Lessons from a Monarch Butterfly

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What can we learn from the monarch butterfly? A few months ago, as the new year rolled in, I reflected on the way we humans use holidays and calendars to mark time’s passage, and how this might look to other creatures whose life span and sense of time is very different. 

For example, most monarch butterflies live only weeks long, but they carry out their Spring migrations over the span of generations. Their behavior strikes me as a beautiful example of keeping faith and working toward a collective good. Here’s what I thought Mona the monarch might have to say to us on the subject:


Hello there! I’m Mona, and though people tell me I’m a Monarch, I like to think I’m just a regular old butterfly. I don’t feel very old yet, but I’ve been around for a few weeks, so I know the show is over soon. I’ve been journeying my whole life, to places I’ve never been before but know I need to go. This is the way we do things, in spans of generations, following the stories of our ancestors and the knowledge deep in our bodies that lead the way. 

I stop where there is flower and food, settle in the trees you have left standing, and the new ones that have risen. Every once in a while, over patches of concrete gray, I see unexpected green! I flutter down and find the milkweed for my children, and know I’ve got a safe spot to lay them down.

The trees where I rest become my friends, and they tell me they’ve been here a long time. They say they’ve seen many new “years” begin, and to them, each looks a lot like the last, but not very much like the five before that. I understand that, I think. It’s how I start each day – I know I will see something familiar, but soon I’ll be places I’ve never been, bright strange worlds that I simply adjust to. My children will have new homes and new friends, and so will their children after that. Though I only see one piece of the puzzle, I know I have a greater purpose, and I am happy to do my part to get us where we need to be.

Along the way, I find plenty to delight in. Each time I worry I won’t find my next meadow and one appears on the horizon, I gain a little more faith. The birds say that new ones are being made, fresh havens for us winged folk, and tell me my descendants will be okay. I trust them, and keep flying forward. This is my mantra for each new start – follow your instinct, the flashes of color ahead, and the wisdom of other life you encounter. Ever onwards!

by Maya Dutta