Butterfly Navigation Systems

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Monarch and Queen on Zinnia taken in Voca

October saw the beauty of migration.  What seemed like millions of monarchs floated overhead on their long journey to Mexico.  They were like feathers on the wind, so graceful.  I am always astonished at how such seemingly fragile creatures can endure so much and travel so far.

I wondered how far they actually travel and found this record:  “A tagged male monarch (Danaus plexippus), released by Donald A. Davis (Canada) at Presqu’ile provincial Park near Brighton, Ontario, Canada, on 10 September 1988, was recaptured on 8 April 1989 in Austin, Texas, U.S.A., travelling an estimated 2880 miles, making this the World’s Longest Butterfly Migration according to the Guinness World Records Ltd (Davis, 2005)

 But usually a single monarch doesn’t make the entire trip.  Monarch butterflies may take as many as five generations to make it from Mexico to southern Canada and back again (Main, 2013).  Each generation is made up of four distinct life cycles – that’s 20 separate states of being.  

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Which came first the monarch or the egg?  (The Science of monarchs)

 So, this is where it gets spiritual for me.  Somehow the knowledge of the journey gets passed not from one monarch to another but through an evolution of existences.  There is a ONENESS…from the butterfly to the egg to the caterpillar to the chrysalis to the butterfly.  Five monarchs, five times in an egg, five caterpillars, and five times in chrysalis:  the journey just continues.  Is it really five different monarchs making the trip or the spirit of one monarch just trying on new outfits along the way?

And then I think about the swarms of monarchs making the trip…this knowledge…this “TRUTH” is within each of them.  I don’t know how they share it or how they hear it, but they all just KNOW.  Could the swarm of butterflies really be part of a greater being…all butterflies are truly one? 

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In the Elm Tree across the Creek from my House

 

What is this monarch navigation system? How quiet the mind of a monarch must be to hear this mystical guide!

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Sunning in the field

I was on the phone for an hour Saturday with somebody I dearly love. It’s funny because I NEVER talk on the phone…nonetheless for an hour. We talked about how we both suffer from relentless voices in our heads…there is never quiet…never space.  The voices drive us and push us in directions we think we SHOULD go.  We hear the directions society, our parents, our bosses, our lovers believe we should go.  They chatter, like multiple GPS guidance systems talking at once, constantly recalculating new routes.

I believe that like the monarchs, we don’t need a GPS. I think we are all born with monarch navigation systems that gently whisper the directions.  But the voice is gentle, never forceful.  So, I must learn to quiet my mind to truly hear.  I know there is a whisper for me…I can feel the loving call.  I just have to be quiet enough to hear.

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I constantly try to photograph the butterflies in flight…this was closest I got that day

References

Davis, D. (2005, September). Meet Canadian Naturalist. Retrieved from Journey North: https://journeynorth.org/tm/monarch/DavisDonBio.html

Main, D. (2013, August 13). Monarch butterflies may take five generations to migrate to US . Retrieved from NBC News: https://www.nbcnews.com/sciencemain/monarch-butterflies-may-take-five-generations-migrate-us-6C10910055

The Science of monarchs. (n.d.). Retrieved from Chautauqua Bird Tree and Garden Club: https://www.chautauquabtg.org/life-cycle-anatomy/

 

 

 

 

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Lesson Two: $2.49 Mussels

I rolled my forehead on the cool bathroom floor. I breathed, trying to calm the violent nausea. After throwing up for three hours, I decided I could do nothing more than wait.  I knew that regardless of the ending, this would not go on forever.

Sometimes you have to accept that your body is in pain, but you don’t have to identify with that pain…accept your body is aging, but not identify with the aging body.  Sometimes you just have to accept imperfections, but recognize you are more.

 

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“You are imperfect, you are wired for struggle, but you are worthy of love and belonging.”
― Brené Brown

 

Seems more than coincidence that earlier that day, I’d lit my sage smudge and with a feeling of perfect peace, smudged myself.  I still felt a barrier, an old resentment to which I kept returning. I knew it was time to move on but something around my heart felt like a burnt-out light bulb. So I smudged myself prayerfully and went to the kitchen to fix those delicious $2.49 mussels I’d found on sale along with a light gluten free pasta pesto dish. I watched a short segment on Gaia TV enjoying my delightfully inexpensive supper.  A few hours later, I asked Barry to just bring a pillow to the bathroom for me.

That was Sunday night. I’m writing this Friday night and I still don’t feel 100% right physically.  BUT throughout this whole thing, I’ve felt peace. I think I vomited up a piece of resentment.

 

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Finally letting go of those things I cannot change..

So what is my point? There is always another obstacle. There is always a problem to overcome, a friendship that is lost, a body that ages…there’s always a resentment to release or a fear to face.

Life is like a sit-com series – it opens with laughs then a conflict arises. By the end of the show, the situation is resolved and more laughter erupts.  A week later you do the whole thing all over again. Sometimes you get a break during re-run season but usually there’s always another episode. And it’s ok…because all that stuff happening is kinda the whole point.

A dear friend sent me the following meme after she patiently listened to my constant yammering for the past few months. I think this beautifully sums up the Lesson of the Mussels.

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Lesson One: Watermelon

The Art of Watermelon
A neighbor gave us a watermelon after Barry put out a small fire for him. I should have photographed it. But I saw it and that memory is preserved. The watermelon existed for a moment the way we all do, I suppose. Art and beauty once created, are like truth. They can never be undone. And I think maybe like we and the watermelon are like art, beauty, and truth.
Anyway, I cut it up to put it in Tupperware (well Gladdware or whatever it’s called) and Winnie came begging. That dog will eat anything! Of course, Cupcake had to try it too but she immediately spit her piece on the floor. Don’t worry – nothing was wasted. Winnie swooped right in. I guess not everybody appreciates watermelon the same way.
I marveled at the smell and texture of the melon – the way the hard, thick rind housed such a delicate fruit that literally melts under pressure. Again I thought about how much I have in common with that melon.
I chopped the rind into small pieces. Before I sat down to enjoy my treat, I wanted to give the cows their treat. Pretty cow met me at the gate. She recognizes the grey bucket. She’s getting so old. She’s 23 now and actually calved last year. She has no teeth but she can gum up some watermelon rind. All the other girls came too, but Pretty Cow is Alpha Cow and gets the best of the best.
I have to brag – she’s so intelligent. A piece was on the ground and I pointed to it. Area 51 Cow and #68 both tried to bite my pointing finger but Pretty Cow actually looked at the place to which I pointed.
I came home, washed cow slobber off my hands and arms and sat down with my melon. I decided this was a chance to really practice mindfulness. I would sit in silence and savor my food. I don’t think I ever really tasted watermelon – not TRULY tasted. I tend to scarf food. Maybe it’s some primordial instinct – eat it all before the others come. But I settled into the safety of my couch and slowly savored each bit. I smelled it. I looked at it. I ate it. My hunger and thirst were both satiated, but something even deeper felt satisfied…I felt alive and safe. I felt unhurried. I didn’t have to think about anything but the melon. I think I felt “mindfulness.” So this was Lesson One. A simple lesson but it’s a good start for the journey.
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Pretty about 13 years ago…