A slender, fragile yet fascinating and beautiful creature! Its wing-span is no more than 4 inches and it weighs less than one-fifth of a pound. How it came to be called the Monarch, I shall leave it to your imagination. But the butterfly has dazzled humans for millennia. The monarch butterflies exist in several parts of the world, but God has been cruel enough to put some of them in Northern parts of
where even humans almost freeze to death in winters. Well, trees don’t come
with room heaters and the market is not yet there for butterfly sweaters or
jackets. So a certain death awaits these poor souls come winter. What do they
do? They set off on a remarkable transcontinental odyssey that spans 2000 miles
over 2 months and culminates in the safe warmth of the mountains of Canada .
And the journey back home is even more mind-blowing as it transcends 3
generations. A year long epic journey indeed that would put Columbus and
Sindbad in perspective! Mexico
The monarch migration is one of the most profound mysteries in the natural world. No one knows what exactly triggers the exodus of these newly hatched butterflies from
They have never seen a winter before to know one is coming. I am pretty sure
that they haven’t looked up the best travel destinations in the internet to
zero in on a small town in Canada .
But yet on one late August morning, a tiny butterfly triggered by a calling of
its forefathers coded perhaps in its genomes, sets off on a journey to an
unknown land. Alone! Soon there are millions of them! A butterfly’s physiology
is worst suited for a long migration. Yet, it travels about 50 miles a day
across plains, deserts, oceans and mountains; escaping from, succumbing to and
surviving rain storms, lurking enemies, scorching desert sun and tricky winds.
A feat of endurance and navigation unlike anything else! Mexico
The butterflies don’t own a GPS. They can neither call their friends for directions nor can they read a map. So how exactly do they navigate their way across a continent to end up in the exact same place every year is probably the biggest mystery of all. They may be following the sun; the earth’s magnetic field perhaps provides an orientation guide or they may have special brain cells that are genetically coded to regulate their internal clock and keep them on course. Whatever their secret may be, they cross every geographic hurdle that nature dishes out in one treacherous journey with extreme panache. They fly with imagination!
A butterfly starts its journey alone but it starts bonding with its fellows on the way. As they near
they gather into huge flocks for the final leg of the journey. In a tiny
Mexican village at the foothills of towering mountains, the Mazahua people wait
endearingly for the Monarchs to come home. They believe that the spirits of
their ancestors return in the form of these butterflies. First week of
November, the butterflies arrive. I can only imagine what rapture a child would
feel when she sees millions of butterflies fly into the town painting it in a
reddish brown tinge. I have played the scene in my head over and over and I
would give anything to be that child. Mexico
These butterflies inhabit the forests near this tiny Mexican town for about 5 months. The city rejoices. Exhausted by their monumental journey, they rest, huddled together in the warmth of the huge trees. When spring arrives, they bloom again opening their wings to the sun. They bid good bye to their hosts and begin their journey back. They travel to
where they make a pit stop and mate. The parents die but the next generation
keeps flying north, repeating the stop, mate and die routine. A full year after
they started their journey, a fourth generation of butterflies is born in
homeland Texas .
This generation is special because these butterflies are the chosen ones to
retrace the paths of their ancestors and a wonderful planetary cycle beings
A spectacular natural phenomenon, this migration is an unparalleled marvel. Philosophically too, it has several underpinnings that can be inferred and interpreted in different ways. But every time I think about this incredible quest of the butterfly, I feel the hands of God. I see an artist at work! I see his Monalisa. And it staggers my mind that he has left his fingerprints in several subtle ways we don’t even realize!
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