Thursday, May 08, 2014

The Monarch Miracle

Monarch butterfly

Well, yesterday I wrote about Mental Health Awareness Week. Today, Monarch Butterfly Week!

I have seen two excellent documentaries on Monarch butterflies in the past few months, one on the CBC's Nature of Things and the other on PBS.

I would say that both have been spiritual experiences for me, even though the docs had no intention of being religious. I was struck by the extraordinary, even miraculous journey of these creatures, the longest migration of any insect. As you are probably aware, Monarchs travel from Mexico to Canada every Spring, and return every Autumn. At least the species does. It takes three generations to move north in stages, then one to return. Scientists have only known this for 40 years or so, and it was a Canadian who was instrumental in the discovery of where Monarchs go, high in the mountains of Mexico.

Sadly, Monarch butterflies are disappearing. The loss of forest habitat is one reason. Climate change is likely another factor. Another is the lack of food in the form of milkweed along their route and in Canada. It has been largely eliminated as an undesirable weed, but these butterflies can't live without it. Now we are being encouraged to plant milkweed around our homes in an attempt to revive a species in alarming decline.

I blogged about Barbara Kingsolver's cautionary novel, Flight Pattern, which involves a rural American family visited by a great flock of Monarchs. The local evangelical pastor seems to understand that the presence of the butterflies should be regarded with reverence.

The villagers in the area of Mexico where the Monarchs roost for the winter do celebrate their return which coincides with the Days of the Dead, our Halloween/All Saints/ All Souls:

Each year during the Days of the Dead, local people honor the spirits through festive events focused on the butterfly migration. Historically, this holiday time is one of remembering and rejoicing for the deceased, whose earthly bodies are exchanged for spirits ready to move to the next realm, unencumbered by worldly woes as they transition ultimately to heaven. The gossamer-winged butterflies are thus the perfect manifestation of such liberated souls.

I wonder if it would help if we reinvested a sense of the holy in the cycles of creatures such as the Monarch butterflies? I love the science, and I am also grateful to God the Creator for the complexity of our world. What are your thoughts?


roger said...

That's why I love this blog - you never know what topic is coming your way, but it's always interesting and thought provoking.

I did not know about the importance of milkweed, but now I am going to make a point of planting this. I love planting things that will attract bees, butterflies, hummingbirds, etc.

Every time humans do something to the environment, such as deforestation, there are consequences.

Whether it's destroying habitats or factory farming, to all creatures, humans are nazis.

David Mundy said...

I heard from son Isaac that his congregation raised money during Lent to protect Monarch habitat. What a great Lenten project!

Thanks Roger.