The last Sunday in February had been an emotional roller-coaster. Disclosures on the domestic front had led to unanticipated challenges, and news on the international stage of Russian aggressions on Ukrainians added to a deepening sense of loss. Increased helicopter and fighter jet activity originating at the military base, near my Mom’s house in Florida, was unsettling in the southeastern coastal city where I was already weary of being. Sound sleep was a deprivation point beginning to effect waking hours of trying to do much of anything beyond the basics.
It was a gift when an unfinished dream found me close-eyed in bed the next morning, not wanting to wake up because it held an elusive promise I wanted to follow to its conclusion. I’d turned over and face-planted in a pillow to deny the intrusive sunlight piercing through the east window’s vertical blinds. A soft knock at the bedroom door made me wonder if a family member was needing assistance, but my Mother in the adjacent room could be heard snoring in my now half-awake state. Who else might it be? I wasn’t even curious enough to get up and see, except a soft, wet nose touched my arm draped over a pillow at the edge of the bed. I knew my patient dog was needing to go out. She’d always been the dependable comfort and loyal companion I needed in life, so I stretched and rolled to a sit. Although I couldn’t smell the coffee as the timer started brewing a small pot, I walked to the back door and opened the screen to a new day. Tilley, my fur baby, always followed me out, so it was a soft greeting when a lone Monarch rested only steps away on the warming patio. Its wings were half folded, and it seemed unalarmed as I stepped closer, kneeling down to see if it was hurt. It’s small feet stayed sturdy on the cement, but its dull colored wings seemed weak as a gentle breeze blew and tipped it sideways. Putting my hand out, it didn’t respond to my offer for a safe transport to a nearby flowerpot with bright red geraniums in bloom. Eventually it lifted off the ground briefly to reposition itself closer to the pool’s edge where sunlight glinted off the water’s surface in prismatic ripples. I waited for it to land before stepping closer, once again, to kneel down and offer the smallest finger of my hand with palm down, so it would understand I was offering safety, not entrapment. One fragile black leg at a time, it positioned its two front legs on my skin. I spoke to it, “Thank you for coming. Take what you need. I mean no harm.” (Of course, this was before any neighbors might have been out and heard me; but honestly, I wouldn’t have cared if someone had. This was between me and the Monarch.) As I slowly lifted my hand from the ground, she seemed to push off my finger and take flight, circling away then back around directly in front of my face, before continuing her arc over to a chartreuse colored perennial in a nearby flowerbed. Hardened and jagged edges inside me from the previous days’ disappointments somehow softened.
In many cultures, Monarchs symbolize transformation and rebirth, or foretell of upcoming changes and new directions in life. These magical butterflies were forever etched in my memory during the years I had a small farm in Kentucky, where an Over-cup White Oak tree hosted them on their migratory path between North American and Mexico. It had taken my breath away when hundreds of them had swirled up and out of its sixty-foot canopy in a brilliant flourish to disperse out and over wildflowers gracing a virgin hay field at the time. In the fall, they had returned to hang in clusters along a thick tree line on one side of the farm, appearing to be leaves letting go of branches to grace the air as they floated to the earth below. It had saddened me when their numbers drastically diminished with the introduction of weed-killers sprayed by local farmer to prepare for and maintain crops of GMO soybeans and corn. It was a sacred moment when a lone Monarch appeared at a beloved dog’ gravesite the day she was buried, followed by the appearance of two Monarchs a few years later when another beloved dog was laid to rest beside her. The Monarch had come again, more recently to the same site beneath the Great White Oak, the day I set the memorial stone for our panda–faced lab, and his littermate and I shared our grief under the sheltering tree.
Then there was the Monarch butterfly license plate I had for years in Kentucky, supporting the Nature Conservatory, and how disappointed I was when the Department of Motor vehicles required me to turn in the tag for a newer option, because inmates at prisons needed the job of making new ones. When I’d relocated to Florida, I had chosen a horse-themed plate, because I’d given up two beloved horses in Kentucky, and the Monarch plates in Florida represented Hospice Care. (Although I appreciate people who assist the dying in their transitions from this life to whatever is beyond, it was never something I aspired to participate in.)
Even on cross country drives, Monarch butterflies had appeared at times I felt the deepest sadness (observing wildfires or the aftermath of their destruction), or the greatest of inspiration (when landscapes expanded or energy shifts could be felt). They had appeared, then disappeared it seemed into thin air. So anytime I see a Monarch, especially one that almost brushes by my face and doesn’t just disappear, I am even more awake and somehow feel safe.
Imagine the encouragement felt a few days ago when a landscape specialist convinced my Mom to have full-sun butterfly plants transplanted from a shady corner to a full sun part of her yard. Then a garden banner with Monarchs appeared in her mailbox as a thank you for contributing to the Wildlife Defense Fund.
Serendipity, synchronicity, whatever you want to call them, “Monarch Moments” are smiles from the Universe, reminding us a caring Creator is ever near.
Today a Monarch
Today a Monarch came to call
Greeting the new day
It paused and slowly opened wings
Dew-damp in the morning’s rays.
She climbed up on my finger to pause
Then up and took her ease
Brushing by my waking face
Then away on gentle breeze.
Karen Weber (2/28/22)