“Come right away!” I called to my husband at 5 a.m. Hearing the urgency in my voice, he scrambled into his clothes and came to join me.
Together we were about to witness a miracle. Two weeks before, a neighbour had come to ask me for a large jar.
“What for?” I asked.
“You’ll see!” was all she’d say.
When I went to visit her, she handed me the jar. At first, all I saw were a few twigs and crumpled leaves in the bottom of it. But then my neighbour pointed out a jade-green object, delicately trimmed with a dotted band of gold, hanging from one of the sticks.
“It’s the chrysalis of a monarch butterfly,” she said. “We found the caterpillars feeding on our milkweed so we put four in your jar. Take it home and watch them emerge.”
And so began the vigil, with our kitchen table the “maternity ward.”
A few days later we noticed the chrysalis begin to darken and we could see a faint tinge of orange beginning to show. For the butterfly, the labour of freeing itself from the tight confines of the chrysalis had begun. That was when I called my husband to come and watch “the birth.”
Since nothing seemed to be happening right away, he went out to park himself under a shady tree to shell peas. And wouldn’t you know it! That’s when the butterfly decided to arrive on the scene.
For a long while it just clung to its empty chrysalis, as if reluctant to leave the safety of what had been its home for the past 10 days. And then the brand new butterfly began to pump the fluid from its swollen abdomen into its wings, flexing them open now and then.
At that point I took it outside and gently transferred it to a flower.
“But won’t the birds get it?” my husband asked, concerned over this new offspring.
“Apparently not. I read on the Internet that in the caterpillar stage it ingested chemicals from the milkweed that serves as a poisonous defence against predators.”
All the same, my husband pulled up a lawn chair in an act of protective custody over this new “boy.” And how did we know it was a male? The male monarch has a black spot over a vein on each hind wing.
For several hours it just sat there on the flower looking handsome, and then enticed by a gentle breeze, (or maybe a female butterfly) it decided to leave “home.” We were sad to see it go, but with the wind beneath its wings, it was off to begin another stage in the life cycle of a monarch.