That’s not my newly planted milkweed, but a forsythia bush where this Mourning Cloak butterfly is soaking up the quiet morning sun.
I did a lot of “B” things today all before noon, which leaves me the rest of the day to enjoy in the garden.
First of all, I went to a butterfly festival. I mean, how could I NOT, right?
It was the North County Monarch Butterfly Festival in San Marcos, which isn’t too terribly far from me, but it’s inland and since we’re having a heatwave, I thought I’d go early. It was 95 degrees at 10:00 a.m. That’s HOT!
The North County Monarch Butterfly Festival featured butterfly-inspired art, crafts, clothing, gardening, live music, and food. I really wish the kids were here because it was the perfect fun and educational event for children.
Here’s what the event website had to say: The fate of the iconic Western monarch butterfly is tied inextricably to the health of the planet, and that means our fate as human beings is informed by the same forces that impact the monarchs. Simply put, if monarch butterflies thrive, so do we, along with all of the other inhabitants of the monarch universe; conversely, if the monarchs can’t thrive in this universe, then human beings can’t either.
This event – hopefully the first of many – will feature any and all aspects of the monarch universe, from monarch-inspired arts and crafts to jewelry, clothing, biology, pollinator gardening, milkweed and nectar plant propagation and cultivating, to discussions and presentations on a wide range of subjects, from conservation and migration to habitat restoration and creation, from diseases and predators to native plants vs tropical, from children’s activities to seed exchange.
I held a snake too, from the San Diego Herpetological Society, the same organization that helped me identify that Great Basin lizard that visited for a while last year. I’m not 100% sure what snakes and lizards have to do with butterflies, but me and all the other children loved it. The snake’s name is Matt. Isn’t he handsome?
All kinds of milkweed; I purchased the native variety. I also got a variety of milkweed called Hairy Balls, again, how could I NOT? Gomphocarpus physocarpus, commonly known as hairy balls, is a species of milkweed native to southeast Africa, but it has been widely naturalized. It is often used as an ornamental plant.
Yummy smelling soaps and lip balms. Lovely!
After that I drove back to the coast where it was noticeably cooler and stopped by the Bans Off Our Bodies rally gathering at our local train station. I was happy to see an awesome and exuberant crowd of like-minded folks while I took a few photos.
Bans Off Our Bodies
Blocks and blocks of people all the way to the beach! This is in front of Spin Records.
I like to take photos of the signs, all with their permission, by the way.
A little butterfly bliss and a show of support for reproductive rights sounds like a great day to me, don’t you agree? Time to plant that milkweed!
I thought about this: I’m lucky enough to experience a great deal of butterfly interactions; a continual source of joy and delight.
No photographic evidence exists to prove I’m telling the truth, but yesterday, as I was planting a bunch of California natives, a mourning cloak butterfly was fluttering all around me and then sat on my arm for about two minutes.
I tried to get to my phone to document this magic, but I couldn’t, so you’ll have to believe me. I guess she really really approved the locations where I planted the coffee berry and manzanitas!
This planting experience was a team effort: my son was on the phone with me when I was at the nursery having done the research about which specific plants to buy, and he also determined where each one should be planted. It’s not as much fun as having him here in real life. but we had a good time.
She came back today, blocking my way on the steps, so I was able to finally snap a photo.
Me and my shadow and her own shadow!
In keeping with positive intentions and more of that anticipatory vorfreude for this new year, something so strange and wonderful happened!
I had been working in the garden — in my zone of bliss — raking leaves from the ash tree as it finished abscission during last week’s rainy and windy weather. It’s a mystery to me how and when the leaves fall; last year it was before Thanksgiving and this year was much later.
Read about abscission here: https://enchantedseashells.com/2020/11/20/the-process-of-abscission/
When I came inside to freshen my lemony water, I saw what I thought was a piece of paper stuck to the kitchen window, but upon further examination, it was a yellow butterfly!
A yellow butterfly!
I have absolutely no idea how it came to be in the house. I never leave the screen door open ‘cos the rats and squirrels are my constant arch nemeses.
