Previous Challenge Entry (Level 4 – Masters)
Topic: Autumn/Fall (08/27/09)
TITLE: Soaring Monarchs and a Terminal Princess
By Diana Smith
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“Are you up for a day trip?” Gram asked casually. I shrugged and flipped open the sports pages.
“It would be good for you to get out Dawn,” Mom chimed in. “We could check with Dr. Morgan, but I’m sure it’s fine.” I knew better, mom wasn’t sure of anything anymore.
“What about it, girl? Just the two of us for the day. No doctors, treatments or medications - unless you count my afternoon expresso.”
I tore my eyes from the scores and glared with my best bratty teenager look. “For the whole day? Where?”
The idea of hanging with the old lady wasn’t truly repulsive, but where was key. I hadn’t been in a crowd for months, unless you counted the team of nurses that descended for chemo treatments. And there was no way my body could handle any strenuous exercise.
“There’s no schedule, darling. It’s only an hour’s drive to Point Pelee and we can play it by ear when we get there.”
“Point Pelee? It’s a little cold for the beach.” There was no way she’d get me to a beach in any weather, nevermind the briskness of September.
A brochure slid across the counter, the cover boasting an orange and black butterfly. My eyebrows shot up with my sarcasm. “Come on Gran. Butterflies? Should I paint my toenails and wear a pink dress too?”
Her own eyebrows arched high.
Gram didn’t elaborate, but assured no crowds and not much walking, mostly just getting to the observation points. I asked what we would be observing. Accompanied by her own bratty teenage look, Gram snapped back, “The majestic monarch butterfly of course.”
I shrugged, mostly because I could join Gram for her expresso, something Dr. Morgan wouldn’t like. How boring could it be?
Inside the high-ceiling visitor’s centre the theme was all things monarch, even the staff were decked out in orange shirts with black vests. Cute - in an embarrassing sort of way. We stuck in the self-guided tour earbuds and pressed play.
“Welcome to Point Pelee. Prepare yourself to witness a spectacular show of nature’s beauty and marvel at an unexplained mystery.”
An orange sign directed our path to the next poster.
“The common plant Milkweed grows along highways and in local fields. These innocent looking plants are infused with cardiac glycosides, a harmful toxin. They are also the only food and nesting grounds of the monarch butterfly, the world’s single most recognized butterfly.”
I slipped an aside to Gram about sympathizing with the poor milkweed, being pumped full of toxins myself. She checked under my arms for nesting caterpillars and chased me to the next poster.
“Autumn finds the monarchs resting on Point Pelee, before continuing their migration another 3000kms south to the mountains of central Mexico.”
The little tour continued its trivia, culminating in our trip down to Pelee’s tip, binoculars in hand for spotting the roosting butterflies. Gram and I had been caught in the hype and naturally competition raged as to who could spot the most. She came close, but youthful eyesight carried the victory away.
Our chat on the drive home revolved around the feisty creatures.
“How is it that they can find a specific place they’ve never seen before? I mean, it can’t be genetics.” My brain dwelled. Migrating butterflies were virtually newborns, headed thousands of miles towards a completely foreign destination. Yet they didn’t waver, enduring ferocious weather, predators and fatal traffic. It seemed remarkable, even impossible.
“I suppose you’d cringe if I told you that God planted His own GPS in them?” Gram grinned and I shrugged in response.
“Best explanation so far.”
Gram became serious, speaking slowly. “I imagine that they’re just as scared as we’d be, if they thought about it. But it’s the Lord’s plan for them to travel there and this particular generation has been chosen for the journey. I also imagine that their Grams would gladly take on the horrendous flight for them if she could, but it’s theirs to fly.” Was that a choked sob?
I stared out the window, watching the racing scenery.
“That tour guide said that over half of the butterflies make it to Mexico right? And that if they don’t follow the migration path there’s no chance of survival?” Gram’s silent nod was my reply.
“Then I guess God’s GPS is all they’ve got.”
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