Monarch Magic

One of the highlights of my summer was sharing our dining room table with a pair of monarch caterpillars. Several years ago I planted swamp milkweed at the edge of our swampy lake, and now we’ve got a healthy crop of milkweed. The original plants were cast-offs from a research project of one of my husband’s grad students. I picked some milkweed flowers for a reception in honor of said graduate student after she defended her thesis this summer. A couple of days later I noticed two teeny monarch caterpillars on the flowers! For weeks I photographed the caterpillars as they nibbled and grew, and then changed into chrysalids.

I often use my photographs as poetry prompts, so this summer’s caterpillars starred in a couple of my summer swap poems. My talented daughter did the layout of all my swap poems. The first one, for Linda Baie ( this week’s poetry friday host,) was written when the caterpillars were barely visible as they munched flower buds.

metamorphosis

© Buffy Silverman

About 10 days later the caterpillars had grown almost as long as the milkweed leaves they were devouring, and then changed into chrysalids. I posted quite a few photos of the kids on Facebook, and Vicky Lorencen commented that she liked their striped pajamas. Striped pajamas led me to think about clown suits. That circus image inspired my next summer swap poem, written for Keri Collins Lewis:

© Buffy Silverman

© Buffy Silverman

We were out-of-town when the first butterfly emerged, but I got to watch and photograph the second one. I’ll refrain from posting the hundreds of photos I took…but you can scroll down and enjoy a bit of the magic:

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Happy Poetry Friday!

39 thoughts on “Monarch Magic

  1. jean james

    Oh I had a few of these in my herb garden this year. So beautiful, but I’m not sure where they chose to build their chrysalis, next year I’m going to pay more attention!! Your poem was lovely, and your photo’s were amazing!!

    Reply
  2. Heidi Mordhorst

    *Sigh.* I’m so late stopping by and so glad I did…I’ve been watching this process for 15 years in classrooms (with that kind of teaching attention), and it never grows ordinary. I learned recently that inside the chrysalis there isn’t a piece-by-piece transformation as we’d always imagined–caterpillar eye to butterfly eye–but a disintegration into a soup of DNA and then a reintegration which can CARRY A MEMORY. Did you hear this piece on NPR? Wow.
    http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=88031220

    I looooove the circus metaphor, the “cards up a sleeve.”

    Reply
    1. Buffy Silverman Post author

      I had not heard that NPR piece–thanks for the link. I knew they turned to “soup” before reorganizing, but retaining memories/learning from the caterpillar stage is pretty amazing!

      Reply
  3. Donna Smith

    The metamorphosis of the monarch butterfly – and all butterflies really – has always amazed me. Do you suppose they have ANY idea what is about to occur????
    Gorgeous photography! Thanks for sharing this journey.

    Reply
    1. Buffy Silverman Post author

      It was interesting that both caterpillars started wandering on the dining room table before they settled into the “J” shape (I had to keep putting them back on the plant.) I assume they must wander in the wild before they metamorphose. Not sure if that qualifies as “knowing” but they do seem to prepare.

      Reply
    1. Buffy Silverman Post author

      Not sure that my life is enchanting (but thank you for saying so!) Watching the caterpillar emerge had me more excited than I’d been in quite a while. And writing about it helps me reengage with that excitement.

      Reply
  4. Carol Varsalona

    Buffy, the photos are like a time lapse sequence so I am glad that you shared. I am enthralled by butterflies so your work captures my heart. I can see how your work will fascinate students and motivate them to write about what they see. Thank you again for being one of the Summer Splashings’ contributors.

    Reply
  5. Linda Baie

    I adored my own ‘beginning’ poem, Buffy, and what a journey it started! I understand about the hundreds of photos. I once stood for nearly an hour at our butterfly museum watching a butterfly emerge. It is such a miracle. Love that poem for Keri about the changing costumes and final ‘vanishing act’. And the pictures are gorgeous, too. Thanks for sharing your dining miracle.

    Reply
    1. Buffy Silverman Post author

      They are completely captivating, Linda. Thank goodness for digital photography–so much fun to take photo after photo (and not feel badly about tossing like in the days of film.)

      Reply
  6. Irene Latham

    SO beautiful, Buffy! A miracle at your dining room table. 🙂 Your words are a gift, and your daughter’s quite the designer! Thanks so much for sharing. Going on my #EveryBrilliantThing list. xo

    Reply
  7. jan annino

    Breathtaking, Buffy, the entire performance.
    Poetry that thrills, photographic artistry that is gallery worthy.
    And the vicarious experience to watch this great act of Mother Nature.
    Appreciations for an uplifting experience at this page.

    I especially love all the word imagery in the second poem & the idea of the disappearing act.
    I hope to see this published within the pages of a book.

    Reply

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