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

We need each other like the monarch needs the milkweed. We need #community like the #monarch needs #milkweed #fmfparty 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.

Story Intertwined

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? #fmfparty 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)!

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  1. I love this! We’ve “raised” so many butterflies here at home, piling the milkweed plants into a container with a ravenous caterpillar who gets fatter everyday and then the newly minted creature trying out its wings on the tip of a boy’s finger and finally taking off into flight. I never got tired of it, but I never made the connection you are making here. The interaction within the body of Christ makes all of us better!
    Michele Morin recently posted…Declaration of DependenceMy Profile

  2. Dear Anita, what a wonderful reminder that no one is a throw away. We all have something to contribute. Your post will help me get my head in the game for school that is approaching seemingly with the speed of lightning. Blessings as you seek the beauty in others!

  3. I knew some of the monarch and milkweed story, but not all of it – especially the part about the monarch population declining to due lack of milkweed. We truly do need all of the body of Christ, “the humble and quiet as well as the larger than life.”
    Barbara H. recently posted…With All Our MindsMy Profile

  4. Love this! Sounds like you all had a great weekend. Wish I would’ve been there with all of you. You all hold a special place in my heart!

  5. Love this! I had a friend who is obsessed with milkweed and I have learned a lot from following his posts about it. I’m not good at community, but I am learning.

  6. I am so happy to hear that the Monarchs that show up in our northwestern NC garden in September are some of the ones that make it to Mexico. I have a ton of Milk Thistle here on our 7 acre meadow! And, I have seeds if anyone would like one or 5!!!

  7. Stunning descriptions, lovely metaphors. I also loved reading about your horseback days. Thank you for this post!

  8. I love the link you made here with the monarchs and the milkweed. It is so true that we need community and we need one another, that everyone has a part to play whether it is an obvious role or more in the background. I’m glad you found that community at the retreat- really wish I could have been there. I love the FMF community and would love to meet some of them in real life one day!
    Lesley recently posted…Let The Children ComeMy Profile

  9. Hi, Anita, rereading your story about our interconnectedness (is that a word?). We can’t be reminded too often that “no man is an island”, can we? BUT, I loved the stories about your grandson! What a cutie, and how blessed he is to have you in his life. Praying for lots of meaningful Skype time with your little man.

  10. It’s always interesting to find out how something we thought was useless is necessary for the nourishment of a creature that is so beautiful.
    Thank you for the reminder of how important community is and for the admonition to seek out those whose stories are interconnected. Sometimes we seem to think that those people should find us, and we don’t make the effort to be friendly and connect with people. If they don’t make the first move, may the Lord give us the courage to reach out to them anyway.

  11. I’m so sad every time I hear that our butterfly population is declining. 🙁 Thanks for sharing the importance of habitat, Anita. This is such a great lesson for all of us to know that our part matters, however small we think that part is.
    Lisa notes recently posted…Does Work at Home Matter?My Profile

  12. the line about a pretty weed reminds me of my daughter’s habit. Her older sister rushes home from the bus after school, but K often walks slower and picks a few flowering weeds to give me. Little dainty white flowers. She will be in fourth grade this year, and I think she will still do this.
    There is beauty in everything, if we look.
    Sarah recently posted…What Sea Turtles Taught Me About PurposeMy Profile

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Anita Ojeda

Anita Ojeda juggles writing with teaching high school English and history. When she's not lurking in odd places looking for rare birds, you can find her camping with her kids, adventuring with her husband or mountain biking with her students.

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