Last month I noticed milkweed plants for sale at Ace Garden Center, so bought one and put it on my deck. Several days later I noticed small holes in the milkweed leaves, and upon closer inspection, discovered three black and yellow Monarch caterpillars on the underside of the leaves. I observed each day as they ate more leaves and grew bigger and bigger. One day, the biggest caterpillar disappeared and I worried that a bird had enjoyed a tasty snack. The next day I was surprised to find a chrysalis attached to the porch chair! It was bright green and had brilliant gold dots. Soon the other two caterpillars moved from the plant to the balcony railing and I saw one suspend itself from the balcony with its body folded in half. When I returned a couple of hours later both had already turned into chrysalises. I learned that during this stage the caterpillar parts liquefy and miraculously rearrange to become the cells, tissues and organs of the butterfly.
I kept a close watch on them for the next week or so and they held steady in place through the wind and the rain. When the chrysalises turned dark, I knew it was almost time for the monarch to emerge for you could see the wings beneath the shell. The next morning, I saw a freshly emerged butterfly moving its moist wings back and forth to dry them. I watched as it lingered awhile and then flew off over the marsh. For the next few weeks, this amazing creature of God will make its way north, laying eggs along the way. It may take several generations to reach the northeast US or Canada where they will stay until the weather turns cold and they make an amazing journey of 2-3,000 miles to overwinter in Mexico and begin the whole cycle over again.
This whole experience reminded me of a book I first read as a child, but still enjoy as an adult, Hope for the Flowers, by Trina Paulus. It’s a great fable about life, priorities and hope.
I wish you a Happy Summer Solstice!
Summer is Here
+ The Summer Solstice is the longest day of the year and marks the official beginning of summer. The sun is setting at its furthest point north now and will gradually begin moving toward the south. One thing I love about the summer is that the ocean water temperature is perfect for swimming. As a small child I loved playing in the sea and I still do. In fact, one of my best friends, Millie Wilcox, is in her 90’s and still swims regularly – preferably in the ocean. She says it makes her feel alive. It is very refreshing and gives me a sense of physical and spiritual healing.
Be on the look out for other species enjoying swimming in the Golden Isles this time of year too. Last weekend, I spotted this manatee in the Frederica River. As our waters get warmer, they move up from Florida. The spartina grass in our expansive marshes provides a great food source for them which they especially need as there has been a decline in Florida’s Indian River lagoon seagrasses which they feed on normally.
Another of my favorite things to do this time of year is to go blueberry picking. A friend of mine recently told me about a farm in Eulonia where you can pick your own on the honor system – $10 for a bucket! Its always fun to serve family and friends a blueberry cobbler made from fresh hand-picked blueberries and topped with vanilla ice cream. Yum!