Tuesday, September 22, 2009


It is not as I left it.
Gold-tipped fields where green strongly grew tell of time’s passing--
two weeks.

Monarch caterpillar feeding on Sand Vine, Cynanchum laeve

And knowing I would not see their departure in my time away, I left the three hanging—chrysalises of monarch cats that had fed from a vase at my table—chewing their way as I sat watching, around the leaves and stems of a sand vine wrapped into coils as my centerpiece, before shedding their stripes for gold-studded jade.

Monarch caterpillar hanging in "J" before shedding skin to become chrysalis

Monarch chrysalis, day 1

Monarch chrysalis, day 5

Just one, a bit odd, his face not covered by a case, as the others--
the curtain behind which he would change, strangely parted at the tip.

Parted Curtain

The three, left outdoors on a bench—
open air waiting for wings.

Hours north we traveled, Red Canoe tethered expectantly on top of a car filled with packs and paddles, boxes of food and an extensive assortment of footwear.
Leaving behind the fields of corn and soy,
the cozy old homesteads dwarfed by clusters of huge silver silos,
the dark fertile soil that covers our heavy base of clay,
the tall cell towers stepping beside a broad highway,
until the horizon became thick with trees jutting into a bright sky.
And there sand met clear water, then vanished into blue.

Two empty cases hang—
clear wrappers left on faded leaves where butterflies burst free one morning when only open air was watching, and unfolded their wings to the sky.
And one still peeks from behind the parted curtain, though his face has darkened and his body turned black.
Tens of thousands, minus one, this year, to make the journey.

caterpillars on vines in vase

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Deborah Godin said...

Exquisite - a naturalist's, poet's and photographer's documentation, all converging into a beautiful, touching post.

Ginnymo said...

Amazing little creatures. I love how you tell their story. From that caterpillar to a beautiful butterfly is so amazing. Nature is awesome!
Beautiful post Nina!

Heather said...

A lovely re-emergence after your journey... I see the rest did you good.

My word verification is "mingl"... as in, it was good to "mingl" with you at MBS!

Sylvia K said...

I can only repeat all that Deborah said, it is a touching and beautiful post. Glad to see you back, the break did seem to have had good results!



Squirrel said...

They are amazing aren't they? You have done the Monarchs justice.

bobbie said...

A very lovely post. Thank you.

Janie said...

Beautiful monarch catepillars. I enjoyed the naturalist's tale and photos.

Sistertex said...

From beginning to end your Journey was well done. Doesn't get much better than this!

Roger Owen Green said...

I LOVE the monarch. My 5-yr-old went to a butterfly museum a couple months ago and saw the animal in all stages of the journey.

giggles said...

Our family is raising some too!! We were watching over a friend's house and she had some swamp milkweed.... We found some caterpillars and brought them home. Two of them are chrysalises; we have two large caterpillars yet. My oldest and her dad watched as one shed it's skin. I tried to catch one but it happened too fast!! ( Iwalked away not expecting it to happen when it did....Half an hour later, there were two, where before there was only one!! They said it only took five minutes!!!!

The beauty of this nature, this miracle, this story is truly awe-inspiring, as are your pictures!!

Welcome home! Welcome back!!

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Hope you had a great adventure and found time to relax and renew. We can all use a getaway from time to time.

Just as the rest of can all use our regular fix of Nature Remains. Welcome back!

magiceye said...

such a beautiful post with fascinating pictures..

dguzman said...

Um--so the parted curtain one didn't make it? Or maybe he's just slow?


Anonymous said...

Almost at an end to their journey. And what a long, strange trip it's been.

Nina said...

Yes, I'm back from a journey, though, as is often the case, the pile of pictures taken will be doled out in small mouthfuls, as I sort them.

The parted curtain chrysalis fell from his attachment and shows no signs of any change. A flaw in that step of his metamorphosis, I suppose. (which shouldn't be surprising, given the miraculous acts that take place as they go from one stage to the next) Although I can see the spiracles on its sides (so it can breathe) I wonder if the parted curtain allowed mildew or bacteria to enter the soft insides and multiply there.
Look at him closely...

Jay said...

I love those jade green chrysalises! Beautifully shaped, too, aren't they?

I wonder if the faulty one will ever develop?

Q said...

Journeys are often times of metamorphose. I love the J of the Monarch caterpillar.
Happy ABC Wednesday.

Nydia said...

Oh, so touching! Can't wait for my son to get back from school to show him! Great ABC post!

Kisses from Nydia.

Rose said...

Nina, you have a way of combining words and photos to create a unique form of poetry that is so powerful. Beautiful, beautiful.

I have been watching the cats on my host plants in the garden in recent weeks. The black swallowtails seem to prefer my fennel and parsley; it's been a joy to watch their journey along with the grandkids. I'm just hoping to see a chrysalis one of these days.

Nishant said...

Amazing little creatures. I love how you tell their story. From that caterpillar to a beautiful butterfly is so amazing. Nature is awesome!
Beautiful post Nina!
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Nukke said...

So lovely !!!! Nice pics !

ps. would you like to learn Finnish ?

Grace and Bradley said...

It is so pretty. I will post on Saturday of Asian version of Monarch butterfly for Camera-Critters. Hope you will visit.

Tumblewords: said...

Absolutely awesome - the joyous events of nature.