Saturday, July 31, 2010

Everyday is full of gifts..

We get gifts everyday in our lives, I think a lot of the time people don’t realize it.  Me, well I find wonder and joy in the smallest of things, a spiders web in the sun, a tufted titmouse taking a bath, the mother deer and her twins eating from the wildlife feeder.  All of these things are special to me and they make me smile.  Over the course of the last couple of weeks I got to witness something that I’ve never seen first hand and I want to share that gift with you now.
It all started when my mom bought some Swamp Milkweed plants from Butterfly Bushes.  Rose the proprietor raises Monarch butterflies and at least one of the plants that she sent to my mom had a hitchhiker.
Monarch catapillar
Meet the Monarch Caterpillar.   They feed entirely on milkweed plants, which in turn make the lovely Monarch butterfly that they turn into something that will make anything that eats it pretty sick since milkweed plants are poisonous.  These caterpillars face a variety of threats in the wild and unless you are completely out of touch with reality you know that Monarch populations have been on the decline. So in the fashion in which I was raised my mom decided to give it a safe home and constructed an threat free environment for the caterpillar.  However, my mom had a trip planned and wasn’t going to be able to take it with her and since I grow an abundance of milkweed plants, she brought it to me.
I added a small stick to the cage when I collected milkweed for it so that the cutting would be propped up and so that the caterpillar would have a way to access the top of the cutting.  Within two days the caterpillar was hanging off the stick in the shape of a “J”
Hanging J 
Now this process happened so fast I could barely believe it!  The next time I checked on it this is what I found.
Chrysalis & Skin
There is the skin of the caterpillar and it was replaced by a lovely green chrysalis with beautiful gold details!  It looked soft at first but it seemed to harden over the course of the next few days. From July 16th till the 27th this is what it looked like.
On the morning of July 28th I was startled to see this.
black chrysalis
My first thought was something was wrong, until I looked at it closely in the light and saw this.
Monarch
How amazing, how truly wonderful to see that wing inside like that!  It’s absolutely beautiful, the rich orange, the black and that gold! It was a matter of minutes before the butterfly emerged!
DSC_0013
Wonder, awe, joy, nature is amazing as this beautiful butterfly emerged, it’s wings damp and droopy!  I watched as it gradually pumped up its wings to full size.
monarch wings filling monarch wings almost full monarch wings filled
It takes about 6 hours for the Monarchs wings to harden.  It just hung on the stick all day and every so often it would open it’s wings ever so slightly and then return to the closed position. How wonderful to see the skin, the chrysalis and butterfly together!
Finally though the time came when it was ready to be released, it began to walk around with it’s wings open and continually head for the top of the cage.  So outside we went close to flowers that were blooming so that it would be able to find food if it wanted.
first steps
It seemed hesitant at first, or perhaps it was enjoying the first rays of late day sun on it’s wings. 
Monarch release
Slowly, the Monarch walked up the lid to the edge, it slowly opened and closed its wings once, twice, three times and then it took it’s leap off the edge of the lid.  It flew in a circle around my head and flew up into the air.  I’d like to say that it fluttered softly to one of my awaiting plants and ate because that sounds much better, but that isn’t the case…
Free
Up it flew and landed on my dragonfly flag!  It stayed perched there for quite a while, so long in fact that I had to come in and eat dinner!  The next time I went out to check it was gone. 
I feel so blessed to have been able to witness something so magical first hand.  I wonder how many people ever get to experience something so truly amazing.  Everyday is full of gifts, we just all need to take more time to see them and realize that they exist!  I’m pondering now how I can raise butterflies because this is something that I’d love to witness again and again….

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