|Pacific Grove in the afternoon.|
I've been meaning to post ever since we got back from Spain, but life and work intruded -- in a happy way. I'm working on a new story, to be included in an anthology coming out next year.
Though I've kept my nose to the grindstone, it's made my blogging lackadaisical. Then Thanksgiving came -- a wonderful communal gathering with my beloved god family -- and after that we went to Pacific Grove for the weekend. Pacific Grove, Monterrey, and Carmel have long had a shared place in our hearts. We come back when we can, like homing pigeons, to walk the beaches and visit the art galleries in Carmel.
We spent both mornings in Pacific Grove, driving, then walking along the sea wall, enjoying the slate-blue of the distant waters, the foamy white ruffles of incoming waves, the soft hush-sh-sh of waves rippling and splashing on rocks, the muffled roar of larger waves, and the kwee-dkwee-kwee of the seagulls that soared and swooped from rocks to shore and back again.
|A distant boat on the endless waters.|
|A lone seagull, taking it all in.|
|Rocks that jut up like sculptures.|
|And a rock littered with roosting gulls.|
That was the ocean view.
On land, the ice plant that makes a fuchsia-colored carpet across the sand in spring was bereft of flowers, but it glistened in green and red tones like stained glass.
|A path of beauty.|
|Fall colors like stained glass|
|Someone staring out to sea.|
For years I've wanted to visit the Monarch Grove Sanctuary in Pacific Grove, an "overwintering" spot for monarch butterflies, November through February each year, free for viewing. This time we did. Look closely. Nature has truly devised a great safety system for these delicate creatures;
At first we thought they were only dried
|Hundreds of butterflies with folded wings, looking like|
so many dried leaves in their wonderful camouflage.
leaves hanging from trees--and not
pretty leaves, at that. And then a little
kid pointed them out to us! "They're
in camouflage," he said. (Smart kid!)
We looked again, and were amazed.
Hundreds upon hundreds of folded
wings. Camouflage indeed!
|One butterfly opened its wings|
Both afternoons, we drove into Carmel to enjoy the many art galleries. We have certain galleries we particularly like: One is Classic Art Gallery.
One is the Carmel Art Association, a collaborative gallery that features work by local artists and puts out a lovely small catalogue each year that is like a book of art gems. You can visit them HERE
. We also like Jones & Terwilliger Galleries.
But actually there are so many good galleries, an amble through them is like an amble through several fine art museums.
Because Rajan is into black and white photography, we stopped by two photography galleries we've always enjoyed.
One is the Weston Gallery.
They are featuring a color show in one section at present, but they specialize in the art of some of my husband's favorite black and white photographers: Ansel Adams (his hero), Edward and Brett Weston, Yousuf Karsh, Michael Kenna, Imogen Cunningham . . . . You can click on the name of the gallery above, and, once there, click on the artists and see wonderful samples of their work. The other is Photography West Gallery
, featuring some of the same artists, all working in black and white film (my husband's first love) rather than digital.
Both afternoons we stopped by a charming restaurant/bar called Grasings
on 6th and Mission, and had a glass of crisp Chardonnay. The place had a soft, warm atmosphere and a friendly staff, and it made for a nice pause in the day.
|Hubby's ear in lower left corner. :-)|
|A nice pause in the day.|
My birthday was Monday, but since we would be driving back to Sacramento that day, we celebrated Sunday evening at a little French restaurant in Pacific Grove. (Or maybe it's Monterrey: those areas run into each other, and I'm never quite sure. )
It's called Fifi's Bistro Cafe ,
a charming restaurant with a cosy atmosphere. Fifi was there that evening, as it was the restaurant's 30th anniversary. She's French, of course, and she looked casually chic,
as the French somehow always manage to do -- black dress, red scarf, hair tumbled back in a clip. We are not dessert eaters, but when she found out we were celebrating my birthday, she insisted on bring an order of flan
for us to share, and she brought a beautiful red rose to the table, scattering the petals over the white tablecloth. How French!
I have a lot of questions in this post: Have you ever seen the monarch butterflies wintering over in some location? (I understand there are quite a few; not just Pacific Grove.) Do you have a special affinity for the ocean? Do you enjoy black and white photography? What is your favorite art form?
Remember those pumpkins I said might be ripe in time for Christmas? More like Valentine’s Day. We gave most of them away to a neighbor (who thanked us with pumpkin bread, so we came out ahead) but kept a couple to perpetuate the cycle. We’ll ignore these and let Nature do her thing, and maybe we’ll have some seeds sprouting earlier in the season this time around. In the meantime, I’m enjoying the jarring contrast of spring flowers and fall harvest.
Spotted two tiny caterpillars on the milkweed! Sadly, however, we also found a withered monarch chrysalis hanging on the fence with a pinprick hole in it. It looks like we’re raising caterpillars for something’s lunch. Not cool, Nature. Monarchs have enough to contend with these days.
I’ve been blogging about monarch butterflies practically from the moment this blog began. I’ve been growing milkweed, the only host plant for monarch caterpillars, in our yard for over a decade—first in Crozet, Virginia, and then here in San Diego after our move seven years ago. When you leave a comment on this blog, if you don’t happen to have a WordPress avatar set up, the default avatar is a picture of milkweed from my garden. I made a very dopey video, once, showing some of our butterfly plants, and was lucky enough to catch a monarch in the act of laying an egg on the underside of a leaf. We’ve been a family wrapped up in bees and butterflies for a very long time.
