Malcolm McDowell Woods
From the Editor

On a butterfly’s wings

By - Oct 9th, 2009 11:54 am

The cover image for this month’s Exchange magazine reminds me of a sight I’ve seen countless times on the shore of Lake Michigan. For years, friends and I camped at Kohler Andrae State Park butterflyalong the lakefront in early October.

It was on one of those camping trips, during a walk along the beach, that I first noticed the scores of dead monarch butterflies which littered the beach. Back then I didn’t know much about butterflies and wondered what had happened. Had there been some incident, some poisoning, or a bad storm or something else that had killed so many monarchs?

Finding still more dead monarchs in following years on October camping trips led me to think it was somehow an annual event and, eventually, I learned about the butterfly’s incredible migration.
Monarchs migrate. In the eastern half of North America, monarchs assemble and fly south to mountains in Mexico for the winter. Millions upon millions of them.

The remains on the beach at Kohler Andrae are the ones who did not make it, for one reason or another. Monarchs who lingered among the park’s milkweed plants and fell victim to an early frost or who were driven down by strong winds as they flew along the shore. And though the numbers of dead butterflies appeared striking, many times more had already departed and would arrive at a relatively small area in the Mexican highlands.

The whole thing is almost inconceivable. They are such fragile things. With their tissue-thin wings and hair-width legs, they hardly seem built to survive a several-thousand-mile journey. Yet they do. Year after year. Even more amazing is that a monarch butterfly has a short, several-month-long lifespan. Each one will make this journey just once, yet its offspring, several generations removed, are believed to return to the very same wintering grounds.

This miracle of migration leaves me awestruck and is a lesson for me in the untold resilience and strength shared by all living things. My guess is that very few of us know just how much we might accomplish.

Of course, butterflies also remind me of that old adage about the beat of a butterfly’s wing on one side of the planet ultimately having reverberations on the other side of the world, hinting at the complex interconnectedness of all of life.

You have within you the power to accomplish more than you may even imagine, and each act you undertake undoubtedly has untold and unforeseen consequences.

Makes me think that if there were to be a symbol for conscious living, it should be a butterfly.

What will you accomplish today? And who will it touch? Go ahead, flap your wings, they are surprisingly strong.

Categories: Uncategorized

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