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!

The Buck Stops Here

The game cam caught this big guy in the backyard enjoying the corn we put out in our feeder. We occasionally see them during the day from the back porch but not often so it’s great to have eyes at night through another lens.

In seeing the buck and other deer on the game cam and on a camping trip we took over Labor Day weekend, it got me thinking about a phrase involving the buck from decades ago.

When President Harry S. Truman added the plaque to his desk at the Whitehouse that read “the buck stops here,” I wonder how many read it and took the words to heart?

In watching or reading the news these days, it seems we never fail to learn that someone has blamed others for their lack of success, their lack of commitment, their inability to keep their word, etc. From elected officials and celebrities to law breakers and company CEO’s and even others we see every day at work or elsewhere, no one seems to want to accept what happens because of their actions or the lack thereof.

Who wants to admit their failures and bad decisions? I certainly don’t but it’s really more of an internal battle for me rather than a worry about the consequences. I have certainly had to deal with decisions I didn’t like but I survived, far better than I thought I would.

It makes us feel uncomfortable to admit a decision was ours and we fear people will judge us for it. It seems easier to run away or cast blame on others, creating a smoke screen, rather than own up to something that didn’t work out the way we thought it would.

It’s easy to own our successes but owning our failures, not so much. If we can overcome the fear of the consequences we could face, we can get through it. And, yes, some of those fears might become reality, depending on what we’ve done. People might judge us, we might lose a friend, we might not get reelected, but we will know that the buck stopped with us.

Once we do own it, we give ourselves a chance to show our leadership, our courage and our ability to honor the word we gave in the first place. And maybe, just maybe, we’ll better understand how applying “the buck stops here” to our lives could be one of the most important things we ever do.

Picking your Battles

I was blessed this weekend with some amazing sunrises so let’s take a look before I get started with this week’s views from my veranda.

I’ve been blessed with a number of fantastic mentors in my life, offering advice to me whether I thought I needed it or not. And when you’re a young, know-it-all, even in your 30’s, you REALLY don’t want to listen to advice from someone in their 40’s. That’s ancient…says this now 55-year-old.

One of the best pieces of advice I’ve ever been given was to pick my battles. As an athlete growing up, I still struggle with the concept but have learned through many trials and errors that it’s great advice.

As I sit on the back porch, watching the hummingbirds speedily flying around and determining which feeder they want to enjoy, the concept of pick your battles comes to mind. More times than not, I see a hummer fly up to get a taste of sugar water, only to be buzzed by a competitor then chased in what looks like a mid-air smack down across the backyard until they all run each other off before the next round.

Considering hummingbirds need to consume around half of their weight in sugar daily and they eat around five to eight times per hour, it doesn’t make a lot of sense to me why they choose to fight when they really need to be saving up their energy and sit in one of five or six spaces in one of my feeders for a drink. Since I have four feeders, the birds have 22 different spots to sit on and reserve their energy and get what they need to survive.

It’s my view that the same goes for humans.

As I shared earlier, I was an athlete growing up, so I understand competition, especially in sports and even when applying for a job. You want to win!

To fight a battle just to be able to say you did is a competition in which we should choose not to partake. It’s not an easy lesson but an important one. Why? Because when a truly important battle finally arises and you’ve held off until the thing you’re passionate about comes up, your true desire to win will shine through. Those you are “battling” might just see your view and determine you should indeed win the battle and they might even join your side.

Or they might just surprise you and choose their own space and not get in your way at all, allowing you to accomplish what you were seeking all along. If hummingbirds can do it, why can’t humans?

Remember to breathe…

“A British porch is a musty, forbidding non-room in which to fling a sodden umbrella or a muddy pair of boots; a guard against the elements and strangers. By contrast the good ol’ American front porch seems to stand for positivity and openness; a platform from which to welcome or wave farewell; a place where things of significance could happen.” – Dan Stevens

Having lived in more than 20 cities and towns in my life, mostly in Texas, I’ve had many interesting conversations on porches. Some were heartwrenching and others lighthearted. I recently returned from a conference where the presenter, Roy Spence, talked about The Promisedland Project, and America’s new front porch. I’ve heard many motivational speakers in my life. While Mr. Spence may not bill himself as such, he certainly inspired me. I may not touch as many people as he can, it is my hope this blog provokes thought and maybe even action for those who choose to follow along.

I decided to call this first post, Remember to breathe, because I occasionally find myself guilty of going and going without taking the time to do just that. I don’t consider myself to be a workaholic, just a hard worker. I do take time off. In fact, in 2016, I took an entire year with my husband and our two dogs to live as Eccentric Nomads and see the southwest in an RV, but that’s another story.

As for the name of my blog, since I’m a southern girl and Native Texan, I decided veranda has a sexier sound than porch but for my purposes, the names are interchangeable. The word “views” has a double meaning for me, too. As an amateur photographer, I plan to share the literal views from the veranda, whether from the three I have at home or from others I have the good fortune to sit on in the future. I should add that our home is not grandiose with sweeping verandas. It’s 1,800 square feet with small front and back porches. The third porch is from a he-shed my husband built that happens to also have a porch.

The Porch on the He-Shed

So occasionally, I’ll share a nice photo of what I can see from the porch, like this recent view of the clothesline my husband made for me so we could have line-dried sheets and towels throughout the year.

Clothesline at sunrise

So here I sit on the back porch with a view of said clothesline, mesquite trees and bird feeders in the backyard, listening to the neighbor’s rooster crow, which happens all day and not just at sunrise, in case you’ve been told otherwise. I hear the cicadas in the distance and get an occasional glimpse of hummingbirds, when they take the time to stop and drink from the feeders hanging just a few feet away. A wasp and bee have decided I’m not a threat so they are hanging out on my table as I type, until they get tired of the pecking of my keyboard and fly off for other adventures. I can even see dung beetles rolling their finds from our dogs to some unknown location I choose not to explore. I suppose purpose is purpose, no matter what it might be.

Today is just an introduction. Should you choose to follow along with me on this journey, I hope we are able to find some hope, reason and common ground as we discuss the various topics, both comfortable and uncomfortable, of life. I have no interest in bickering with anyone, just having a conversation and seeing where we can go from there. Join me virtually or, if you’re ever in my neck of the woods in Texas, maybe we can have a glass of sweet iced tea in the spring and summer or a cup of coffee or cocoa in the fall and winter. If you have a hankerin’ for something stronger, I’m sure we can manage that, too. And if you’re open to sharing our conversation, I’d love to bring in your thoughts on this blog, whether in written or video form. In the meantime, make sure you take the time to breathe.