that as I perched, the sun was getting even warmer in the early afternoon, and the butterflies in the house were very active and they were everywhere! I was going to be okay. No worries of predators. Thank you for this place. Thank you. My cycle will now continue.
As we left the butterfly house and walked back to the car with our butterfly cage, I looked back at the house, and then looked at my daughter. She was teary eyed and definitely a little choked up. It was like returning a lost puppy to its owner…your emotions run a little wild, but you know that returning it to where it belongs is a good thing. For everyone. My daughter has released countless butterflies before so this one was nothing new. But still, it felt a little different having had this one spend the night in our house, and then releasing it inside of a butterfly house with several butterflies flying overhead. A small Pearl Crescent even landed on her while she was trying to release the butterfly. It was like a little thank you note. And perhaps, a token of good luck.