I’ve come to notice the last few days that there are a plethora of monarchs flitting about the Island, and across the water. I watch them dart and hover on the breeze as I cross the Harbour to and fro at work. I’ve noticed so many in fact that it brought to mind the Monarch butterfly we nurtured in our cockpit this time last year. I had started to write about it then , and now seemed like a fitting time to finish the story and share it.
Here is the story of Milky…
It was early September when our Boy, whom had just started back to school, was studying the life cycle and the chrysalis process of the Monarch butterfly. On the Island, in our Marina, the weeds and foliage are mostly left to their own. Our Son was always on the lookout for milkweed, and lo and behold there was a big plant not too far from our dock. And then, one day, there was a fuzzy caterpillar upon its big broad leaves. The Boy quickly collected this caterpillar in a jar all set to take it to school and add it to his class’s collection. His name was Milky.
By the time Monday came however, Milky had begun his life process and had morphed into a beautiful green chysalis. Unfortunately as we commuted to school via dinghy, the dinghy ride would not be a comfortable one for poor Milky. We feared his delicate attachment to the milkweed leaves in his jar would cause him to shake free.
Milky sat in our cockpit, in his jar partly shaded, protected from the wind and rain. Then we went away for a week, on our Road Trip to Lunenburg. Upon our return, we were surprised to find that Milky was still with us. His pupa had since turned transparent, and we could see the beautiful colours of his Monarch wings, rich blacks and vibrant oranges. I was rather surprised and quickly learnt in my reasearch that the cycle of a caterpillar to a monarch usually takes 10-12 days. Our Milky had been cocooned for 17 days. With the jar gently tilted onto its side, Milky finally emerged.
I could see that his wings were wet with a golden dew like substance, and I watched as he tried to stretch out his beautiful wings. But sadly his wings seemed creased. Not like a distinct fold, or crisp pleat down the leg of a pair of trousers but rather a rounded curl like that of a nautical chart that’s been rolled up for to long. Milky tried to fly, and we half expected him to fly away as a Monarch should when we weren’t looking. Once I thought he had done so, but I then I found him sitting on the deck adjacent to the cockpit. Poor thing. This wasn’t looking good. I soon found myself thinly slicing strawberries and leaving them on a plate for Milky, in hopes that some food may renew his strength.
It happened again that we returned to the boat to find that Milky was gone. While I was deeply routing for him to have flown away, in my heart I knew that something wasn’t quite right. This was confirmed when I found Milky floating in the water adjacent to the boat. I quickly jumped into the dinghy and rescued him, placing him back into the cockpit. Gordon and I were to perform two more MOB’s, as in Monarch Over Board. It’s likely that Milky attempted to fly and fell to the water and was carried away by the wind and the movement of the water. We gently rowed the dinghy each time, our eyes scanning the surface of the water for our endearing Milky.
It was a bittersweet day when we came to realize that Milky hadn’t been dealt a fair hand, and that we had to share his impending fate with the Boy. Milky wasn’t going to be migrating south with his fellow Monarch friends. We broke the news gently, it was time to allow nature to take its course and set Milky free. After school, Gordon and the Boy gently removed Milky from his cockpit abode and took him to the trees and shrubs sounding the Boy’s Treehouse. It was there that Milky was rested upon a branch, and they said goodbye.
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