At 8:00 a.m. on October 9th, our thermometer registered eight degrees Fahrenheit. It’s too early! My flannel-lined jeans are still packed away with the long underwear. The leaves have faded , but they are not ablaze in orange, bronze and gold; rather, they’re motley brown. The leaves hang on as if for dear life. Our leaves are never going to shout their last hurrah but are directly on their way to intensive care and a quick demise.
Was it only last week that I was delighted to see a newly hatched Monarch butterfly?
After years of talking about planting milkweed seed but not following through, I am finally trying to do my bit in an attempt to save the monarchs at-risk and in decline from land development and roadside weed spray.
Several days after had I photographed the monarchs on my flowers (and vowed to plant some milkweed this year) I found an unopened milkweed pod which I bought home and set on the kitchen table. 24 hours later – ba-boom! The pod had opened and the seeds were beckoning. Coincidence? A miracle? I’m not to say, but such improbabilities do make one wonder.
Hellbent to get the seeds in the ground before I got distracted, I did a bit of research. Oops! I’m ‘a day late and a dollar short.’ You can plant in the fall or the spring, but prior to planting, you should roll the seeds in a damp paper towel, bag the towel, record the date, and refrigerate the seeds for 10 – 12 weeks. Before planting, the recommendation is to soak the hard shells in warm water for 24 hours.
Obviously, the window on planting this fall has slammed shut: no one in Westcliffe plants in January. I have, however, looked ahead to 2020, and if I start preparing my seeds in January, I can plant in April. Perfect. When my bones are cold, what better way to raise my spirits and think ahead to spring?
An egg will take four to six days to hatch; the caterpillar (larva) stage lasts two to three weeks; the chrysalis (pupal) stage is five to 15 days in length; and the adult monarch lives between two and five weeks. Butterflies that winter-over south of the border may live several months.
The monarch is amazing. Butterflies east of the Rockies, migrate to Oyamel fir trees in Mexico; those west of the Rockies, winter in the eucalyptus of California. Depending on where they summer, some monarchs migrate up to 2,500 miles each way!
Even more confounding is that each monarch’s return from Mexico to the States or Canada encompasses three generations. Even so, the monarch returns TO THE SAME TREE that played host to a parent four generations removed!!
Living through these dark days of worldwide political upheaval, it is easy to spiral down. I am certainly guilty of sinking spells. The monarch is only Queen for a few days, but she achieves so much is such a short time. Not that I’m looking forward to a death sentence, but I often wonder how I would spend my days if I knew how limited my time.
If the lifespan of the monarch did not cheer you up, read “Small Kindnesses” by Danusha Lameris.
I’ve been thinking about the way, when you walk / down a crowded aisle, people pull in their legs / to let you by. Or how strangers still say “bless you” / when someone sneezes a leftover / from the Bubonic plague. “Don’t die,” we are saying. / And sometimes, when you spill lemons / from your grocery bag, someone else will help you / pick them up. Mostly, we don’t want to harm each other. / We want to be handed our cup of coffee hot, / and to say thank you to the person handing it. To smile / at them and for them to smile back. For the waitress / to call us honey when she sets down the bowl of clam chowder, / and for the driver in the red pick-up truck to let us pass. / We have so little of each other, now. So far / from tribe and fire. Only these brief moments of exchange. / What if they are the true dwelling of the holy, these / fleeting temples we make together when we say, “Here, / have my seat,” “Go ahead – you first,” “I like your hat.”
I’m on my way to the grocery… maybe I’ll drop an orange or two.