The Making of a Monarch – Nature’s Story

Many people had their eyes on the new season of the Netflix series, The Crown, over the past couple of months as we continue existing through the Covid 19 pandemic. Today’s post is not meant to take anything from Queen Elizabeth II, who I’ve greatly admired for years, along with the first Queen Elizabeth from the 1500’s, strong women who met challenges head on with strength, resilience, and grace.

While others were viewing their TV’s to see how the Princess Diana years would be presented on the screen, my husband and I had the opportunity to watch another monarch come into existence. QEII’s reign is far longer than the monarch I’ve grown to admire, but the same strength, resilience, and grace were present.

I’ve lived in San Angelo for nearly four years now. During that time, I’ve had the opportunity to see the monarch butterflies stop here on their way south to Mexico and the Oyamel fir tree forests, where they live through the winter months before making the flight back north in the spring.

This year, I prepared for the arrival of the monarchs by planting butterfly-friendly plants, including milkweed, the only thing the monarch caterpillar eats. In this case, I chose tropical milkweed which produces beautiful flowers that also attracts other butterflies, wasps, and bees. All good for the nature around me.

Why am I writing about my garden and butterflies, you may be wondering? With social media conversations including the topics of wearing or not wearing masks, voting Democrat or voting Republican, or choosing to stay at home or go to work because staying home isn’t an option in your job, I thought it was important to put something positive that I felt everyone could possibly agree on in this time of split decisions and endless debates.

That said, let’s talk about the miracle of the creation of the butterfly. Please know I’m not an expert, I’m merely sharing what I saw, nothing scientific and no use of terms I can’t pronounce.

On October 4, I went to the International Waterlily Gardens in San Angelo and walked behind the gardens to the trail along the Concho River. I got to see the monarch butterflies flitting around and landing on the pecan trees near the water. I knew it was only a matter of time before they arrived in my butterfly garden to lay eggs.
We got to watch as the fully-grown caterpillar left the milkweed and made its way to the top of the cage to find a place to transform into a chrysalis.
We even got to see a portion of the transformation. Not the best video, as I took it with my cell phone but you get the picture.
I was able to capture video of another monarch after it left the chrysalis. It’s amazing just how much is tucked away in the tiny shell to emerge as a full-grown butterfly. Nature’s miracle at work.

You may still be wondering the purpose of this blog, aside from sharing an interesting nature experience. Here it is. The Monarch Butterfly, notice I capitalize the name, lives only two to four weeks after it leaves the chrysalis. The entire process from egg to butterfly took between six and seven weeks. It took longer to produce this exquisite creature than it actually will live on this Earth.

When most of the people I talk to think of a butterfly, they think of the orange, black, and white butterfly, whether they know what it’s called or not. Most have no idea everything it goes through in order to even make an appearance. For those of us who have the great fortune to see it, we should feel extremely honored, which is why I capitalize its regal name and why I share this experience with you. I think of its magnificent beauty that only lasts a few short weeks but is ever present in our minds when we think of the butterfly. After all it goes through, I understand why it is one of the most beautiful creatures on earth or it is, in my humble opinion. I believe God’s handiwork had everything to do with its creation. You may disagree and that is your right.

In thinking of our own lives, we are not here long in the big scheme of things, considering the universe is 13.8 billion years old. Are we making the best of it? Are we showing our true beauty every day? Are we making a lasting, positive impression on others around us? I know I fail many times at this but it doesn’t stop me from continuing to try. I encourage you to make the best of the life you are given. If you don’t like your life right now, fix it. You are the only one who can. And when you do get your life back on track, my hope is you soar with the butterflies and live your best life, as it’s the only one we’re blessed to have. Get out there and soar!

There’s Always Room for Hope

This morning as my husband and were drinking our coffee while mindlessly listening to the latest updates regarding COVID 19, we had a brief discussion of what items we might need from the grocery store. He had been a few days ago, along with other seniors who had the good fortune to go into the stores earlier than others.

I mentioned we could use some more oatmeal. His simple five-word comment threw me for a loop, “They were out of oats.” His statement was simply matter of fact. No grandiose delivery. No academy award winning moment. Just a simple phrase.

Sitting at my work computer at home during my self-quarantining because of international flights almost two weeks ago, I’ve continually read above COVID 19 and its rapid spread across our world. By the way, I have had no symptoms. Two months ago, I admittedly was not concerned. I am not too proud to say that, but I have no doubt others will deny their lack of concern so as not to be accused of being part of the problem rather than the solution.

How quickly things change.

Two weeks ago when I was working with other colleagues to market to Canadian media to promote travel to Texas, my colleagues and I turned from marketing to somewhat jokingly discussing options of how we could get home should they cancel flights. An epic road trip in a rental van was our solution, should we need to make a quick decision if flights cancelled. There’s nothing like the possibility of being stuck in another country to bring you back to reality pretty quickly, especially when you are told daily in emails that events in your community are being cancelled. We all made it home on our flights with no real issues, at least so far, and returned to our towns and cities to face our new reality.

Which brings me back to this morning…

In my life, I’ve seen gas shortages, weather catastrophes, and 9/11. All were frightening in their own way at the time, particularly the latter. While I felt sick for those affected, these events always felt at arm’s length. It was like looking into a snow globe and watching someone else’s reality take place. Not today.

A simple five-word phrase this morning over coffee, hit me in the face. “They were out of oats.” That phrase could have just as easily been, “They were out of disinfectant,” “They were out of apples.”

In my life, I’ve taken for granted something as simple as having oats for breakfast and believing it wouldn’t be an issue. What grocery store runs out of oats? In our current reality, ours does and so do other stores across the nation. It’s surreal.

It’s surreal that within just a few weeks, we can no longer dine in restaurants, only get takeout or order delivery. And, hopefully, people will do that. Events can no longer be held. Meetings of 10 or more are prohibited. Las Vegas hotels are closed for the first time since they opened. Let that sink in.

The industry I’ve loved and worked in for nearly 25 years is bleeding out. Colleagues are losing jobs. Housekeepers and wait staff are trying to figure out how to keep a roof over their heads, feed their children, and pay their utilities. Airports are empty. Vacations have stopped. Business people are no longer taking meetings. Everything that “starts with a visit” is at a standstill.

I write this out of my own nervousness but also to put the words on paper so that I can get them out of my head. I need to focus on being a productive person and help my industry, rather than allow the negative thoughts to consume me. I thought of one of my favorite quotes by Admiral Jim Stockdale this morning.

“You must never confuse faith that you will prevail in the end — which you can never afford to lose — with the discipline to confront the most brutal facts of your current reality, whatever they might be.”
― Jim Stockdale

As I recognize we may be out of oats today, people may have lost jobs today, the world looks like a scary place today, I also know this is our current reality. It is not permanent. We WILL survive this after we get through our five stages of grief – denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. That will involve tears, fear, laughter, prayer, and hope. No matter how full we are with our thoughts, there’s always room for hope. Hope is the jello of feelings. Yes, I wrote that. Don’t judge me right now. 🙂

So today, I work from my makeshift desk, looking out the window as the sun comes up. The mesquite trees are leafing out and the old timers would say there’s no longer going to be a freeze, meaning the temperatures will get warmer and people will want to breathe the fresh, warm air. I see the first hummingbird of the season, flittering around the multiple feeders to drink the sweet nectar and, hopefully, bring back friends to join it. Life is still good. Hope is in the air!