First the Monarch
This post is prompted by the community I discovered at the Five Minute Friday Retreat this weekend. Thank you, each and every one of my new in real life friends!
Egg. Caterpillar. Pupa. Butterfly. Metamorphosis.
Ugly words, some of them. None of which describes the beauty of a monarch butterfly—orange, black, graceful, dancing, enduring, migrating.
I first heard the story of the monarch the year I turned ten. Bursting outside the hot house into the hotter North Carolina August, pools of sweat formed behind my knees and trickled down my legs. I chose to feel miserable outside with my horse. At least from the bare back of Prince I could manufacture a breeze as we cantered across the pasture.
A shadow passed over head and I looked up, glad for the shade but hoping against hope that I wouldn’t see thunderheads crouching low in the sky. Instead, I saw a low-flying ribbon that seemed to stretch for miles. Parts of the cloud drifted down low so that I could see the spotted bodies, vibrant orange and black wings separated by black lines like stained glass, and tiny antennae that made up the monarch.
Fascination kept me glued to the spot for almost an hour as the slow-moving swarm made their way south. When the sign faded away, I ran inside to look up ‘Monarch’ in our blue and maroon bound set of World Book Encyclopedias. I discovered that the Monarchs would travel to faraway Mexico and not return until winter’s end.
Satisfied, I returned to the blanket of heat and the ride on my horse. The last days of summer beckoned with anxious fingers.
The Story of the Milkweed
I don’t know when or where I first discovered milkweed. Maybe a friend showed me how one could bend the fuzzy leaf and watch the plant bleed ‘milk.’ Years later, a fellow photography classmate took beautiful photos of the milkweed flower and presented them to the class.
“A beautiful photo of a common weed,” the instructor commented.
As if the designation of ‘weed’ would somehow steal the beauty of the flower or the composition. Later that summer, I found milkweed pods bursting with spidery fibers and used them to filter the harsh orange of the setting sun.
Milkweed—rough, fuzzy, milk leaking from broken leaves, pods that bristle and burst with seeds. Torn from the roadsides and removed from the gardens because their only claim to fame is ‘weed.’
Yet without the humble milkweed, the monarch can’t exist. In the spring, the butterflies return from Mexico and the southern United States and lay their eggs on the underside of the leaves of the milkweed plant. In the process, the pollinate the flowers.
Monarchs that go through the life cycle before August will live for two-five short weeks and then die. Eggs that hatch in August and September will transform into the migrating monarchs—flying thousands of miles to California and Mexico where they spend the winter in rabbles of millions.
Due to habitat loss (milkweed, after all, is a ‘weed’), the numbers of monarchs have declined by up to 80% in the past two decades. Canada has listed them as an endangered species.
Without the milkweed, the monarch has no story. The stories of the milkweed and the monarch intertwine—but without one, we will lose the other. (So, go buy some milkweed seeds and plant them in your garden today).
The story of the lowly weed and the king of butterflies reminds me of the importance of community. We need each other—the humble and quiet as well as the larger than life. Seek out those whose stories intertwine with yours. Ask yourselves how you benefit, nurse, sustain, or pollinate those you interact with. We have a responsibility to them, no matter how humble or exalted they might seem.We need #community the way the monarch needs the milkweed. Who can you connect with today?… Click To Tweet
Inspire Me Monday Instructions
What’s your inspirational story? Link up below, and don’t forget the 1-2-3s of building community:
1. Link up your favorite posts from last week!
2. Visit TWO other contributors (especially the person who linked up right before you) and leave an encouraging comment.
3. Spread the cheer THREE ways! Tweet something from a post you read, share a post on your Facebook page, stumble upon it, pin it or whatever social media outlet you prefer—just do it!
Don’t forget to visit our other #InspireMeMonday host site over at Blessed (but Stressed)!