Chasing Wonder

Nature Finds a Way

She hung the moon and watched over the sleeping butterflies, whilst carrying hundreds of babies.

Before the kids grumbled out of bed this morning, before the alarms and pet noises, nature was taking care of us. Dew was hydrating leaves and moths. The soil warmed and newly-dropped seeds settled into it with long-game purpose. And butterflies began to shiver awake, readying their wings for the miles ahead.

This generation of monarch butterflies, the Methuselah generation, is born stronger, with larger wings and built-in upgrades that empower it to fly thousands of miles to a region of Mexico it has never stepped its tiny, hairy foot upon in its incredibly long life. There it will roost and lay eggs to begin the cycle again next year.

Nature is constant. Webs and rivers and rocks, and squirrels in your baffled bird feeder, all nature. She’s creating systems and work-arounds even as we humans muck it up, either through our carelessness or our earnestness.

Some of our forests will burn, many flora and fauna will become extinct, but nature will always find a way. We ourselves die off, never to be seen here again, and that, too, is an extinction.

No amount of green veggies or sit-ups or recitations of holy words were going to save my mother, or your sister, or that lake, or these trees. But, as in all natural systems, we try hard– too hard most times– to prevent having to bear witness to losses. That too, is natural. To protect is instinctive.

I’m thinking about this today because yesterday a chrysalis failed, and last night a dying moth landed on my husband’s leg and yet this morning another chrysalis began showing a beautiful set of wings as bumblebees jostled among the asters.

Yesterday too, Greta Thunberg rose up before the General Assembly, stretched her mighty wings, and began to fly. She faces all the same dangers as the Methuselah monarchs. The short-sightedness, sometimes mean-spirited recklessness of humans. The push and pull of economies and boundaries. Foul winds, indeed. She will fly anyway.

I ache for her, and my own daughter, thinking of how hard they will have to work to protect nature. They can’t prevent life cycles from happening, of course, but they can, and must, protect what is here while it is here. Arguably more so than any generation before theirs has been compelled to do.

But my angst does nothing to serve Greta, or Claire, or the monarchs. I have to make their journeys as safe and clear as I can. I have to be a lantern, a life jacket, a ladder for them. It’s imperative, and instinctive.

I’ve struggled to figure out how to save the world for so long, but now I’m taking my queues from the monarch. She isn’t the champion pollinator, but she pollinates. She doesn’t fly everywhere, but somewhere. She doesn’t wonder why she even bothers what with death just over the horizon, she makes her journey, nectaring in fields of flowers and napping in trees along the way.

Because nature trumps everything. It is the ticking of time, the rising sun, the waterfall and the super bloom. I get to live in it, be inspired by it, and protect it for the next generation. Whether I am able to save a moth’s life or turn the trajectory of a climate crisis, I am here to participate in nature. To rise up and fly, perhaps pollinate one small thing, or flutter enough to cause a great surge in the ocean.

When this chrysalis gives way to a new monarch, she will be called Greta. She will carry a message on her discal cell, AAWP 251. It’s the Monarch Watch tag that, if found and reported, will help identify factors that contribute to or prevent the monarchs’ ultimate survival.

But even if she isn’t found, or the tag isn’t reported, Greta AAWP 251 was here. Nature, finding its way. My lantern, my inspiration to continue chasing wonder.

Author’s update: 9/25/19 Greta eclosed this afternoon, compelled by her roommate Nancy, who surprised us earlier this morning!
They’ll both be released tomorrow, 9/26/19, to send off the Monarch Ultra runners through Fort Wayne. Fly high, and be well, Greta and Nancy!

Writer, Master Gardener, Chaser of Wonder.
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