Initially, when I walked outside my front door, I saw her laying on a milkweed plant.
Now, she was a Monarch butterfly and the milkweed plant had no flowers. Which meant that she would only have been on it to lay eggs (as opposed to being on there to eat from the flowers).
But the way that she was positioned on the milkweed was just bizarre. Instead of clasping on with her insectile legs and positioning herself so that she could lay eggs under the leaves, she was literally laying, like on her side, on a large leaf. Motionless.
Uh-oh I said to myself. She's dead.
Crouching down, I saw that she was not moving and was on her side (as though taking a nap?). And I also saw that her wings were ripped ragged, her colors were faded - she was old. Very old, for a butterfly, and tattered by her age and the elements. So I sat, looking at her for a while, reflecting how sad it is for the world to lose a butterfly, and then I wandered off to do my daily thing.
A while later, I came back outside again and she was still laying there, but this time I saw that she was moving a bit. I watched, fascinated, as she pulled herself up from laying sideways and struggled - yes, struggled like it was the hardest thing she had EVER DONE, to try to get her abdomen up high enough to lay an egg on the underside of the milkweed plant's fat leaves.
Oh my soul, I thought. She's so old and frail that she can't even lift her abdomen high enough to lay what must be her final eggs. I was riveted and saddened, but also incredibly awed and amazed.
After watching her struggle for quite a while - struggle to hold on to the leaf, for her legs weren't working well - struggle to lift her abdomen and get it to the underside of the leaf, for her body wouldn't obey her - struggle to climb back up after she slipped because her body wasn't working quite right - I knew that she was going to be a blog entry for me. I haven't blogged about butterflies for at least a year.
The wind, which was VERY slight, was more than powerful enough to sweep her off of the milkweed plant she was trying to lay her eggs on and carry her off in the air. She made the best of it, though, and maneuvered so that she would land on this pink Lantana bush. Not what she normally would have done - for whatever reasons, the butterflies never visit the pink Lantana, only the red, but since she was there, she had a snack.
Which, to me, showed that she was hungry indeed.
See her wings? See the tears on her right wing and the scrapes and scratches on her left wing?
But then the cruel wind picked her up again, and even though she wanted to be on the milkweed laying her eggs, she ended up:
Stuck in a tree.
She held on for dear life.
See the hole in her wing? Heartbreaking.
She stayed there for quite a while, probably gathering strength, even though the milkweed she was trying to get to was not but a foot or two below her.
But then the wind ripped her off the tree again and sent her spiraling across my yard and onto my lawn, where she sat for quite a while. Poor butterfly.
It took her a long time, but she finally got back onto the milkweed (via many circuitous routes), and she finally was able to force her body to lay eggs. I was just so amazed by her sheer determination and desperate struggle. These must have been her last few eggs to lay on this earth. And as this happened a day or two ago, I'm thinking that she is probably dead by now.
This picture really shows how scratched, banged and dented she was.
I am sorely tempted to anthropomorphasize (or whatever) here, especially since I am a mother giving what I feel like is Every. Single. Ounce. Of. Strength. that I have to ensure that my children are well. She was hungry and exhausted and near death - she had to battle cruel winds and slippery plants and her own body, which wasn't working at all or obeying her orders to move in certain ways - and yet, through it all, she tried over and over and over again until she was able to lay her final eggs on my milkweed, ensuring that she had done her motherly duty.
For what else is there for a mother to do?
And that, to me, is the absolute picture of sheer beauty.