The king of someplace hot. September 25, 2008Posted by ourfriendben in critters, gardening, wit and wisdom.
Tags: Hawk Mountain, monarch butterflies, monarch migration
Now is the time when the monarch butterflies are migrating over our friend Ben’s little piece of heaven, Hawk’s Haven, located in the precise middle of nowhere, Pennsylvania. They are on their annual 2,500 mile journey down the East Coast to the Oyamel fir tree groves of Mexico, where they’ll hibernate for the winter before beginning the long trek back. (West of the Rockies, they “only” have to go as far as Southern California.) Our friend Ben can’t go anywhere—to the backyard, to Hawk Mountain, to the grocery—without seeing monarchs drifting by far overhead, like airborne flakes of fire.
One of the startling things about the migrating monarchs (at least, if you’re used to seeing monarchs flitting around your garden at plant-height) is how high they fly. To conserve energy, they ride the thermals, those warm updrafts of air that bear vultures effortlessly upward in their dizzying spirals, or that carry migrating hawks, eagles, and other raptors over the ridges so they often don’t actually have to flap their wings until they’ve passed from view.
To be up at a major raptor migration site like Hawk Mountain and to see monarchs floating past at raptor-height is a disorienting experience, given their brightness and the seeming laziness of their meandering flight. It’s as though, watching them, the world has inverted and you’re looking up at a great stream, watching brilliantly colored autumn leaves drifting past, floating into eddies, slowly but inevitably passing out of sight.
In an inverted world, normal rules don’t apply. Magic can happen. Anything is possible. You might even believe that a paper-frail butterfly could make a 2,500-mile journey, then return in spring to visit the milkweed plants you grow just for it and others of its kind. Looking up into that infinite, orange-flecked blueness, it’s easy for once to believe in miracles.
Rite of Passage
Each slow beat of your wings
Shatters the sky,
The silent thunder
Of a single tear
Or unborn alien suns.
You bear the spun blue banner overhead,
Caught in your wings,
The color of the sky
Vanishing, despite our pleas and cries
Diminishing to embers as you drift
Until the last spark flickers and goes out.
Dazzled and lost, we search the empty air,
Your unshed ardor burning us like tears.