We had a fair number of caterpillars last year, enough to eat our five plants to the ground. But this year may be different.
This year, the giant migration that takes place in the mountains of Mexico has been, well, not exactly giant.
…for the first time in memory, the monarch butterflies didn’t come, at least not on the Day of the Dead. They began to straggle in a week later than usual, in record-low numbers. Last year’s low of 60 million now seems great compared with the fewer than three million that have shown up so far this year. Some experts fear that the spectacular migration could be near collapse.
The reasons aren’t a mystery:
A big part of it is the way the United States farms. As the price of corn has soared in recent years, driven by federal subsidies for biofuels, farmers have expanded their fields. That has meant plowing every scrap of earth that can grow a corn plant, including millions of acres of land once reserved in a federal program for conservation purposes.
Another major cause is farming with Roundup, a herbicide that kills virtually all plants except crops that are genetically modified to survive it.
As a result, millions of acres of native plants, especially milkweed, an important source of nectar for many species, and vital for monarch butterfly larvae, have been wiped out. One study showed that Iowa has lost almost 60 percent of its milkweed, and another found 90 percent was gone. “The agricultural landscape has been sterilized,” said Dr. Brower.
This article touches, too, on the dire plight of the honeybee, about which I’ve had much to say on this blog over the years.
I don’t often feel helpless. But with this, I do. What can I do beyond the small acts I’ve been making? Planting milkweed, singing the joys of bee-and-butterfly gardening, avoiding pesticides and herbicides even though that means I have a weedy garden. Keep on singing, I guess?
Anyone who knows me, knows how important the monarch butterflies have been in my life. My family started raising monarchs together as a family project six or seven years ago, and every summer we search for monarch eggs, nurture them through all the stages, and release the butterflies. These little creatures are a miracle, and we never get tired of watching them make their amazing transformations. Several years ago we started planting milkweed to encourage the monarchs to come around our house. My husband was inspired by our experiences with monarchs to write a book, The Dark Dreamweaver, which includes a monarch wizard. If it weren't for the monarchs, I probably wouldn't be here, blogging about children's books.
One amazing thing about the monarchs is their annual migration. Every year in the Fall, they migrate to Mexico, where they spend the winter. In the Spring they migrate northwards again. There are several generations between the northbound butterflies in the Spring and the southbound ones in the Fall, yet somehow those southbound butterflies know where to go, and they go to the same places year after year. Unfortunately, those places are under attack by loggers. Now, a new satellite image recently published shows that in spite of Mexico's creation of protected zones, illegal logging continues to devastate the monarch buttefly overwintering grounds.
Click here to view a pair of satellite images of Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve in central Mexico. The first image was taken in 2004, and the second one was taken on February 23, 2008. The image clearly shows large areas that have been clear cut inside the protected zone, where logging has been illegal by presidental decree since 2000.
If this deforestation continues, the monarch migration could be disrupted. If that happens, this beautiful and inspiring creature could disappear from the earth.
Butterfly image © copyright 2005 Sheila Ruth; all rights reserved.
My family is obsessed with monarchs butterflies. Every summer, we collect monarch eggs and raise them to adulthood, at which point we release them. We have a butterfly garden, where we can observe the monarchs and other butterflies in their natural habitat. My husband even wrote a book in which a monarch plays an important role.
This year, though, we've been asking ourselves, where are the monarchs? We haven't seen any monarchs, or many butterflies at all, in our butterfly garden. My husband and son went camping this weekend, and didn't see any butterflies there, either. So far this summer we've found a grand total of ONE monarch larva (caterpillar), which was almost ready to pupate when we brought it in to finish growing to adulthood. We've seen no monarch eggs. What's going on?
It's true that we usually see the largest number of monarchs here (Maryland) in August and September, but we usually can find some throughout the summer. This year, though, there's almost none to be found.
Apparently, we aren't the only ones asking the question. Monarch Watch recently posted an article on their blog about the very subject:
Monarch Watch: Where are the monarchs??
While the low numbers of monarchs isn't good, the article points out that there is some hope: because the butterfly population is low, parasites and predators that depend on the butterflies may dying or not reproducing, which will give the next generation of monarchs a better chance. Here's hoping!
Monarch photo copyright 2005 Sheila Ruth. All rights reserved.
I recently had the wonderful opportunity to visit Shady Oak Butterfly Farm in Brooker, Florida. Edith Ellen Lee Smith is the owner of the farm along with her husband, children and grandchildren. They raise and supply butterflies for weddings, funerals, but mostly for live educational exhibits. They ship butterfly chrysalises all over the country. I went on a tour of the farm. They had a green
I am happy to announce that I will be participating in the 1st Annual Florida Monarch Festival in Earleton, Florida on Saturday September 24, 2011. I discovered the GreatHouse Butterfly Farm just a few months ago when I was doing a search on google for butterfly farms. It turns out that I am within 30 minutes of 2 wonderful butterfly farmers; Greathouse Butterfly Farm and Shady Oak Butterfly