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.
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:
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:
Happy Poetry Friday!
39 thoughts on “Monarch Magic”
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!!
BTW: I have nominated you for an Infinity Dream Blogger Award. I received it quite a while ago and just had trouble getting around to getting it posted neatly on my site. You may chose to do it or not, certainly! http://mainelywrite.blogspot.com/2015/10/dream-blogger.html
Buffy — That first small poem and the beautiful pink and stripes photographs that accompany it, wow! Just gorgeous. Thank you for sharing these pictures and poems.
*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.
I looooove the circus metaphor, the “cards up a sleeve.”
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!
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.
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.
So much wonderment, Buffy! I enjoyed watching the magic unfold in your FB posts, but love the compilation of poems and photos here. =)
Thanks, Bridget. It was fun for me to relive this while I put the post together.
Thanks for sharing your photos and poetry, Buffy! I’m so impressed that you captured the process so completely with photos. Your poems are a treat!
I’m glad you enjoyed them, Penny, and thanks for stopping by.
A very happy day, for having seen/read this post. Gorgeous!
Thank you, Kathryn!
What an enchanting life you lead, Buffy– everywhere you look you find magic. Well, maybe not everywhere… the laundry hamper, for instance. But you get my drift. These two certainly had your muse working overtime!
Oh, and yes, brava to your daughter for the beautiful graphics!
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.
What a fun project. You took such beautiful photos and your poems are wonderful. Your daughter did a lovely job with the layouts.
Thanks, Jama! I’ve shared quite a few of your posts with the daughter, and she always says the same about your blog.
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.
Glad you enjoyed them, Carol–they were indeed captivating.
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.
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.)
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
Watching them transform did feel like a miracle, Irene. And moi, on your #EveryBrilliantThing list? I’m blushing.
As kids go, those monarchs were relatively care free. Beautiful the words and pictures they inspired in you.
Ain’t it the truth, Charlie–certainly the easiest kids I’ve raised. Glad you enjoyed my monarchs.
The poems, the photography and the layout designs are all stellar. Thanks.
Thank you, Ann–glad you enjoyed them!
LOVE seeing all of this again, along with your poems! I’ve got monarchs for PF today, too!
Terrific, Mary Lee–what a great and captivating way to start your school year. I’ll check out your post soon.
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.
So glad you enjoyed the poems and photos, Jan (and from your lips to an editor’s ears…)
Great story sbout the caterpillars, Buffy. Awesome circus poem!
Thank you Catherine–glad you liked it!
What a gorgeous post, Buffy. The photos, the story, the poems — a beautiful treat to enjoy with my morning tea. The kids were lucky to have you to provide them safe passage to their next state of being. Brava!
P.S. You know I love a good graphic, and your daughter did a stellar job with these!
I will tell the daughter you said that…and yes, I hope they continue to have a safe passage. There’s that whole flying to Mexico thing in their future.
Magic indeed–the butterflies, the photographs, and the poetry!
Thanks, Liz–it’s hard not to be inspired by watching these guys (well, except maybe for cleaning up their frass…)