Sunday, March 22, 2015

Monarch Dream...Robert Michael Pyle from "Chasing Monarchs"

Robert Michael Pyle at a recent reading
 in Astoria, Oregon/
Photo credit/Carol Newman, with permission
Excerpt from Chasing Monarchs: Migrating with the Butterflies of Passage (p. 167)

...I didn't know when the wishful conjuring left off and the dream began.

The western edge of vision has the fiery intensity of an Arizona Highways sunset, but that isn't what I see.  The sun bores straight and narrow through a hole in dull clouds that rub into the horizon free of color.  The oranges and reds come entirely from the backlit wings of butterflies: four times as many gold-foil panes as the hundreds of monarchs clinging to the tamarisk at the top of the wash, where I have followed them to their evening's rest.  Their soft cluster-flutter keeps up until the dusk turns cool enough for wool, for fire, for stillness.  Then the brilliance fades to a vague peach glow in the brush of the bivoac.  Soon the desert stars take over even more, even brighter than the butterflies themselves.

When I sleep, cocooned just yards away from the hunkered bunch, there is nothing to tell me the monarchs are here beside me save memory and faith.  I wake and turn as the moon rises full.  In its werelight, I think I can see dull color in the cluster, a smudge on the night sky like bruised persimmons: enough to make me think it's real.

And when the cold sunrise again picks out their hue from the wispy blur, the low beams, raking straight across instead of burning in from behind, daub the mass more nutmeg than cinnamon, more maple than marmalade.  As some of the venturers spread their wings to capture the early rays, their massed palette grows brighter by measures, then takes on an oriole intensity I've never seen before.

The shivering begins -- first one, then several, then all together -- until the entire tamarisk looks ready to take off.  A magic degree is reached...the first great glider rises...and one by one, all the monarchs launch into another day.

Skyful of monarchs/Photo credit:Thea Linnaea Pyle
This, then, is how exodus goes.  You get through the night as best you can, shiver against the chill, accept what the next day has to offer as if you had a choice, and then -- just go!  I do the same, and I try to follow.  But I haven't even stuffed my sleeping bag, and already the monarchs are sailing over the far flat, sliding across the endless desert, sideways to the rising sun.

I blink and they are already gone.

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