It was one of those late summer days, glossy with sun and blue sky, when my friend Kerri and I drove over to Springfield, Ohio for their Monarch and Bluegrass festival. On the way she asked me something about a blue monarch, which prompted me to recite every fact I know about the Danaus plexippus—none of which include it being available in blue. I suspect she was half-joking but nevertheless took the opportunity to pontificate on the benefits of planting milkweed and the wonder of the Methuselah generation of monarchs.
We arrived at Buck Creek Nature Park two hours later under the same clear, blue skies. I had to double back to my car to retrieve my wings—proper attire for a butterfly festival. Several food vendors and a dozen or so artisans displayed their wares along Buck Creek, which wound its way through a stand of skyscraper-sized trees. A row of tents filled with environmental education activities and information line the pathway leading us right into the butterfly habitat enclosure. It was one of those octagon-shaped screened tents, and it was filled with monarchs and native plants including goldenrod and milkweed. Freshly eclosed butterflies tiptoed up the screen as families came through in small groups instantly entranced by this mysterious life cycle.
Kerri and I walked along the creek, through an interactive landscape grid that spilled us out near a towering sycamore tree under which a tree climbing group had set up. A a dozen or so ropes hung down from the tall branches and three or four kids were dangling in harnesses a various heights. It looked like great fun, to be sitting midair, held by the strong old branches. Assuming this was a kid activity I watched, enviously, these pint-sized people, hanging out like a little nature gang. An official looking woman asked if I was going up. Delighted, I signed a waiver and got in line.
I chose one of the swings that hung out over the water and listened as my guide strapped me in and told me how to put my foot into the looped rope, stand up, and slid the knot in the other rope higher up. That’s really all there is to that. Step, stand, slide, repeat. It takes more time than one would think, and is fairly tiring, but oh, so worth it. I climbed up about twenty-five feet to the first big branch and hung out alongside it for a while. I thought, not for the first time, how spectacular this chasing wonder adventure is. To find myself roosting in a tree beside a sparkling creek, among the dragonflies and birds, and even a few monarchs. I gave the big branch a high five and looked out over the people and sky. What a lovely adventure indeed.
Back on the ground we headed to the speakers tent in time to catch the second half of a talk on growing a butterfly garden given by Chris Kline, owner of Butterfly Ridge in Ohio. He and his wife grow many acres of native host and nectar plants and welcome loads of monarchs and other pollinating insects. As he wrapped up his talked he mentioned they were going to hustle back to their place because they were having a moth event when it got dark, complete with reggae music. Pollinator people are the coolest, aren’t they? I made a mental note to drive over to their place in the beautiful Hocking Hills of Ohio sometime.
After the festival we drove over to Yellow Springs and ate dinner at Ye Olde Trail Café, Ohio’s oldest tavern. Tucked behind it in a courtyard we found another beautiful monarch butterfly on a wall in a fairy garden.
A quick drive took us to our Airbnb, a roomy basement apartment on a ten-acre farm complete with goats, dogs, cows, chickens, and a zip line down to a pond. Our hostess even welcomed us with a dozen fresh eggs. As I drifted off to sleep I recalled that feeling of wonder, floating above the water, looking across the fields of flowers and grasses. My first monarch festival of the season is in the books, and it was perfect.