Living Well, Dying Well

Mary Friedel-Hunt

Saving Monarch butterflies — taking them from egg to flight — matters to our environment and our food supply. I released two in August and got hooked. A friend offered me a Mason jar with two chrysalis suspended from the top. She told me they were very close to enclosure. I could see how dark they had become as well as hints of Monarch orange.

The next morning one of them completed metamorphosis and I found it on a paper towel that was put in the jar. Later, the second one left its pupa and was suspended by its remains. Both were moving their wings. They need about 4 hours to dry and strengthen their wings. When I took the jar out to my hibiscus, I removed the lid and reached in. The female immediately climbed onto my fingers and moved to the petal of the nearby flower; then flew behind other flowers ultimately in search of food and a mate. The male was a bit more resistant. I waited until he climbed onto my fingers, then to the hibiscus and suddenly up and over my roof.

A few days later, my friend gave me a Monarch egg in a jar. It was on a milkweed leaf and was so tiny I could barely see it. A speck that will hatch to the caterpillar stage and begin to eat the leaf. Within 14 days it will be full grown, attach itself to a leaf or branch and transform into a chrysalis. Then at just the right moment, it will emerge: a beautiful, fragile Monarch.

When I released this pair I felt my eyes tear up. It takes so little for me to cry. Having lived years not feeling much of anything, I appreciate my tears. My husband, Bill, was the same. He would have been standing there crying with me and we would also be smiling as tears fell. My tears were not necessarily ones of sadness, but rather because I was clearly watching an incredible miracle. These fragile beings are also a metaphor for my life and all of our lives in so many ways. Like these critters, I live feeling fragile, vulnerable but strong. I journey on this planet, meet whatever obstacles and assistance I meet, and somehow always seem to eventually know my destination if I am mindful.

These fragile beings travel many miles, mate, reproduce and die. Essential to our planet, we know that without butterflies (and other insects like bats, moths, flies, birds, beetles, ants and bees) we humans and our planet would be in more trouble than we are now. These insects are pollinators. We and all of Earth’s terrestrial ecosystems would not survive without them. The sad news is their habitat is endangered by climate change, loss of habitat, and pesticides that kill pollinators while over 80 percent of the world’s flowering plants require their assistance to reproduce. Learn more here: www.saveourmonarchs.org/how-to-raise-monarch-butterflies-at-home.html

The butterfly is one of the closest beings to spirit. Probably the reason I love them so. 

Mary Friedel-Hunt has retired after 50 years of practice as a licensed clinical social worker and certified bereavement counselor. She can be reached at mfhunt44@gmail.com or P.O. Box 1036, Spring Green, WI 53588.