Time Enough…An Essay about Monarch Butterflies and Life
The butterfly counts not months but moments, and has time enough. ~Rabindranath Tagore
Today a Monarch butterfly fluttered by me and landed on the lone surviving lantana bush in my flowerbed. The Monarchs are migrating through the Texas countryside…a little early this year…silently making their way to wherever they go for the winter.
It’s been a tough year to be a butterfly. This summer was the third hottest on record since records of temperature and annual rainfall have been kept. Drought and wildfires have distressed the plants on their route, resulting in a shortage of milkweed to feed on and shrubs and trees to rest in.
And yet they come anyway.
Truth be told, I don’t know much about butterflies. I know the basic stages of the life cycle and that they need water, food, and shelter to survive. I know they migrate, but I’m not sure where they go.
I don’t even know how long a butterfly actually lives although I’m pretty sure its life span is short. But I’m not even certain about that.
I’ve spent way more time enjoying the aesthetics of butterflies than I’ve spent studying the facts.
It’s not the facts that concern me anyway. I prefer to concentrate on the happiness they bring me.
The one I saw today reminded me of an autumn morning long ago.
On that far-off fall morning, I walked outside through my back door and saw something so beautiful and unexpected that it took my breath away.
The ground was covered with sleeping Monarchs.
I gasped at the beauty of it. Then I held my breath for a big fearing that the sound of my breathing would wake them.
They covered the whole yard: silent and resting. There was no bare spot on the dewy grass; there was not one place where I could step without disturbing them.
So I stood silently on the back porch, marveling at my good fortune of being present at that moment in the butterfly migration, at that moment in life.
Never before and never since, have I seen anything quite like that lovely surprise. I would repeat the moment if I could, but I think it is probably one of those things that happens only once in a lifetime.
The butterflies began to stir as the dew dried from their wings. They were gone by noon, on their way to wherever they go. They didn’t stay long. Just as the poet said, they counted their time in moments, not months, and yet had time enough.
I don’t know why they picked my little house on South Street for their overnight stay. There were no flowers blooming, no milkweed growing there. They rested on the ground, not in shrubs or trees.
All I know is there was time enough, the resting spot was good enough, and they came where I was. The beauty of the moments spent there are captured in my memory and revisited with awe.
No, it’s not the facts about butterflies that concern me. It’s the memory of that morning that I treasure; it was one of the moments in my life that took my breath away.