Monarchs

The patch of milkweed stands since I scratched “mow backyard” off my list.  “Good for the monarchs,” I told myself  — one of my better rationalized bits of sloth.

Through July and August the weeds grew from edible shoots into tall, lush plants with sweet smelling pepto-pink blossoms and then to bedraggled-pieces missing-brown-edged leaves with ripening warty pods.

We all waited for the monarchs.

Without notice a confident stripey caterpillar, swollen to size by gorging on foul-tasting milkweed sap, had lashed itself with stiff silk to a shady spot where it could wait out its confinement.

Not on a stem or leaf, this one preferred the stability that a 4″ x 4″ x 10′ in a pile destined to become a deck for processing chickens could provide.

The chrysalis caught my eye while shifting the lumber to pull out the next board.  Only luck had prevented the squishing of the gold garnished pod.

Construction stopped and a chopped off 2 foot section of the arsenic-drenched wood was delivered to the kitchen counter.

And we waited again.

The hatching happened quickly one mid-morning after the pod cleared to reveal the tightly packed butterfly-in-waiting.   Alice carried the polka-dotted bug with waving stick legs and half-pumped up wings outside.  She convinced it, gently,  to let go of her hand and to dangle from an echinacia flower where flight preparations could finish in the early September sun.

Several times, onto noon and past, I searched out the flower to see if the butterfly was still there.  Until, at last, it was not.

Last week a flurry of monarchs cheered my walk to the barn — lifting off from clover, settling down in grass, or just flying 8 to 10 feet off the ground in any old direction.

But now it’s down to the odd one or two that float through the slanting sun.

These late ones have a long way to go before fast-approaching first frost.   They need to get moving.  Mexico, not the town in Maine, is far.

Of course, my concern amounts to nothing and some will get where they are going and others will not.

Still I will the butterfly up and up to catch the wind that will help it on its way.

And mowing the backyard is back on my list.

 

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