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Make Way For Monarchs

Butterflies are now, and always have been, my favorite animals. There was a time in the not too distant past when butterfly motifs, posters, and mounted specimens were frequent and welcome gifts for my every celebration. I'm not sure what initially drew me to them. Their beauty was probably a contributing factor; it seems amazing that any one being can appear in so many shapes, sizes, and colors and still retain among every variety the same strong and quiet grace. But as with every love story, what started out as a superficial interest somehow grew into something much deeper as I learned more, and subsequently my curiosity also grew. A vicious and delicious cycle.

I always associate butterflies with springs and summers spent in the Texas Hill Country. When the sunlight starts to warm the earth, thus inspiring the plants to wake up and start making breakfast, there's a vibration in the air, or maybe underfoot. It's the hum of plans in the process, dreams spun into reality by some tinkerer in some workshop adding a bit more of this and straightening that. And maybe the tinkerer, every once in a while, smiles in satisfaction at a job well done. Craftsmanship has that effect on a sharp eye and a sore back.

I remember fields of blooms for as far as the eye could see in any direction. Patches of fuchsia, blue, yellow, purple, and red blanketed every hill. As the breezes gently blew, the quilt of flowers lifted, swayed, landed on tiptoes, and rolled again. And everywhere, the butterflies dipped and rose only to tack and jibe like boats on a patchwork sea. It seems a bit like magic, especially now that I am so far from home, both temporally and geographically, but that doesn't make the flowers or butterflies any less real. It's ironic then that butterflies have started to disappear. The population of monarch butterflies has dropped by 80% in the past twenty years. I'm literally witnessing my favorite animal transform, as butterflies do, from being a real being into one that exists only in my imagination. And when they complete this metamorphosis, they will be taking the waving fields of flowers along with them.

Grief takes on so many shapes. Over time the sharpest edges wear down and corners become more rounded until new edges are carved and worn down again. There are no rituals in our culture to acknowledge the loss of a plant, an insect, or a river. There are no prayers to be said when a memory dies, even when that memory is precious. For those who are left behind, there is only absence where a presence used to be. An infinite and repeating void that can never be filled.

I'm not ready or willing to mourn the loss of anything before it is gone. The days are too short and too numbered. I still have time with my butterflies while each of us is here. And while each of us is here, I will be a helper. For me, that means making sure that butterflies have a place to land while they navigate the rising tide, planting nectar plants and milkweed wherever they must go. It means keeping their memories alive while we are both alive. It means changing myself so that they can remain true to themselves. In essence, I must become the butterfly.


About the Author:

Courtnay earned a Bachelor's in Environmental Biology from Colorado State University, Pueblo in 2017 after having worked in hospitality for many years. Courtnay is originally from Texas, but has lived and worked all over the West as a biological science field technician. She joined Americorps in October as a wetland restoration technician because Nevada was calling to me. She's really excited about working on this project and with this group of people!


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