It was a happy moment for me today when I saw a monarch butterfly flutter by me and land on the lone surviving lantana in my flowerbed. The Monarchs are migrating through the Texas countryside now, silently making their way to wherever they spend the winter.
Recently a member of the nature group to which I belong sent a newspaper article to me about the monarch migration. It said they are having a hard time on their migration route through Texas this year. The article listed the cause of the distress as the lack of butterfly necessities: water, nectar producing plants, and brush and trees. It said there is a scarcity of milkweed, the monarch’s favorite food, due to the summer wild fires in pastures and meadows.
Truth be told, I don’t know much about butterflies. I know the basic stages of the life cycle and that they need water, food, and shelter if they are to survive.
I don’t even know how long a butterfly actually lives although I’m pretty sure its life span is short. But I’m not certain about that. I’ve spent way more time enjoying the aesthetics of butterflies than I’ve spent studying facts.
It’s not the facts about butterflies that concern me anyway. I prefer to concentrate on the happiness I feel when I see them.
I have a favorite quote about butterflies. An Indian poet and playwright wrote: “The butterfly counts not months but moments, and has time enough.”
The monarch that I saw today reminded me of an autumn morning long ago. On that far off fall morning, I walked out my back door and saw something so beautiful and unexpected that it took my breath away.
The ground was covered with sleeping butterflies. I gasped at the beauty of it. Then I held my breath for a bit so the sound of my breathing wouldn’t wake them.
The monarchs covered the whole yard: silent and resting. There was no bare spot on the dewy grass, not one place where I could step without disturbing them.
I simply stood on the back porch marveling at my good fortune of being present at that moment in the butterfly migration. Never before had I seen something like this and never have I seen it again. I would repeat the moment if I could, but I think it is probably one of those things that happens only once in a lifetime.
The butterflies began to stir as the dew dried from their wings. They were gone by noon, on their way to wherever they go. They didn’t stay long. Just as the poet said, they counted their time in moments, not months and yet had time enough.
I don’t know why the butterflies picked my little house on South Street for their overnight stay. There were no flowers blooming, no milkweed growing there.
All I know is there was time enough, the resting spot was good enough, and they came where I was and the moment of beauty has stayed with me since, captured in my memory.
No, it’s not the facts about butterflies that concern me. It’s the memory of that morning that I treasure; the moment that took my breath away.
I have the pleasure of remembering it even now, every time I see a monarch fluttering past me on its way to somewhere else.