Welcome to day 4 of 31 Days of Apocalypse, Now, a month of posts about apocalypse, revelation, uncovering what’s been hidden. Each post will look at these ideas from its own vantage point, which may not obviously connect with the others, and which may only peripherally seem related. I won’t attempt to tie the posts together. They’ll all be listed here, as they are posted.
Sometimes a post just falls into your lap.
In 2012, I planted a few standard (pink) swamp milkweeds (Asclepias incarnata) in the fruit guild, and in 2014 I planted several more of them in the side yard, as well as a white variety, “Ice Ballet.” In 2016, I planted common milkweed (Asclepias syriaca) in the side yard and it’s since almost taken over that garden and planted itself in the vegetable garden, the back border, the fruit guild, and the front yard.
I’ve loved seeing (and have posted multiple times about) the great golden digger and great black wasps on the A. incarnata, and the milkweed tussock moth caterpillars, the oleander aphids, milkweed bugs and milkweed beetles, (invasive) Asian ladybugs, hummingbirds, fritillaries, swallowtails, and even a few monarchs on all these plants.
I even saw a few monarch caterpillars on the A. incarnata in 2012 But until this year, I had never noticed a chrysalis, though surely there were some. Then suddenly, this summer*, caterpillars galore, on both kinds of asclepias, and I have posted a few times about the caterpillars, the chrysalises, and the emerged butterflies, both the seemingly successful emergences and those that weren’t.
Then today! Almost one month after I noticed a chrysalis on the perovskia in the vegetable garden (near a stand of pink A. incarnata),
and two weeks after I took a photo of what looked like a hole in the chrysalis, which made me think it wasn’t viable,
I walked out today — the warmest day in over a week (71F), and the first dry morning after recent rains — and what to my wondering eyes should appear?
You can see the cream-coloured chrysalis below and to the left of the monarch.
I am gobsmacked that this monarch spent at least 28 days in the chrysalis, probably more like 30 days; the norm is 10-14 days, though weather can affect the timing. I had
all but given up hope. Just this morning, I’d brought to mind the fact that no one on social media had asked for a progress report on the chrysalises, and I was feeling just as glad, since all those that remained seemed to have died — though I’m not sure that’s the right way to think of them: On the one hand, a live caterpillar went in and a live butterfly could emerge; but on the other hand, what’s in the chrysalis is basically goo with DNA, more like potential life than actual life. In any case, I had been spared having to bring the bad news of the remaining chrysalises to butterfly-lover friends.
And then, just when I had formally given up on any more butterflies emerging, this butterfly comes out of hiding, uncovers herself as it were, and reveals herself to be alive and vibrant.
I took another photo a few hours later; she’s spreading her wings on the weeds in the vegetable garden. The wings look good!
Close by, three other monarchs feasted on asters.
I hope she finds her tribe and heads to Mexico soon.
You know how they talk about “the reveal” these days? Expectant parents have parties that include “the reveal” — disclosing the gender of the baby with pink or blue balloons, pink or blue cupcakes, scratch cards, pink or blue water through a fire hose, etc.. Home makeover shows like “Fixer Upper” — and in the olden days, first broadcast 18 years ago!, “Trading Spaces” — feature “the reveal” to display the redesigned room or house. Men and women model various flattering (but not always?) outfits on personal makeover shows like “Queer Eye for the Straight Guy” and “What Not To Wear.” You don’t have to look far to find hype around the concept of revealing something, even when it’s not all that startling (I mean, it’s either a girl or a boy, the same two options as forever); just the fact that something that was heretofore hidden — not known or disclosed or displayed — will now be announced, uncovered, or shown, makes “the reveal” appealing. Most of us are curious and we like the suspense that leads to discovery of something new.
For me, this monarch butterfly’s emergence from her chrysalis was the big reveal: an apocalypse of beauty, life, vitality, and hope when all hope seems to have died.
*I had to look up “Suddenly, Last Summer” — the 1958 Tennessee Williams play, the 1959 movie adaptation with Katharine Hepburn, Elizabeth Taylor, and Montgomery Cliff; and the 1983 The Motels song of the same name. Now I gotta see the movie.