Isn’t this magical? I think so…
I was able to gently coax her into a small plastic container and set her free on the deck. With a joyful heart, I carefully watched her flutter away back to from wherever she came. There was no harm done to her delicate wings.
I wonder if it’s the same butterfly I saw a while ago…that would be SUPER cool.
According to “World of Feng Shui,” a butterfly in the home is always a good omen but…
Maryland lore believes that a butterfly that enters the home and flies around someone foretells one’s death or the death of someone one knows, yet the same sign in Louisiana means that the person will have good luck.
In Japan, they treat a butterfly that enters the home kindly, as the soul of a loved relative or friend might reside in the butterfly and has come to visit them.
I’m going with the good luck and visit from my mom theories. In either case, I am grateful for the visit.
Gale force winds, tree limbs down in the garden, neighbor’s pool toys are in my yard, umbrellas broken, lights flickering, and so much RAIN I can’t go outside because it’s dangerous.
This is a perfect time to share a photo gallery of this sweet little yellow butterfly who flirted with me on Sunday afternoon.
I can’t figure out if it’s a Sleepy Orange or Southern Dogface or California Dogface, Little Yellow, Southwestern Cloudless Sulphur, or Jamaican Yellow.
I didn’t know there were so many yellow butterflies that look quite similar! (iNaturalist Butterflies of San Diego County).
Anyway, here’s a bit of sunshine on a rainy day. I hope all butterflies and birds and coyotes and bobcats stay safe and dry.
**This is so strange. I only published this post today, June 26, but it shows that it was published on the 24th, so I am RE-writing and posting again. Very odd WordPress, very odd.
We had a bit of rain, just a few drops, definitely not the kind of rain we need here in the Southwest, but I think my veggie garden was grateful for it.
When I went outside to check on the status of baby lettuce seedlings, I noticed a Monarch butterfly entangled in the netting surrounding the garden. I’ve been forced to use the barrier to keep out squirrels and rats and bunnies. There are plenty of other things in the garden those guys can eat, so I don’t feel too bad about restricting them from my yummy greens.
Carefully, I removed the netting from those delicate wings.
After flying off, s/he returned with a mate and they circled my head a few times as if to thank me. “You’re welcome, guys! I was glad to help.”
Later that afternoon, right before dusk, I went for a walk. There were still beautiful clouds in the sky and I was thinking happy thoughts about the butterflies.
Suddenly, before I could even react, several things happened at once. A white van was driving down the street faster than the twenty-five mile an hour speed limit. A dove flew low across the street, left to right. (Yup, you can see where this is going.) The driver MUST have seen the bird, I’m sure of it.
Without slowing down or trying to avoid the imminent impact, the van ran into the bird, and to make it even more horrific, the back tires finished the slaughter. There were no other cars on the road; simply slowing down would have avoided it completely.
It doesn’t matter to me that there was nothing I could have done to prevent this tragedy. I ran out into the street to see if I needed to take the bird to a vet, but it was too late. Too late. I crouched down on my knees over the little dove almost in shock at the massive destruction the van did to his body. I took a photo because I wanted to remember the poor dear and honor his/her life, but it’s too gruesome to post and I feel it would be disrespectful to the innocent creature.
The bird was probably on his way home, and there might have been nesting babies that won’t be fed and won’t survive all because of the actions of one unaware or uncaring human. What if it was one of the doves I just wrote about that often visit me in the garden? How incredibly sad.
Well, that stripped me of the joy of saving a butterfly, that’s for sure. I’m a fixer and a helper. It’s a tough lesson for me to comprehend that sometimes things can be so terribly damaged that they can’t be mended or put back together, like this poor little bird who was beyond repair.
This made me think of Prince. When doves cry, so do I.
STAY near me–do not take thy flight!
A little longer stay in sight!
Much converse do I find in thee,
Historian of my infancy!
Float near me; do not yet depart! – Wordsworth
This female Papilio glaucus, the Eastern Tiger Swallowtail, hung around for about half an hour, leisurely fluttering from one flower to another. I almost felt like paparazzi as I snapped photo after photo of this Lepidopteran celebrity. A little research revealed that the first known drawing of a North America butterfly was in 1587 of an Eastern Tiger Swallowtail by John White.
