Saturday, February 5, 2011

Old Monarch In The Sun

Walking out to my back yard, I have grown to expect to see Monarchs.  I've written about these beautiful guests before, they seem to like living near my aphid encrusted Mexican Milkweed and my Bougainvillea.

This was no exception.

I had gone out to take pictures of our Ponderosa Lemon.  That tree had just thrown itself into raucous bloom and it seemed to be drawing the insects to pollinate them from every corner of our quirky little island. 

Being terrified of Bees, I took my pictures from a distance and zoomed in. 

All the while I heard something I never heard before.  A sound like a tiny helicopter - thwipthwipthwip on the breeze.   I looked up and saw a Monarch and thought that couldn't be it, and went back to trying for the shot with the bees...

The thwipthwipthwip came back, this time much louder as the Old Monarch blew past me circling the pool.  This was clearly not a young insect.  His wings were wrinkled worse than a linen shirt thrown into the wash.  I am used to seeing Monarchs that are young and bright.  His colors were drab and muted and reflecting more light on the sunward side of the wrinkles.  This was a butterfly that had seen better days.

I couldn't get past the idea that he wanted to pay a visit so I watched, quietly in the yard and allowed the sunshine to bake my south side.  Being January, it was brilliant and sunny, warm but not hot.  I could take it.  I stood there in the yard and was circled again by my old friend until ... he landed on the back of my hand.

I'm not foolish enough to believe that something that small has much brain power to have conscious thoughts but this was a rare experience none the less.  Here I was, all 6'4" of me, standing stock still, staring gape mouthed at this old veteran of the flowers and fields. 

When I was younger I used to chase them across the praries of New Jersey, now I invite them into my yard so I can watch them gracefully float across to the flowers and feed.

My orange veteran looked to me as if he was grateful to have a place to rest.  After all when you are older you move slower, and this poor guy looked like he was shredded. 

Suddenly he lifted on a gust of wind that wrapped around my tree, the moment broken, and floated up to the sky.  After doing another few circuits of the yard, he landed up in the Sea Grape and perched on the lone grape that glowed purple in afternoon sun. 

Remembering that I had my trusty and beat up camera, I turned it on and framed this shot.  My friend waited long enough for me to get as many pictures as I wanted, zooming in and moving around at different angles, pretending that I was going to get Just The Definitive Monarch Picture Of The Moment, all the while thinking just how much I was liking this particular slice of paradise at this time.

When the battery ran out on the camera from all that zooming and picture taking, I reached into my pocket to get the backup set.  I save the old batteries for use in radios in the house so they went into a different pocket, and I realized that I had enough pictures.   So did my old friend.  He launched with a thwipthwipthwip, floated down on the breeze for one last pass around my big head and said goodbye over the fence onto his last days in the sun.

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