A Story of a Long Journey and Metamorphosis –
Hurry the Texas tortoise is starting to think about winter when out of the bright October sky a monarch butterfly lands on his back.
“What do you call this place?” asks the monarch. “The West Ranch garden,” say Hurry. And that’s my back you’re standing on. “West Ranch at Ozona, near the Texas and Mexican border. Not far enough,” says the monarch.
“Not far enough for what? asks Hurry. “For staying,” replies the monarch.
With that the monarch opens her wings and flies off Hurry’s back. Eye level with Hurry now, the monarch seems fascinated with the old tortoise.
“How long have you been here?” asks the monarch. “Seems like forever,” says Hurry.
Maybe one day you’ll break out of that shell, grow wings, and fly away,” says the monarch. “I doubt it,” says Hurry.
“It happened to me,” replies the monarch, thinking about that extraordinary morning when she first opened her wings. “Where did this happen?” asks Hurry.
“Far away, in a place called Canada. In a garden just like this.” “Why did you leave?” asks Hurry.
“The days got colder,” says the monarch. “What do you do when the days get colder?”
“Sleep,” answers Hurry. “Cold days always change back into warm days if you wait.”
“I don’t have time for that,” says the monarch, flying away from the garden.
She joins more monarchs. They turn the sky orange as 1000s of monarchs continue their journey south toward Mexico.
Back in the garden, a cloud passes over the sun and Hurry shuts his eyes. As the weather turns cooler, the old tortoise begins to dream…. The monarch travels on, resting at night in places you would expect a butterfly to rest – on flowers – and sometimes in places you would not – like barbed wire fences.
Each new day brings new sights. Sometimes a day brings danger. Like the windshield of a pickup truck driving fast down a country road. But the monarch survives, flying now over the waters of the Rio Grande River into Mexico.
On and on she flies until finally, one November evening, she finds it. The warm green forest she has been searching for. She will spend the winter here in Mexico. She hangs from a branch, adding her tired wings to the soft murmur of a million others. The monarch in flight from winter knows she has found the perfect place, the butterfly sanctuaries in Central Mexico.
The monarch has traveled almost 2,000 miles, sometimes flying 125 miles a day. Now, think about this, the monarch has never made this trip before and there are no road signs to follow.
Hurry has been spending the winter in the West Ranch garden. Sometime in early spring, he slowly opens his eyes and feels the warmth of the sun.
Then one morning, the monarch also returns. “So where are you going now?” asks Hurry. “Back to the beginning,” answers the monarch. “Do you mean Canada?” asks Hurry. “Possibly,” says the monarch.
“Butterflies can be so mysterious,” thinks Hurry, watching the monarch lay eggs on a milkweed plant. Then she flies away, headed north. In the town of Oklahoma City, she flies in through an open window and thinks it might be nice to rest her worn wings for a while in the folds of a sun-colored curtain. For a while becomes forever.
What has happened? The monarch dies. But she has left something behind. Back in the garden, over by the milkweed plant, Hurry sees a newborn caterpillar.
“Hello,” says Hurry, but the caterpillar doesn’t answer. He is too busy eating the milkweed leaves.
Hurry watches and waits as the caterpillar grows, shedding skin after skin, (4 times) and finally crawling away to hide under a twig. But this garden is Hurry’s whole world and there is little in it that is hidden from him.
In the weeks that follow, Hurry sees an amazing transformation happen right in front of his still and patient eyes.
What is happening? A new monarch emerges from the shell, (chrysalis) wet and wrinkled.
For a while, the monarch clings to its empty shell, waiting for his wings to expand and dry in the warm sunshine. After a few hours, the monarch spreads his strong new wings and flies toward Hurry, landing on his back.
“What do you call this place?” asks the monarch. “Here we go again,” says Hurry as the monarch opens his wings and flies off Hurry’s back.
“What’s your hurry?” asks Hurry. “I’m off to see the world. What do you think it’s like?” asks the butterfly.
“I imagine —-“says Hurry slowly, “I imagine that it’s like my garden. A place full of astonishing things.”
“I can’t wait,” says the young monarch, flying away on its way north for the summer.
By Peggy Maddox
Check it out: National Butterfly Center
DID YOU KNOW:
The monarch that flew from Canada to Mexico lives about 8 months. Then the monarch who starts the journey back to Canada will live the usual butterfly life span – between 4 & 6 weeks. It will take several generations of monarchs to reach Canada. That’s why it is so important to plant milkweed for the monarch to lay eggs and feed the caterpillars who hatch and turn into more monarchs.
The tortoise can live up to 100 years or more.
The monarch butterfly is the state insect of Texas.
THINGS TO THINK ABOUT:
Tell your teacher to let KOL know and we will send you some.