It happened in the front yard this time along the dry river bed.
I was enchanted while she took a rest break on the ground, basically right at my feet, long enough for me to take about fifty more pics.
To a Butterfly
STAY near me–do not take thy flight!
A little longer stay in sight!
Much converse do I find in thee,
Historian of my infancy!
Float near me; do not yet depart!
Dead times revive in thee:
Thou bring’st, gay creature as thou art!
A solemn image to my heart,
My father’s family!
Oh! pleasant, pleasant were the days,
The time, when, in our childish plays,
My sister Emmeline and I
Together chased the butterfly!
A very hunter did I rush
Upon the prey:–with leaps and springs
I followed on from brake to bush;
But she, God love her, feared to brush
The dust from off its wings.
By William Wordsworth (1770-1850)
That was today, actually.
It was around noon. I was in the garden, watering because it’s uncomfortably hot here in SoCal. Not as bad as Paris, cos there’s still a bit of an ocean breeze, but HOT.
A pretty orange and black spotted Monarch butterfly began to follow the spray of water from the hose, and she and I had a little chat.
Well, she listened while I talked to her.
“Hey, pretty girl, are you thirsty?”
By way of response, she floated to the ground and folded up her wings like a beautiful fan. Or like pressed together hands in namaste.
“Are you OK?” “Are you injured anywhere?” At the same time I wondered how in the world I could take a butterfly to the emergency vet.
I turned off the water and crouched down to get a closer look.
“What do you need? Are you having a little rest?”
Again, no response, but I inched closer and slowly sat down, hardly daring to breathe.
We stayed that way for a moment or two, each of us motionless.
“Can I touch you?” I asked. “I won’t hurt your wings, I promise.”
(By the way, the powder on the wings of a butterfly or moth is actually tiny scales made from modified hairs, and it doesn’t actually damage them if they’re touched.)
Ever so tentatively I reached out my right hand and ever so gently touched the charcoal gray folded up underside of her fan wings, and then I simply sat still as a statue.
After a few seconds in which time stopped, she opened her wings once, twice, three times, and then lifted off the ground and fluttered away.
Thank you” I whispered, and held my heart to keep the love from spilling out.
It was nothing short of an amazing encounter, don’t you agree? One of my most enchanting and enchanted days.
Well, maybe butterflies do.
I stalked this Western Tiger Swallowtail like a seasoned paparazzi from TMZ.
Easy on the eyes for your Sunday enjoyment.
Perhaps it’s because this is the first day of autumn that coincides with my Angel Boy’s half birthday (we always celebrate) or because he really has left the nest for real this time with his first tenure track professorship (at least on the west coast so we’re closer) but I’m feeling a sense of change along with the the season.
Even in SoCal the weather will eventually morph into a winter of sorts and maybe that’s why this butterfly was in a weakened condition, because there’s no way to tell how the injury occurred, but she was flying around me and then came to rest on the lawn right next to my new raised bed where I was playing around with the sand dolllars from yesterday’s post.
How do you help an injured butterfly? Can I pick her up and take her to the vet? Can you superglue the torn wing? (I don’t think so) but her ability to still lift off and float on the breeze made me think of her metaphorically.
In fact, it’s a day full of metaphors with my son flying off and away (literally on an airplane as I’m typing this) to become a fully fledged adult with a grown up job and a boatload of responsibility.
But then this butterfly visited me and I’m trying to decipher her deeper message, although maybe a butterfly is just a butterfly.
Maybe she just needed a safe place to rest and heal.
And just like that, she flew away, carried off by the balmy breezes of another SoCal heat wave.
And thanks to a smarter blogger than me who writes over at https://pacificparatrooper.wordpress.com/ (you need to follow him!) his brilliant comment referenced the “butterfly effect. According to Wiki, it’s a popular hypothetical example of chaos theory which illustrates how small initial differences may lead to large unforeseen consequences over time.
And he doesn’t know it, but this is SO TRUE. As I keep saying, all will be revealed…
Stay safe, my friends, and Happy Autumnal Equinox to everyone!