Release…Mexico Bound!

IMG_0325It took a few hours for her to show some interest in leaving the glass bowl that had been her home for the last month. Fanning her wings and inching her way to the top of the rim were the first signs.

I took her to the outside deck. It was the perfect fall day for the release, warm and calm.


IMG_0339.JPGAnd…she made a surprise landing before her final departure.

Looking back on the last month, there were a few highlights. Finding the caterpillar was definitely an exciting day. The milkweed is more abundant here than in previous years, but it still required looking at many, many plants before I finally found her.

IMG_0356.JPGThe second experience that took me a bit by surprise was my emotional reaction when she finally encased herself in the pupa. One day she was in her caterpillar body and then she was gone. It felt like a loss, and I wasn’t prepared for not seeing her anymore in the same ways.

I felt such joy when she finally emerged, especially when she  fanned her wings and I could see her in her full beauty. But I need to say something here about joy. Brené Brown, the social scientist who presently has a book on the New York Times bestseller list, talks about joy being the most vulnerable emotion we experience. “We’re afraid,” she writes, “that if we allow ourselves to feel it, we’ll get blindsided by disaster or disappointment. That’s why,” she continues, “that in moments of real joy, many of us dress rehearse tragedy.” This helps to explain why, as I saw her sitting on the pine branch, I imagined a giant bird, maybe a heron, swooping down and grabbing her. I also knew, however, that the antidote to this kind of thinking is gratitude, and the butterfly and I had lots to be grateful for. She brought me, and by extension you, many moments of wonder as this whole process unfolded. It also turns out that if I hadn’t found her and moved her inside she would have died when the farmer harrowed the field where she was living. There were many moments of grace, capped off by her release.


Safe travels, little one!

It’s a Girl!

The pupa had been changing the last few days. It was turning from its original  chartreuse to this grey green. If you look closely,  you can begin to see the wings forming inside.


A day later it looked like this. The body is showing clearly now through the chrysalis which has become transparent.


I knew it wouldn’t be long.  I came home two hours later to this.


When monarchs hatch the body is quite huge, filled with a liquid that gets pumped into the wings. I missed this part. It rested quietly for a few hours and then…


There she is finally stretching out her wings. She took my breath away!  I wasn’t expecting the intense, saturated colours of her wings or the joy that bubbled up from inside as I watched her. It wasn’t until she fanned her wings that I knew she was a girl. (Male monarchs have two distinctive black dots on the lower corners of the wings.)

Her release came on this same beautiful, September day but that part deserves a story of its own. I have a video to edit and some words to find that wrap up this whole adventure in raising a monarch. Stay tuned.




One day he is there in his caterpillar body hanging from the lip of the glass jar that has been his home for the last two weeks, and then he is not. It’s a death of sorts and has me feeling mournful for his loss this morning.

IMG_0092You can see him attached and suspended in the J position.

He had been acting differently for about three days. He stopped eating and moved to the top of his glass jar. He stayed in a horizontal position there for a day or two until he suspended himself yesterday.

This is the scene this morning.


Lack of appetite and failure to move are maybe the first signs a death/transformation are imminent for caterpillars…. and for humans too. Can’t help but think of the similarities. I am wondering if in the last three days he had been sensing that some big change was about to happen. Certainly his body was giving him signals.

I find myself trying to imagine the organic shiftings that are happening within the chrysalis at this moment: cells rearranging themselves, tissues dissolving and reforming. On the outside all looks quiet. He has pulled himself in and shut out the world. His home for the next two weeks this beautiful yellow/green orb with gold dots sprinkled around the top.

This is the universal story of  death/rebirth coming to you from a glass jar on a screen porch. We are now in that quiet place, removed from the world, encased in a protective shell, waiting on the work of  forces far greater than anything we could ever dream possible.  It’s a miracle really.




EEK! My Caterpillar Is a Teenager

A few blog posts back, I wrote about finding a monarch larva and promised an update. He was very, very tiny when I found him, barely noticeable on the furry back of the milkweed leaf. That was when he was just a baby. And then there is now….


Eek! My  caterpillar is a teenager. He is “eating us out of house and home,” his room is a mess, and he doubles in size every day. Did I mention he is naughty? The other day I found him on the inside of the water container that keeps the milkweed fresh.   I never see him moving, but I sure do see signs that he has been crawling about.


We’ve added a forked branch for a chrysalis to hang on in case he gets any ideas about becoming an adult and leaving home. This is like parenting on fast forward. Remember when you were just getting comfortable with one stage and they moved on to the next? Same thing.

For now, he is in his glass home resting and I will just content myself with that until the next big change.