Thursday, 14 August 2014

Monarch Madness

Many cultures consider butterflies a metaphor for the soul's journey.
Butterflies have a short life span, most only living one to two weeks. 
 Monarchs have a longer life span, living around 6 months.  
They teach us to see the beauty in life, to remind us about just
how short life is, and to make the most of every moment, smelling the flowers.  
They remind us that like the caterpillar's metamorphosis from lowly
 caterpillar to beautiful butterfly, death is just another transformation.
The ancient Greeks, Romans and Mexican's believed that 
butterflies were the souls of those who have passed.

     Monarch's make an arduous journey from North America to Mexico every year.  They flitter their way over thousands of miles, all to reach home.  When they make it to Mexico they huddle together to conserve their strength and stay warm during the cold mountain nights.  Their arrival coincides with Dia de Muertos, the Day of the Dead.  In El Rosario, Mexico the people celebrate the arrival of the monarch's, believing them to be the returning souls of their loved ones.

    Last week-end we visited Monarch Madness at the Madoc Skate Park.  This was an event put on by Quinte Conservation .  My kids and niece and nephew loved it.  We had not known that there would be a display of snakes and turtles.  The kids loved touching and holding the snakes.  After we had looked at the snakes we made our way over to the butterfly area.

    We spoke to this really lovely lady who told us about the Monarch butterflies.  There were tiny baby caterpillars, big fat caterpillars almost ready to make their silky home and monarch cocoons.  She talked about their life cycle and how the kids could help to save the Monarchs.

    Monarch butterflies are listed on Ontario's Endangered Species Act as "of special concern".  That means that they are a species at risk.  It is estimated that the species may have declined as much as 40% last winter.  Part of the suspicion for their declining numbers lies in Mexico's deforestation, and some on the over use of pesticides and natural habitat elimination.  Monarch's only lay their eggs on milkweed plants, and it is their young's primary source of food and protection.  The milkweed is a noxious weed and poisonous to birds and other predators.  By laying their eggs on the milkweed plants, the Monarch's protect their offspring.  The tiny newly hatched caterpillars eat the milkweed, and gain it's toxicity, protecting it from predators.  Part of the answer to the decline of the Monarch is to plant more butterfly gardens and include in those gardens milkweed plants.

  The Arts Centre in Madoc is planted with native plants that both beautify the area and provide food for bees and butterflies both.  Although we were there to see the butterflies, it was difficult to ignore the soft buzzing of the bumble bees seeking their food from the echinacea flowers heavily planted around the building.   I felt compelled to take some pictures of these fuzzy insects which help to sustain our echo system.  I felt like I really needed to add this information because I really wanted to share my amazing close ups with you, even though they do not directly relate to the subject of butterflies.

     This amazing day featured a display and education about animal species, specifically snakes and turtles.  It had a plethora of really educated and knowledgeable individuals who helped to inspire conservation, and that is what that day was all about.  It was about learning to love and protect our natural environment and to kindle a protective fire in our children.  The other part of the even was to share milkweed.  This was both beautiful and heartbreaking when I discovered the reason that the milkweed plants were given.

    Jamie Prud'homme was an 8 year old girl who went to Albert College School in Belleville.  She loved nature and she really loved butterflies, specifically monarchs.  In 2008 she passed away suddenly.  To remember their daughter and her beauty,  her parents Chris and Laurie Prud'homme began to make a difference.  Every year her parents bring something special to her school on her birthday, September 20.  They call it Jamie Day.  They have brought in theatrical productions, and educational resources. That school is enriched because of the love of their child.  On June 5, 2013 Albert College dedicated the "Jamie P. H. Memorial Garden".  This garden was supported by her parents and the school.  It is shaped like a butterfly and has flowers in Jamie's favourite colours of pink and purple.  It is a waystation for migrating monarch butterflies.  In fact it is the largest waystation in Quinte and is recognized by Monarch Watch  Chris and Laurie also donated the milkweed plants that had been grown in a greenhouse to be distributed on the various Monarch Madness days that have occurred throughout our area.  What a stunning way to remember and share their love of their child.
    I understand Chris and Laurie's need to keep Jamie's memory alive and to enrich their world because of her.  Christopher and I do the same thing for our son Gabe.
To loose a child is every parents worst nightmare.  It creates a huge hole in your soul, and we found that by sharing Gabe with the community and all the things that made him so special, celebrating in others those shared beautiful traits, made our grief a little more bearable.

     We had a lovely afternoon in Madoc.  The sun was shining and was warm.  We were surrounded by our family and we learned new things. It was a great day.  Thank you Quinte Conservation, thank you Chris and Laurie Prud'homme for sharing Jamie's love with us.


  1. A beautiful post. Thanks for sharing. I really need to visit Madoc again. Beckie

    1. Thank you Beckie, and thank you so much for your beautiful comments, I really appreciate them!