Blue Ridge Country - September/October 2017 - 72
singing in the
A Beauty and a Beast
Wholeness is achieved by integration of the contraries.
-C. Jung (paraphrased)
Text and art by Ginny Neil
The monarch butterflies are leaving. Last
year, just as the fall winds started to
blow, I counted 300 in one hour riding the winds south in the sky above
my garden. Many fluttered down to
the bright zinnias that line the edge,
but even more stopped at the wild musk
thistles behind my chicken house and drank
their fill. Usually I cut the thistles down, but I will leave
them this year. One day soon, when the air smells like
toast with apple jelly, I will sit out there and wait for the
monarchs to waft into the thistle patch for a quick sip
before the long journey ahead.
The generation of monarchs floating south will not
be the generation that flew north. In fact there are three
generations in between. The fourth generation, after
hatching out in August on a milkweed plant somewhere
in America, completes the trip south to the Sierra Madre
Mountains in Mexico. This generation lives much
longer than the previous three and is the only one to
make the entire trip: flying 3,000 miles south to a place
they've never been.
Other insects are also on the move. I find a fat female
praying mantis basking in the sun on my board fence.
Her abdomen is full of eggs and she is looking for a suitable bush in which to deposit them. She will wrap her
spongy looking ootheca, or egg case, around a thorny
blackberry twig, and the eggs will overwinter in my
fields until spring signals hatching day. Then, hundreds
of baby mantids will crawl into the sun and start eating
the insects that plague my garden.
When I spot a fat mantis on a wall in a shopping center, I rescue her, bringing her home to a large jar where
I give her a twig to perch on, and feed her all the crick-